Railway companies other than JR
Tokyo Metro Ginza Line, Photo by Railstation.net
JR (Japan Railways) is originally the national railway with a nationwide network.
But there are many railway companies other than JR in Japan.
Many of them have the terminal stations beside JR station, and the lines are installed in the areas apart from JR line.
The railways are important transportation for the residents living along the lines.
And there are subways in some large cities.
Each is managed by the government of the city, so it is a private railway in a sense.
Especially, some lines of subway are connected to a line of the other railway company, and the trains are operated directly on both lines.
Unfortunately, when you want to use "Japan Rail Pass", you can't take the train of these railway companies.
But some railway companies having popular tourist spots sell their own discount tickets or passes.
It is a good way to use them.
Types of train
Each railway company has unique types of train.
Local train ("Futsû", [普通]) stopping at all stations is the same, but various names are used as the fast train.
Main names are "Tokkyû" [特急, Limited express], "Kyûkô" [急行, Express], "Junkyû" [準急, Semi-express], "Kaisoku" [快速, Rapid train].
But you may find the other names such as "Kaisoku-Tokkyû" [快速特急, Rapid limited express], "Tsuukin-Kaisoku" [通勤快速, Commuter Rapid train], etc.
In any case, these trains stop at only main stations.
Therefore, you must check the stop you want to get off.
Basically, you can get on all types of train by only ordinary ticket.
But a few railway companies operate the limited expresses to major sightseeing spots and you need the additional fee when you get on such train.
Railway companies around Tokyo
Subway in Tokyo
Toei Oedo Line, Photo by Railstation.net
Many subway lines run under central Tokyo.
They are managed by two companies.
One is "Tokyo Metro" which is a private railway, and another is "Toei" which is the Bureau of Transportation in Tokyo Metropolitan Government.
Tokyo Metro have 9 lines and Toei have 4 lines.
Many of them are connected to the lines of the other railway companies and JR.
At most JR stations in central Tokyo, there is a station of any subway line.
Tokyo Monorail, Photo by Railstation.net
Tokyo Monorail connects between Hamamatsucho station of JR Yamanote Line and Haneda Airport.
Of coures, you can use this when you go to Haneda Airport.
You can use "Japan Rail Pass" for only Tokyo Monorail which is not JR exceptionally.
Yurikamome, Photo by Railstation.net
Yurikamome is an automated transit system, and runs around waterfront area of central Tokyo.
The terminal station is near Shinbashi station of JR Yamanote Line.
It starts at Shinbashi, crosses Rainbow Bridge over Port of Tokyo, and reaches Odaiba area.
Keikyu (Keihin-kyuko) Railway
Keikyu line, Photo by Railstation.net
Keikyu (Keihin-kyuko) is an railway company connecting Tokyo, Yokohama and Miura Peninsula at the end of Tokyo Bay.
It starts at Shinagawa station of JR Yamanote Line, and go to Haneda Airport, Yokohama and Yokosuka.
From Shinagawa, the line enters Toei Asakusa Line.
Many trains go to Ginza and Asakusa and some trains go to Narita Airport by Keisei Line.
For foreign passenger, a few discount tickets for Keikyu and subway are sold.
Tokyu (Tokyo-kyuko) Railway
Tokyu line, Photo by Railstation.net
Tokyu (Tokyo-kyuko) is an railway company connecting Shibuya station in Tokyo and Yokohama area.
The main line is "Toyoko Line", and it connects Shibuya, Minato-Mirai area and Chinatown in Yokohama.
From Shibuya, the line enters subway Fukutoshin Line (Tokyo Metro).
Many trains go to Meiji-jingu, Shinjuku and Ikebukuro.
Odakyu (Odawara-kyuko) Railway
Limited express of Odakyu line, Photo by Railstation.net
Odakyu (Odawara-kyuko) is an railway company connecting Shinjuku station in Tokyo and Odawara area to the southwest of Tokyo.
The main line connects Shinjuku, Odawara and Hakone-Yumoto.
Hakone-Yumoto is the entrance town of Hakone area.
So, Odakyu operates the limited express to Hakone-Yumoto one or twice an hour.
And it sells some discount passes to travel around Hakone.
Keio line, Photo by Railstation.net
Keio is an railway company connecting Shinjuku station in Tokyo and Hachioji and Hashimoto to the west of Tokyo.
The main line connects Shinjuku, Hachioji and Mt.Takao.
And a line to Hashimoto branch at Chofu station, and there is a popular amusement park Sanrio Puroland on the way. (The nearest station is Keio-Tama-Center.)
Seibu line, Photo by Railstation.net
Seibu is an railway company with the lines to the west of central Tokyo.
Two main lines start from Shinjuku and Ikebukuro.
Ikebukuro terminal is beside JR Ikebukuro station of Yamanote Line.
Shinjuku terminal is a little way off JR Shinjuku station, and we can transfer to the line at next JR Takadannbaba station.
The popular spots of Seibu lines are Kawagoe and Chichibu area.
Limited express of Tobu line, Photo by Railstation.net
Tobu is an railway company with the lines to the north of central Tokyo.
The terminal staition is in Asakusa area, and limited expresses depart to Nikko and Kinugawa-Onsen.
