Public transportation is really awesome in Japan. When you go there, you’ll probably be using it pretty regularly.
But traveling using public transportation means you’re going to hear a lot of really formal Japanese that you might not be familiar with. So in this article, I’ll go over some of the more common things you’ll hear, and other phrases you’ll want to be able to say to easily navigate Japan.
Phrases for Trains
Trains are probably going to be your most common method of travel in Japan. They go everywhere in Japan, especially if you count the shinkansen (bullet train) and chikatetsu (subway).
To start off, here’s a list of words you might find useful for traveling on a train.
|English (and Explanation)||Romaji||日本語|
|Ticket office||Kippu uriba||きっぷ売り場|
|Platform Number ___||___ bansen||___番線|
|Local train |
(stops at every station)
|Rapid train |
(stops at less than local but
more than express)
(stops at fewer stations)
|Limited express train|
(generally only stops at
(travels much faster and only
stops at large stations)
|To get off||Oriru||降りる|
You’re going to hear a lot of very polite Japanese over the speakers, so it’s good to be familiar with words like this so you can figure out what the announcements are saying. Besides things using these words, you may also hear other phrases pretty often.
When the train is arriving at the platform, there will often be an announcement that says “Densha ga mairimasu” (電車が参ります) or “The train is coming.” You might also hear the phrase “Go-chuui kudasai” (ご注意下さい) which just means “Be careful.” You’ll probably see that written around as well.
Trains will be marked by their last stop, and it will usually be displayed as “___ yuki” (___ 行き) on the side of the train (with ___ being the final stop). On the train, the next stop is announced over the intercom with the phrase “Tsugi wa ___” (次は ___), which you will also see displayed.
If you’re traveling in the city, a lot of this will be written in English as well, but not so much in more rural places. It’s always a good idea to know the kanji for the place you plan on going in case you need to ask for help.
Phrases for Buses
Buses and trains tend to be really similar in Japan. With a bus you can either get a pass or just pay when you get off. But a lot of the words and phrases will probably be pretty similar.
The one thing I noticed that was different is just that the bus driver will always say “Kansha shimasu” (感謝します) when you get off, which is a really formal way to say “thank you.” It translates more as “I’m grateful.”
With buses, you’ll usually find the route map at the bus stop, as well as the schedule. But you can always ask someone at the station for help if you aren’t sure where to go. People who work at stations wear pretty distinct uniforms, so they aren’t hard to find.
Phrases for Taxis
I’m not going to say too much about taxis, because you can find a really good list of helpful taxi phrases here. I didn’t really use taxis much while traveling in Japan, just because buses and trains can get you pretty much anywhere in decent time.
The biggest thing with telling your taxi driver where to go is knowing how to give directions. Once you’ve got that down, you’re pretty much golden.
Taxi drivers will also speak really politely, so just be prepared for that if they ask you for clarification on something.
As far as etiquette goes, riding in a Japanese taxi is pretty much the same as riding in a taxi anywhere else. You can chat with the driver if you want, but you don’t have to. They have nice white cloth on the back seat so you always know it’s clean, and a lot of them have automatic doors that will open for you. Fancy taxis.
Buses and taxis can almost always be found at train stations, especially big ones.
Travel is Fun!
In Japan, traveling can be so easy thanks to public transportation. It might seem a bit overwhelming at first, but you’ll get used to it pretty quickly. And remember, there are people who work at the stations who are always happy to help you get where you’re going.