Saturday, November 6, 2010

All About Japan Rail, Bullet Train aka Shinkansen and Keisei Line to Narita

Before going for my trip, I heard so much about the efficient Japan's railway system and the impressive bullet trains also known as Shinkansens. 

Even with the reliable website I was overwhelmed by information and felt a nagging need to double check on some of the minute details.

And Tokyo itself has 3 railway companies, the Japan Rail (JR), Tokyo Metro & Toei. And many many lines for each of the railway companies....

As such, I shall dedicate 1 whole post on my experience with JR and the Keisei Line to Narita Airport.

Firstly, our itinerary of the train rides was:

Inside of Narita Express Ride (NEX)

Luggage Compartment In NEX with Key Lock Provided

1st Day (16,820yen)
- Delta airline to Narita Airport Terminal 1 (lands around 2pm)
- Narita Express (NEX) to Tokyo City
- Tokyo to Osaka
- Osaka to JR-Namba station near our hotel

2nd Day (1,780yen)
- Osaka to Rinku Town
- and back

3rd Day (3,390yen)
- Osaka to Kyoto
- and back

4th Day (1,080yen)
- Osaka to Nara
- and back

5th Day (340yen)
- Osaka Castle
- and back to Namba

Chancing Upon a Double Deck Shinkansen in Tokyo Station

6th Day (14,320yen)
- Osaka to Tokyo
- Explore Tokyo (Akihabara, Shibuya) (500yen)

7th Day (640yen)
- Explore Tokyo (Ameyoko, Meiji Shrine, Harajuku)

1st Tickets Bought From Machine

8th Day (300yen)
- Travel within Tokyo (Shibuya, Shinjuku)

Slower (76 mins) BUT Much Cheaper Keisei Limited Express Train to Narita Airport 

9th Day
- Tokyo to Narita Airport Terminal 1
Shinjuku to Nippori (190yen)
Nippori to Narita Airport Terminal 1 by Keisei Limited Express Line instead of JR line (1,000yen)

The prices in blue are those that we had to pay after our 7 day Japan Rail Pass expired. The red ones are covered by our 7 days JR pass.

JR Pass

As you can see, if you have the intentions to travel from Tokyo to Osaka or other long distance, it may be more worthwhile to get the JR pass to travel on the Shinkansens (bullet trains). These JR passes are available solely to foreigners and can be bought only outside of Japan. Read more about where I got mine from.

In my opinion, the ordinary one is good enough, there's no need to get the green one. Just the to and fro trip from Osaka to Tokyo already more than cover the 7 days pass cost of 28,300yen. The rest of my trips from the 1st to 7th day were taken only on the JR lines and they're all covered! Saving about 170SGD!!

The JR lines are extensive and cover the major touristy places I wanted to go. It covers the rides on NEX (Narita Express), all rides on the Shinkansens and all rides only on JR trains.

JR Ticketing Office in JR Namba Station

Basically, inter-cities traveling will be by Shinkansens and when traveling within the cities, it's by JR trains which are like the MRTs in Singapore. To ride on the Shinkansens, you need to get a train ticket from the JR Office found in the JR stations.

JR Office in Narita Airport Terminal 1

To turn the exchange order (activate) into a JR pass, just head to any of the JR offices here. I activated by JR pass the day I reached Japan and got it done at the Narita Airport Terminal 1 JR Office.

It's pretty easy to get to the JR Office Counter or Keisei Line Counter at Narita Airport. Just head to the basement and the 2 counters are very nearby.

Keisei Counter at Narita Airport Terminal 1

Some helpful info:
  • When changing trains, try to change at smaller stations like Shinagawa instead of Tokyo station as there won't be so many tracks and trains to confuse you further. This was for our trip from Narita Airport to Osaka. You can select the different routes from (refer to the maps to see which stations have more train lines to it to guess which are the major ones)
Reserved Train Tickets for Shinkansens
  • Plan, plan, plan your route, go hyperdia to check out.
  • In hyperdia, for those rides with unreserved or reserved seatings drop down options, you'll need to pay that in addition to your fare. So the ride to Narita airport is 3,110yen actually.
  • In hyperdia, you can streamline your route options. Eg, tick only Japan Railway(JR) if you intend to use only JR pass to travel.
  • Be on the platform as early as possible as the trains, especially the shinkansens are moves off ON time and will close the doors 30s or so before departure time. If you cannot make it to your car, just get your butt in the right train first and move within the train.
  •  Rapid and Limited Express trains skips some stops and get you to your destinations faster. You may want to take a Limited Express train instead of the Normal one even if it comes later.
Cute Shinkansen Chopsticks
  • For Shinkansen rides, you can reserve your seats at the JR office. If you can confirm the timing and it's peak period during the time you travel, it's better to reserve your seats early. We got our seats a little late and ended up in the smoking car.
  • Check the timing here for the cheaper Keisei Line to Narita Aiport and do note that there's 4 tabs on top of the table to choose from. The Limited Express which is the cheapest one is on the 3rd tab. Took me a while to realised they were tabs!
  • And of course, you should have brushed up on your Chinese in Secondary school, it'll help you to read your way around in Japan. ;)
It was fun figuring our way around and was quite an adventure to get on the right trains. One of my happiest moments were chancing upon the many Shinkansens at Tokyo station when we were wandering around to check out how big the station was. I'm glad my cute chopsticks serve as a remembrance.

Click here to take a look at the new bubbly-gummy 2011 Shinkansens launching in March 2011 too.

**Read more about my Japan trip here.**


Smexkid said...

I like Japan train with JR Rail Pass that make me freedom to travel anywhere and very fast.

Mei said...

Hi Smexkid,

Me too. I like it that you can decide what time to go to the other places (eg. Osaka to Kyoto) and if I prefer, I can make it a 2 day day trips instead of 1.


