Japanese train information systems

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The Japanese trains and subways are the most information-rich public transportation systems I’ve ever seen. In the case of the photo above, the back of seat tray on this Shinkasen (bullet train), is telling me what amenities are available in my car and the two adjacent cars. This information appears on the back of every seat car. It’s in Japanese AND English!

That’s just one example, but everywhere you look in train stations here, and on the trains themselves, the signage is concisely and thoroughly informative.

In addition to the usual signs telling you where to go for each train line, how to transfer from one line to another, etc., there are signs and maps that tell you which exit to take to most efficiently arrive at various destinations outside the station. The exit numbers even appear on Google maps!

Google maps also often tells you, as part of your route directions, which platform to use. Signage on the platform tells you which stop you’re at and also provides a lot of information to help you confirm you’re going in the right direction, including: major destinations on the train’s route, the next stop in the direction you’re going, and the previous stop on the route appears greyed out next to the station name. Oh, and the subway lines assign a letter and number to each stop, so if Ginza Station on the Ginza line is G-09 and you’re going to Omote-sando, which is G-02, you know it’s 7 stops away. And at any time along the way you know how many stops you have to go.

On the train itself there are digital signs that again tell you what station you’re at, what station is next, and often show all upcoming stations, sometimes even telling you how many minutes until you arrive at each one. As the train approaches the station, it even tells you on which side the doors will open. Again, all of this information is in both Japanese and English. Even the announcements are often made I’m both languages (but not always).

As an information professional, I find all of this fascinating and beautiful. As a traveler, I find it incredibly useful because often the most intimidating aspect of visiting a foreign country is figuring out how to get around.

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