TRIPPERS TIP: How to Buy a Subway Ticket in JapanFiled Under:
One of the most confusing experiences of my first trip to Japan was trying to buy a Japanese subway ticket. It seems like a straightforward exercise but when you don’t speak the language or understand Japanese characters it can be daunting and make you doubt whether you’re going to end up where you want to end up. Lines of automated ticket machines at every station entrance eliminate the need to try and communicate with a station attendant who can’t understand English or your newly learned attempts at Japanese, which makes buying a subway ticket simpler. Especially when they’re all equipped with an “English” button on the bottom left hand corner of the machine. What makes it hard is figuring out how much it’s going to cost to get where you need, ‘cause that’s how it’s done in Japan.
So, you’re standing at the self-service Japanese-subway-ticket-apparatus without a clue what to do next. One option is to stand there bamboozled for long enough that a passerby helps you out and does all the legwork for you, which will happen because Japan, you just got to tell ‘em where you’re going. Another option, which is the non-dickhead approach we recommend, is to look upward, check out that huge subway map above you and find the name of your stop on it, then punch in the price that correlates with it. Most of these maps will have Romaji (English letter) translations, but the smaller less busy stations wont, so come prepared. Better still; learn some Hiragana and Kanji so you can read Japanese characters (at least the characters of the city you are staying, c’mon man, this isn’t amateur hour), you will be surprised how much easier it’ll be to navigate the subways and get home drunk in the middle of the night.
Alternatively we have found that many stations will have an A4 sheet on a wall or pillar nearby that has English station names with their price next to it. But if you’re still stuck and standing there as scrambled as an egg, press the help button and throw your hands in the air, and if an attendant doesn’t pop out and assist you then look around the station and track one down, just make sure you know enough Japanese to know what to ask for.
If all else fails you just buy the cheapest ticket available and adjust the fare at your stop. Japan are super lenient to honesty so don’t try and jump the gates, just show your Japanese subway ticket to the station attendant and they’ll amend your fare. It’s all good, baby. Now just keep an eye out for these underhand truths of the Japanese subway.