This line is the longest among the other railway companies in Tokyo, and it takes about 2 hours.
And, from JR Ikebukuro station, there is a line to Kawagoe.
Because Nikko is a famous tourist attraction, Tobu sells a few discount passes.
Limited express of Keisei line, Photo by Railstation.net
Keisei is an railway company with the lines to the east of central Tokyo.
The terminal staition is in Ueno area, and limited expresses depart to Narita Airport.
And a branch line enters Toei Asakusa Line. Many trains from Narita Airport pass Asakusa and Ginza, and enter Keikyu Line to reach Haneda Airport.
For foreign passenger, a few discount tickets are sold.
Railway companies around Osaka, Kyoto
Subway in Osaka
Osaka subway Tanimachi Line, Photo by Railstation.net
Subway in Osaka is managed by "Osaka Metro" which is a private railway.
The network is formed like a grid, so it is easier to understand than Tokyo.
Many lines run inside JR Osaka-Kanjosen line, and there are the stations at the main terminals of JR and the other railway companies.
Subway in Kyoto
Kyoto subway, Photo by Railstation.net
Subway in Kyoto is managed by Kyoto Municipal Transportation Bureau.
Kyoto is the top tourist attraction in Japan, but has only two subway lines. They run in the city like a cross.
So, the main transportation to travel around the city of Kyoto is route bus.
But it is caught in traffic.
You should use subway well to travel efficiently.
Limited express of Kintetsu line, Photo by Railstation.net
Kintetsu is the largest railway company in Japan.
The main line connects Nanba in Osaka and Nagoya, and the other lines lead to Kyoto, Nara, Yoshino and Ise-Shima area.
Many limited expresses are operated frequently on the main lines.
Because it has some major tourist attractions, it sells "Kintetsu Rail Pass".
Limited express of Nankai line, Photo by Railstation.net
Nankai is a railway company with the lines to the south of Osaka.
Two main lines depart from Nanba in Osaka
One line leads to Kansai Airport and Wakayama.
Another line leads to Koyasan.
Many limited expresses are operated on both main lines.
Keihan line, Photo by Railstation.net
Keihan is a railway company connecting Osaka and Kyoto.
The terminal in Osaka is Yodoyabashi located south of JR Osaka station.
In Kyoto, the line runs from south to north in the Higashiyama area and passes through Uji city.
It doesn't pass Kyoto station (the central terminal of Kyoto).
Hankyu line, Photo by Railstation.net
Hankyu has three lines.
The terminal station in Osaka is Umeda, and is located close by JR Osaka station.
From there, three lines to Kyoto, Takarazuka and Kobe start.
Kyoto line enter Kyoto city from the west side, and the terminal is Kawaramachi near Gion.
Hanshin line, Photo by Railstation.net
Hanshin is a railway Osaka and Kobe.
It has two terminals in Osaka.
One is Umeda by JR Osaka station, and another is Nanba.
The line from Nanba is the shortest railway between Kobe and Nanba.
And at Nanba, the line is connected to Kintetsu line.
Railway companies around Nagoya
Subway in Nagoya
Nagoya subway Meijo Line, Photo by Railstation.net
Subway in Nagoya is managed by Nagoya City Transportation Bureau.
Six lines are installed, and Meijo Line is a loop line.
In Nagoya, main railways run around the central area.
So, subway is the best transportation to travel around the city.
Meitetsu line, Photo by Railstation.net
Meitetsu is a railway that has many lines around Nagoya city.
The main line connects Nagoya, Gifu, Inuyama and Toyohashi.
And there is an important line between Nagoya and Chubu Airport.
By Nagoya station, there are the station of Shinkansen, JR, Kintetsu and subway.
Popular Railways around tourist attractions
Enoden (Enoshima Electric Railway)
Enoden and Sagami Bay
Enoden is a small railway connecting Kamakura and Fujisawa.
The length is only 10km, but small trams run through the old town of Kamakura and along the coast of bright Sagami Bay.
This area is located only 40km south of Tokyo, this railway is crowded with tourists on holidays.
Hakone Tozan Railway
Hakone Tozan Railway, Photo by Railstation.net
Hakone Tozan Railway is a railway to Hakone area.
Odakyu trains arrive at Hakone-Yumoto at the foot of Hakone, and this railway climbs Hakone mountain.
Small trains climb to Gora station at 541 meters above sea level. The length of the line is about 9km.
In addition, a cable car and a ropeway are operated from Gora to Lake Ashi inside a caldera of Hakone volcano.
Kurobe Gorge Railway
Kurobe Gorge Railway
Kurobe Gorge Railway is a railway running along Kurobe Gorge.
Originally, this railway was constructed for the transportation of materials to construct huge Kurobe Dam.
Now, the railway is mainly operated for tourists.
Electric locomotives pull open passengers cars.
Because of heavy snowfall in winter, this railway is basically operated only from April 20th to November 30th.
Randen, Photo by Railstation.net
Randen is a railway running in the northwest area of Kyoto.
Streetcars run through the old town.
The west terminal is Arashiyama and the east terminals are Shijo-Omiya Kitano-Hakubaicho.
Around this railway, there are famous temples such as Ryoanji, Ninnaji, Myoshinji, Koryuji, etc.