Internet Train Route Planners
By Andrew Shuttleworth
In Japan, trains are unavoidable - for most of us living in cities they are a daily
necessity. Whether you are travelling the same route every day, trying to decide whether a
desired residential location is convenient for getting to the office, or continuously
finding your way to different places in Japan's rail and underground maze, don't worry ...
there are tools in English out there to help you!
A number of companies have developed commercial tools which use the latest published
timetable data and the power of computers to work out the quickest, cheapest or easiest
route. Luckily for internet users these companies find it in their interest to provide
free web versions of these tools. They make their money from those who buy the installable
version of the product and advertising from the site. The best of the companies also link
to a wealth of information on the station you are travelling to such as maps of the area,
nearby restaurants, hotels and weather information. You can even book travel tickets and
hotels direct from the results page, but these services are only available for the
For the English speaking user the options are a bit more limited but there are two good
sites you can access--one from your desktop PC and one from your web enabled mobile phone--
that will give you the key information you need. The data is not always as up-to-date as
on the Japanese language sites but it is still accurate enough to work out the best route
and rough travelling times to your destination.
The best tool in English to use from your desktop PC is
The first page offers you two boxes to input the stations you want to
travel from and to. Press Search and the following screen will confirm that your stations
have been found, give you a choice if more than two stations match the name you entered or
give you a warning if your station cannot be found--check your spelling if this is the
case. You can select your desired departure or arrival time and date. Make sure this is
correct as timetables are different on weekdays, Saturdays and Sundays or holidays. You
can select the number of results you want but I suggest keeping this at 5--it can't do any
harm. On this screen you will also find that there are options to choose a reserved,
unreserved or "green" seat and whether you want to use a plane, shinkansen or
express train. Unless you know you really want any of these options I would suggest
starting without them. Note this is not the default so you should deselect them. You can
always go back and chose the more expensive options if the basic ones don't suit you.
Press the Search button once again and your request will be processed and you'll be
presented with up to five different options. The table at the top summarizes them and you
can select your desired route based on best price, travel time or number of changes. The
charts below show the routes in detail with the departure and arrival times of each train.
To the right there are icons which link to timetables for your the trains and routes. If
you can't find a timetable for a station you frequently use you can look up the times here
and print it out to carry with you.
Even more useful than the above site is one you can access with your mobile phone--you
won't always have chance to look up the best routes on your PC before you travel. The
site's URL is
This page is designed for i-mode phones but
you can also view it on a PC. The site is similar to but simpler than the Hyperdia
one and you will have no trouble using it. This site only gives the best route and average
travel times. It doesn't not give the times of the trains.
If you are feeling adventurous there are a number of additional sites available in
Japanese only. Once you get used to the basic interface and inputting station names, the
sites are relatively easy to use. Mobile phone users should check the phone's web site
directory or Yahoo's mobile web site directory at
The advantages of
the Japanese sites are that the timetables are always up-to-date, there are additional
tools and functions, and you can link to a wealth of additional resources such as station
information or local maps. There is even one site which tells you which carriage you
should be in to arrive closest to the exit you need at your destination station--great
when you are running late.
In addition to the internet based versions, you can buy off-the-shelf versions of these
products with subscriptions to the latest timetable data and there are similar tools for
PDAs. Personally I rely on the mobile phone version. The only major disadvantage of it is
that it is unusable when you are out of range including most of Tokyo's underground
In conclusion, there is no shortage of tools out there in both English and Japanese to
make travelling by rail in Japan much easier, less stressful and more efficient.
Andrew Shuttleworth, TPC President 2000-2001 and current Programs Officer is a keen i-
mode and Pocket PC PDA user and saves lots of travel time using online route planners.
He can be contacted through his web site at
This article is a modified version of one written for
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June , 2002
The Newsletter of the
Tokyo PC Users Group
Tokyo PC Users Group,
Post Office Box 103,
Shibuya-Ku, Tokyo 150-8691, JAPAN