Anonymous said...


came across your blog while researching for my coming japan trip. Can I check with you... travelling fr Narita to Osaka... did you purchase the Nex/Suica combination?
I read somewhere that this is not necessary since Narita to Osaka is covered by the JR pass. But realised after checking in hyperdia that we would still have to make our way to tokyo first?
very confused.....please help. Thanks!!! :)

Would be great if you can send me a copy of your itinerary.. my email is

thanks a million!

Mei said...

Hi there,

No, I didn't. I purchased the 7 days JR pass instead because it gave us unlimited rides for the 7 days and gave us savings (because of the to and fro journey from Tokyo to Osaka).

And yes, if you're coming from Narita Airport, you'll need to take the NEX to Tokyo city because the airport is quite far away. Then, you'll have to get on the Shinkansen to travel to Osaka. Basically, to travel from cities to cities, you'll need to take the Shinkansens which are much faster.

Feel free to drop me a msg here or email me, I'll try to help as much as I can. I too found it confusing initially when planning my route.

I'll send you the itinerary shortly.


Mei said...

ok, all sent! =)

Vios said...

Hi Mei,

Is great to me came across your blog. At lease get some idea travel in Japan. TQ! ^^"

Recently, I just bought the air ticket without any itinerary plan. hehe...

08 Days in Japan.
Flight Itinerary was:

**Can I get some TIPS from you.

1) Accommodation - Compare Hotel or Japanese Ryokan? Book Online (what website) or Walk-in? Visit Kyoto, overnight in Osaka or Kyoto? Which is better? Please advise highly recommend hotel stay in Tokyo.

2) Food - Searching for Nice Food. Where & Cheap?

3) Train - Based on your experience. Check out my flight schedule, do you think need to buy JR PASS in Singapore before travel? What's is your Opinion?
(Internally, need to buy one Ticket Pass from Osaka  Tokyo Shinjuku)

4) Place to visit - SAVE Time. I have to plan wisely, which place is worth to visit (do not miss!).
Do you think Universal Studio, Osaka Aquarium KAIYUKAN, Disneyland & Disneysea?
(Wasting Time)?

My interest: Explore Nice Scenerary, Nightlife, SPA & Hot Spring, Shopping.

Very stressful planning of my itinerary..... please help. Thanks!!!

Would be great if you can send me a copy of your itinerary.. my email is:

thanks a million!

Vios said...

Hi Mei,

Can I have your Japan itinerary as well? Because I'm going travel to Japan on 04-11 JUL. Arrive in Osaka & Departure in Narita.

My email add:

Thanks in advance.
Ivan Ng

Mei said...

Hi Ivan,

Sorry for this late reply. You must be in Japan already. I just came back from my work trip and was swarm with work and didn't log onto my blog...

Hope you're having fun in Japan! =)

martin said...

Hi Mei

saw your Blog when i am searching for ideas in Japan. It was really full of info.
i just brought a air ticket and will be travelling for 13 days during the mth of March.I will be buying the 7 days JR pass and intend to travel to Osaka from Tokyo.

Would like to check if it is easy and stright forward to take the train from Narita Airport to Osaka?
How do we book the seat for the bullet train?

Is Kyoto and Nara easy to roam around? Any tips :)

IS the Gotemba Premium Outlets worth going? How do we get to there from Tokyo?

Would be great if you can send me a copy of your itinerary

Thanks Alot!! :)

Mei said...

Hi Martin,

For 1st timer, it may be a little confusing to take the train from Narita Airport straight to Osaka. Reason being that it may be rush and you'll need to catch all trains on time. The whole journey takes about 5-6 hours for the whole journey. If you miss 1 train, it may be difficult to get on the next correct one. But if you have the time to spare and is adventurous enough, do give it a try.

If not, I suggest you stay 1-2 days in Tokyo first before moving off to Osaka so as to familiarise yourself with how the train works.

You can book the seats at the Narita Airport NEX counter itself.

As for Nara & Kyoto, it is easy to roam but you'll need to do your research before going over. Nara especially is pretty easy to move around on foot. And the places are marked on tourist maps.

I find Gotemba Outlet worth it to go if you buy branded items and even brands like Nike. The shoes are cheap! If you have time to spare, you can spend 1 day at Hakone too: You may be able to see My Fuji if the weather is good.

From Tokyo, you can take a train or bus to Gotemba outlet.

I'll send you the maps and info I have.

Have a Merry Christmas! =)

emareld green said...

Hi Mei, this is emerald..
I am planning to visit japan as well.and my flight will be on 17th aug 2012. i have also purchased a 14 days JR Pass. i have just come across your blog and found it really interesting. Can you kindly send me your itinerary too, so that i can also benefit fully from the pass. it will surely be a great help. please send it on
thank u loads...:)

WUKD said...

Hi Mei!

I happened to discover your blog while researching more on Japan and find it really interesting.

Would like to ask, when is the cheapest (yet good time) to fly to Japan?
And for a 12-14days trip, how much would you advise to bring?

Would be really appreciated if you could send me your itineraries for my reference to

Crossing my fingers and hoping I'll be able to fly to Japan next year for my birthday :D



Mei said...

Hi KD,

Wow, I don't know what's the best time to fly to Japan from Singapore.

Usually, Delta airline is the cheapest if SIA and ANA aren't running promotions.

For a 2 weeks trip 1500 is more than enough if you're spending solely on food and not ex ones (meaning some cheap and some mid range restaurants) and a bit of entrance fees here and there.

Well, there's always credit card for shopping and the extras. ;)

I'll send you the itinerary soon and am gad you enjoyed my blog. Do remember to click on my nuffnang ads!

I hope you'll be able to visit Japan soon!

Cheers! =)