The Trainscape of Japan

A taste of the world of Japanese trains

By Elena Lisina    - 2 min read

One of the things that amazes me still from my very first visit is the variety of different trains in Japan.

The usual means of city transportation in many countries are buses, trams, and subways. But in Japan the most popular and developed form of city transport is the train. In Greater Tokyo there are about 23 Japan Railway (JR) lines, but there are many more private railway lines such as the Odakyu and Tobu lines. Train lines commonly extend out from Tokyo to other cities and towns – Yokohama, Atami, Omiya, Mito, Takasaki, Utsunomiya, Nikko and others. Wherever you are, it's likely a train line will be there.

Almost all trains look different. The superfast shinkansen bullet-trains are easily recognisable by their attractive airplane-like shapes and windows. The colours of Tokyo's passenger trains often match the colours of their lines, for instance, the Yamanote Line trains with their green stripes and doors. There are also special ‘anime’ trains decorated with pictures of anime characters. An interesting one can be found running between Sendai and Ishinomaki. Enoshima's Enoden trains are designed to appear 'retro' as their history started in 1902. Not long ago, they were still using the old carriages.

Most of the trains in the city run on special tracks built above ground level. However in smaller cities or in remote districts, railways are on the ground. The world of the Japanese train has its own space. The rails, platforms, awnings, electrical wires and metal supports, semaphores and signals, the interiors with their colourful advertising and cultural rail riding etiquette... all of these things combine to create what I call the 'trainscape' and is one of my favourite subjects to photo..

My favourite train ride in Tokyo is the Yurikamome Monorail to Odaiba. On that ride you can take in the sights of Tokyo that create an interesting and varied picture of a modern industrial city. What more can I say? The trains of Japan are comfortable, reliable and most importantly, will take you pretty much anywhere!

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Elena Lisina

Elena Lisina @shiroi.tenshi

I love Japan very much! I like small towns of Japan where I can watch people doing their business and talk to them carefully. They're always friendly. I like Japanese gardens where I can just sit or walk and take my time. Also I like Shinto Jinja as being there I feel in peace. I like to watch sunsets and then to dine in some small local places. I like to soak into onsen after a long day of wandering. I like Japanese crafts very much as all items are made with great taste and skill. Nihon wo daisuki desuyo!