Sunday, June 19, 2011

The "hype" about Hyperdia and taking the trains

When riding trains in Japan, you really need to know only 2 things:
1. Railway line
2. Bound to...

1. To determine which railway line to ride on, you first need to get on
Hyperdia was our best friend in Japan- we looked up how to get from point A to B, price, what times the train left, and what railway would take us there... all from this handy dandy website (which is now an app on smartphones, but you will need an international data plan to use it while in Japan). If you aren't able to access the website, just ask the train station assistants- they are very helpful, and eager to assist you.

What is the "hype" about Hyperdia?
To us, Hyperdia is everything it is cracked up to be- you essentially put in your departing and arrival train stations, date and time of departure, and you can even select down to what kind of train (shinkansen, JR trains, etc) you want to take. Then, Hyperdia will spit out what trains are available, what transfers are needed, price, and what railways you need to take.
Tip: When you input "from" and "to", you need to input the departing and arriving trains stations, not cities. Thus, if you input "Tokyo", Hyperdia is reading it as "Tokyo train station", not Tokyo the city. On the flip side, many of the train station names are based off where they are located- for instance, the Ginza train station is named because it is located in Ginza. Akihabara train station is named because it is located in Akihabara.

How do you read a Hyperdia schedule? 
(Date: 5/22/11 from Shinjuku to Kyoto)

Take time: 156 Minutes  Transfer: 1 Times  Distance: 517.4 km
Total:¥ 13,520(Fare:¥ 7,980  Seat Fee:¥ 5,540)  Commuting ticket(1mon:¥ ---   3mon:¥ ---   6mon:¥ --- )
TimeRouteFareSeat FeeUsefulLink
Station timetable Add to favorite

[15 Min]
  • JR Yamanote Line(Inner loop)
Train timetable Interval timetable

Station timetable Add to favorite

[5 Min]
  • JR Yamanote Line(Inner loop)
Train timetable Interval timetable
Station timetable Add to favorite

[124 Min]
Train timetable Interval timetable

[ Arrival track No.13 ]

Add to favorite

  • Departure: Shinjuku train station; Arrival: Kyoto train station
  • Total train ride: 156 minutes (2 hours, 36 minutes)
  • Transfer: 1 (at Shinagawa)
  • Total Price: ¥13,520 (for reserved seating): Train fare ¥7,980 + Reserved seat fare: ¥5,540 (price will be less to get an unreserved seat, but it's not that much cheaper)
The total price (above) includes a "train fare" and a "seat fare" (you must pay a  "seat fare" for reserved OR non-reserved seats). If you choose to reserve your seats, your "seat fare" will be higher than if you choose not to reserve your seats (though it is not that much cheaper fyi).

Why am I charged a "seat fare?", you ask? 
Because the shinkansen is the fastest/premium express train service, you pay additional fees/surcharges to use this train. Thus, you will pay a seat fare for a reserved or unreserved seat. (The seat fare will be more 
expensive, however, if you get a reserved seat.)


  • Hyperdia automatically uses the Reserved seat fare option. If you don’t need/want to have a reserved seat, click on the drop-down menu and select “unreserved” seating. Now your price is ¥12,710 (train fare: ¥7,980 + seat fare: ¥4,730)
  • The train fare will always remain consistent, but the seat fare will change based on reserved vs. unreserved seating
  • On short commutes, you most likely won’t need a reserved seat. However, for long commutes, I would definitely choose a reserved seat- it’s really not much more than an unreserved seat, and that way you can sit (instead of stand) for your several-hour commute
  • Note: If you have the JR Pass, none of this should matter to you because you can ride almost all the shinkansen trains for free, and you can reserve your seats for free too. (I will be doing a separate post on the JR Pass.)
2. Bound to...?
Once you know how to read the Hyperdia schedule, just make sure you know where the train you plan to take is "bound to". For instance, if I plan to catch the train at Shimokitazawa to Machida, I need to know where this train is "bound to". This can also be found on Hyperdia. 

