1. Trains

Trains are the single most popular and abundant source of transportation in Japan.  Thus, taking a train will pretty much be a guaranteed activity if you leave the city you are living in (such as Hirakata).  For larger cities, such as Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto, trains provide fast and reliable transportation to every corner of the city.

The focus of this page will be the local train line that runs through Hirakata-shi, called the Keihan Line.  This line runs from Demachiyanagi station in northern Kyoto all the way to Yodoyabashi in the heart of Osaka, and Hirakata lies almost exactly along the half-way point.  This will make it very convenient for those who study abroad at Kansai Gaidai, as it will take no more than 30-45 minutes to make it to the end of the Keihan line in either direction!

*** Google maps will be your best friend for planning train routes.  It will give you multiple options, multiple times, multiple types of trains, as well as a breakdown of costs. USE IT.  ***

*** Google Chrome can translate any Japanese website for you automatically.  Keep this in mind if you have a hard time reading Japanese websites. ***

Ok, so the first order of business will be how to get a train ticket, get on the train, and read station maps and timetables.

1. Buying a ticket

When you go to buy a ticket at nearly any train station in Japan, you will see a line of vending/ticket machines along a wall with a large map and timetable above it.  This will be nearly impossible to miss as everyone else who’s coming into the station will be heading to this machine, and it will probably have a line.

So the first thing you will need to be able to do is to figure out how much you need to pay for your ticket.  This should be fairly simple, as almost all stations have the stops written in Kanji, Hiragana, and English, along with the price that they cost.  From there you simply insert coins or bills until the light with the price of ticket that you want lights up.

2. Getting on the train and getting off

From there, you take the ticket to the gates and insert the ticket into the gate.  Make sure to grab your ticket again and hold onto it.  You CANNOT leave the destination station without that ticket, as you will have to put the ticket into the gate machines at  your destination in order to leave.

Once you get through the gates, you will need to follow the signs to get onto the correct platform for your train.  Most stations will have at LEAST two platforms.  For example, Hirakata-shi has three platforms: one for the Keihan Line going to Kyoto, one for the Keihan Line going to Osaka, and one for another line that will branch off and take you to another city.  Each platform has a train track on each side of the platform.  For Hirakata-shi, one side will be for the “local” or “regular” trains and the other for the express trains that come through the city.  This allows people to change from an express to a local train going in the same direction without leaving the platform.  This phenomenon will be very common as you travel around Japan, and as you become more accustomed to traveling you will pick up on these patterns.

3. Timetables

In the end, the only part about using the train system that might seem a little daunting at first will be reading the timetables provided at each station.  Once you get the hang of it, they are laid out in a very easy to read manner and will provide a wealth of information.  Below I will talk about the Keihan Line’s timetables; however, most timetables will look very similar if not identical to these for other train lines.

The Keihan Line has five main types of trains.  These are: Limited Express (特急 とっきゅう RED); Commuter Express (快速急行 かいそく きゅうこう PURPLE);  Express (急行 きゅうこう ORANGE) Sub-express (準急 じゅんきゅう BLUE); and Local (普通 ふつう BLACK).

The timetable below shows the hours of the day in each row, and each train’s arrivale time (in minutes) attached to the hour in which it comes.

Keihan Timetable

4. Keihan Site: http://www.keihan.co.jp/traffic/

The Keihan site allows you to search for any timetable you’d like from any station to any station.  You will first need to click on the 駅時刻表 button.  The first box represents the Keihan line that you wish to use.  It should be defaulted to the “Main Keihan Line” (shown in picture).  The second and third represent the origin and destination stations, respectively.

Keihan Site

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