How to pick the best train car on Japan's trains?
November 17, 2008 11:50 PM   Subscribe

What's the easiest way to determine which train car I should ride in so that I arrive nearest to the station exit I want on Japanese trains?

What I mean is, I want to know, for example, when riding a train to Shinjuku, which car I should get on (1, 2, 3, etc.) so that I will arrive closest to the platform exit for Shinjuku's East and West exits.

To that end, it'd be nice to be able to know which car is best when wanting to make a quick transfer at a station, too.

Where can I look this up? Of course I can just remember each time I go to a station where things are, or I could make a note or two, but there must be a way to look things up online. I have an iPhone, if that's any help, too.

I am aware the some trains have monitors that show where the exits and transfers are for the next station, but this isn't that helpful, since if I am looking at a monitor, I am already on the train.
posted by phaedrus441 to Travel & Transportation around Japan (9 answers total)
For the subway system, if you inspect the columns along the platform you'll usually find a poster diagramming which cars are best to transfer to different lines.

For the Yamanote, this information seems rather superfluous, but JR East does maintain maps of some of their stations here.
posted by troy at 1:07 AM on November 18, 2008

Here's a quick pic of one of those posters troy mentions. The train cars coloured in blue will be nearest the exits at any particular destination.
posted by woodblock100 at 1:53 AM on November 18, 2008

Response by poster: Ah yes, I remember seeing those!

Does JR use them? I almost exclusively use JR these days...
posted by phaedrus441 at 2:41 AM on November 18, 2008

I totally understand your desire to minimax your transfer times. It is a noble pursuit, one that many deride as being overly concered with seconds and minutes. To them, I says pshaw.

Unfortunately, even after years of doing this myself, I think it's only the subways that put up notices of the optimum transfer cars. I've never seen a site for JR, though knowing that massive network of densha otoko out there, there must be one in Japanese. Other than that, just practice. You'll settle into it pretty quickly after a week or two of commuting everyday.

I'm vaguely ashamed to say I know where to stand to get where I want to go at about 10 stations along the Sobu line (Chiba, Shinkemigawa, Makuhari, Makuharihongo, Tsudanuma, Funabashi, Nishifunabashi, Asakusabashi, Suidobashi, Shinjuku, and three different spots at Akihabara...)
posted by Ghidorah at 4:25 AM on November 18, 2008

I've never tried Navitime (the train/map service with the crash-helmet guy as a mascot), but I think I remember their ads claiming to provide this information as part of their directions from A to B. If the fee is monthly maybe you could sign up for a month, check out + write down all the routes you need, and then cancel the contract?
posted by No-sword at 5:31 AM on November 18, 2008

I was sure that I had seen an in-station map at JR stations with this info. Reading the above posts I think I'm wrong and that it's Tokyo Metro. They have a great little pamphlet in their stations with car numbers and exits for each train and each station. Maybe ask at a JR info kiosk if they have a timetable booklet for metro trains.

If you travel between the same four or five stations make notes when you do it right or wrong, you'll figure it out pretty fast. In general I've found knowing which car rarely saved me much time (Though I mostly take the Yamanote-sen and two trains usually come in the time it takes to walk to the "best" car.)
posted by Ookseer at 11:58 AM on November 18, 2008

Best answer: If you can read Japanese, this is the best website I've found so far. There are also versions for mobile handsets. The information is a bit out of date but most station layouts haven't changed in quite some time so it should be usable.

Barring that, I've seen map books with these kinds of diagrams for the subway and JR. You might want to try visiting your nearest bookstore.
posted by armage at 7:02 PM on November 18, 2008

BTW, JR does indeed have these posters for the Yamanote Line, but they tend to show only half the line on each side of the platform. I've never seen them on the Saikyo, Keihin-Tohoku, Sobu-Chuo or Joban lines, however.

Incidentally, for any Osakans out there, here's one for the Midosuji Line. For Yokohama, there's the Minatomirai Line. I'm sure if you're willing to search you can find some more.

If I have time I'll see if I can find a book with this information for you -- it's hard to tell how good they are unless you can flip through them.
posted by armage at 8:43 PM on November 18, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks armage, the site you posted is primitive, but gets the job done. I wish Jorudan or Yahoo Travel would just automatically tell you...
posted by phaedrus441 at 11:21 PM on November 19, 2008

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