If you have come to Japan several times, you may be interested in traveling around rural areas of Japan. In rural areas, transportation systems are quite different from those in city areas, such as Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and Nagoya.
I will explain things to be aware of transportations in rural areas of Japan.

Trains do not come often

If you are in Tokyo, trains come every 5 minutes or so. Sometimes even every 2 – 3 minutes! However, the situation is different in rural areas. The trains come in every 20 minutes even the busiest time of the day. If you miss the train, it is usual that you will have to wait for an hour until the next train comes! So, be extra careful about timetables and try to not miss the train.

Trains do not run everywhere

There are many parts of Japan, even if it is the famous sightseeing spots, are not walkable from train stations. You will have to use train plus bus, or train plus car to get there. Detailed research before you go is a must.


Kominato Tetsudo in Chiba Prefecture.

Kominato Tetsudo in Chiba Prefecture.

English information is very limited

You won’t get lost in Tokyo, Kyoto or Osaka without Japanese. There are English signs everywhere, and tourist information often offers information in English. However, for rural areas, this is not the case. Station signs are written both in Japanese and English, but announcements in trains are often in Japanese only (except Shinkansen), transportation information in English is very limited. It is a better idea to learn few basic words and phrases and carry around phrasebook or dictionary with you.


Beautiful views are attractions of traveling rural areas by train.

Beautiful views are attractions of traveling rural areas by train.

Sometimes, no one working at stations

Sometimes there are no staffs working at stations, it is called “Mujin-Eki”, meaning unmanned station. Usually, you use Suica or PASMO or other IC cards or purchase the tickets at the stations, but in such stations, you will have to purchase the ticket in the train or at the station you are going to get off. When you are getting off at unmanned stations, there is a box to put your ticket in.


Unmanned station in Gifu Prefecture.

Unmanned station in Gifu Prefecture.

Sometimes you have to open the door by yourself

Especially in winter, you might encounter to trains with doors do not open automatically. Such doors are manual doors. This is to avoid getting cold air into trains. There are buttons by the door and you will have to open and close the door by yourself using that button.
Here is a short clip to explain how to open the manual door:

*Thumbnail image is from Flickr