Example: I want to get the train from Shimokitazawa and arrive in Machida on 6/11/11at 21:25. I see that I will be taking the Odakyu Line. 

TimeRouteFareSeat FeeUsefulLink
Station timetable Add to favorite

[26 Min]
  • Odakyu Odawara Line Exp.
Train timetable Interval timetable
Add to favorite

Now, if you click on the "Train timetable" link, another box will populate that will look like this:

Odakyu Odawara Line Exp.   SHINJUKU(JR) - SAGAMIONO
StationArrival timeDeparture TimeTrack No.Distance
Business day:Sat & Holiday
Here, you will see that the train will be arriving at Shimokitazawa @ 20:58 and departing @ 20:59, arriving at Machida at 21:25. This train is bound to "Sagamiono". Knowing where the train is "bound to" (here, it is Sagamiono) is crucial, because when you get to the train platform, you go to the platform where the train is bound to. In this case, you need to get on the train platform that says "bound to/for Sagamiono", since Machida is a stop on the way to Sagamiono.

Sometimes, one platform can house multiple train lines- thus, one train can arrive @ 3pm bound for Ikebukuro. Then at 3:06pm, another train can arrive bound for Nakanosakaue... both on the same platform. So make sure you get on the right train bound to the right location. 

For example, in the picture below, we were departing from Nakanosakaue station to go to Shinjukusanchome station, which is Ikebukuro-bound. Once we got to the platform, we located the digital sign telling us which train platform was heading where. Since it was already 5:53am, I realized that I had missed the Ikebukuro-bound train that left 1 minute earlier @ 5:52am (darn). I had to wait 7-8 more minutes, and another Ikebukuro-bound train came.
If we ever got confused or lost, we either asked the people standing in line, asked the train conductor person at the platform, or we headed back to the ticket gate (where we "tapped" our PASMO card) and asked a train person there. Everyone was always nice and helpful, and they'll tell you which platform # you need to get on.
I had a lot of questions about the train system, but it really is a good and easy to navigate system. It will make more sense once you are there, and you'll wonder why you worried in the first place.

What do the “symbols” on Hyperdia schedules mean?
  • (2) gray arrows pointing down: Generally means a train will continue and no transfer is required. It is complicated to explain but generally you won't have to transfer, you just stay on that train and it will continue running. Generally, it might show up when one train line ends but another one begins. In Japan sometimes, trains from one line continue onto another line "through trains". Again it just means you don't need to transfer there.
  • Green-colored trains: JR trains
  • Pink-colored trains: Non-JR trains
  • Shinkansen: Look white and looks like a bullet train icon
  • Pink “Dep.” Square icon: This is indicating as your departure train station (has nothing to do with any train lines or train passes)
  • Yellow “Tra.” Square icon: Transfer icon- This is indicating as your transfer station- thus, you will transfer to another train
  • Blue “Arr.” Square icon: This is indicating as your arrival train station (has nothing to do with any train lines or train passes)
For more detailed information on Japanese trains, go here.

How to get around WITHOUT Hyperdia app?
I worried about this before I left, and now I laugh at how easy it was to navigate the train stations. Trains run consistently and frequently- you typically won't have to wait long.
Also- if you need to know where the train is bound to, just ask. Seriously. You don't need to pay for an international data plan to get Hyperdia (we didn't), and we asked "how do you get to...?" a lot from the train assistance people at the ticket gate. They are so knowledgeable, they will normally tell you what platform # you need to go to, and then you're squared away.

Here are some Japanese cities in kanji (with pronunciations)
東京 - Tokyo
品川 - Shinagawa (“SHE-nah-gah-wa”)
渋谷 - Shibuya (“SHE-boo-ya”)
新宿 - Shinjuku (“SHIN- ju-ku”)
池袋 - Ikebukuro (“E-keh-boo-ku-row”)
横浜 - Yokohama (“YO-ko-ha-ma”)

1 comment:

yUKi said...

Thank u soo much! I'm going to japan this sept, was a little bit confused about hyperdia but now this is really helpful! ^_^