Japan's transportation network can be a little daunting for first time visitors to Japan. A myriad of rail networks operate above and bellow ground that can leave the first time visitor scratching their head wondering how to get from A to B. On my first visit to Japan, a friend recommended Hyperdia, an online travel planning tool that takes the confusion and frustration out of navigating one of the world's largest transportation networks.
The thing I like about Hyperdia is its hassle-free, easy to use interface that will guide you from A to B at the simple click of a button. It's quite simple: Select your departure and arrival station, the preferred date and time and Hyperdia will give you a list of easy to understand options based on price, trip duration, interchanges and timing.
One great feature of Hyperdia's software is the customizable search options which allow you to define exactly how you want to travel. The search options that are currently available are: Shinkansen, Express, Limited Express, Liner, Sleeper Limited Express, Sleeper, Ordinary Rail, Japan Rail (JR), Private Rail and walking. I usually include all options in my first search and if I'm not satisfied I will begin to exclude certain search parameters to get the desired result. The search results also conveniently provide the train timetables and intervals, the exact cost, distance, number of transfers, arrival/departure platforms for any transfers, and links to maps, hotels and rental car companies.
For instance, if you would like to travel from Tokyo to Narita Airport Terminal 2, Hyperdia will initially output the Narita Express rail option, which takes 51 minutes and will cost you 3,140 yen. Alternatively, you could select the same route, excluding the Limited Express trains and although the trip will take you 91 minutes with two transfers, it will only cost you 1,150 yen. If I am traveling larger distances by train, such as Tokyo to Kyoto, I typically exclude airplane options as Hyperdia sometimes produces pretty wicked results for larger distance trips. Unfortunately at this time, Hyperdia does not offer services for the bus network in Okinawa.
Hyperdia has recently launched a smartphone app which is available on Apple and Android platforms ensuring you can easily plan your travels on the go. It functions similar to the website with the added bonus of voice activated searching. I have had mixed results with the voice searching, so usually search using the keyboard options, which is just as fast. The Hyperdia website interface is very simple, and is available in Japanese, English and Chinese.
Whether you're visiting or residing in Japan, Hyerpdia is an extremely useful tool that will take the frustration out of navigating Japan's extensive rail transportation network.