Hyperdia is a very convenient tool when it comes to living or traveling in Japan. It is a database of train schedules around Japan (in English, Japanese, and Chinese), and is also aware of some planes and buses (such as shuttle buses that might connect you from an airport to a train station). It really shines when it comes to train travel, though.
Choose Your Destination!
Type in your starting train station and your destination. You can also choose a specific date and time, if you’re trip planning. By default, Hyperdia assumes that you’ll be departing on the date and time that you select, but you can also opt for Hyperdia to give you a schedule based on your arrival time (which is great if you have to make it to a meeting by a specific time, but have no idea how long it will take to get there).
Narrowing the Travel Details
If you’d like, you can further detail your trip by clicking the tiny blue “Search options” link. Here, you can provide specific stations you’d like to pass through (maybe you’d like to pass through Himeji on your way to Hiroshima). You can also sort your itinerary suggestions by cost, travel time, or number of train transfers. Or, if you’d like to limit your methods of travel you can narrow that down (you might not want to spend money on a plane or bullet train on your way to Hiroshima). Narrowing travel options is very important if you’re using a JR Pass or if you’re using a discount pass, like the Seishun Juhachi Kippu (Youth 18 Ticket).
Understanding the Search Results
Once you’ve got the details sorted, click the “Search” button, and your Search Results will automatically generated. By default, your fastest method of getting somewhere will be displayed first. This isn’t always the best option, so be sure to look through your other choices. Sometimes you can save a lot of money if you take a slightly slower route, or you may be able to save a lot of unnecessary transfers.
The search results display the total travel time, number of transfers, cost, and distance traveled at the top of each route listing. It also displays the departure and arrival time of each train (for those unfamiliar with Japan, trains are usually very exact with their arrival and departure times). If there is an option to reserve a seat on a particular train, and option will be displayed for you to choose the “unreserved seat” to save a few hundred yen (and risk standing the whole time you’re on that train) or a “green seat” where you can ride in the lap of luxury for a few thousand yen extra.
You can click the “train timetable” link below each train and see where and when each train will stop. Also, you can click the “interval timetable” to see which trains travel the same portion of the route (and when they depart).
An interesting feature for those who the same route daily is the “commuting ticket” link at the far right of the top route listing. Click it, and if a commuter ticket is available for a portion of the route, it will display the cost of a commuter’s ticket for 1 month, 3 months, or 6 months.
To give you an idea of potential savings, if you ride from Nonoichi to Kanazawa station, it typically costs ¥190 per trip. The 1 month ticket is ¥5,670 (or, the cost of riding 30 times in a month). The 3 month ticket is the equivalent of riding 29 times a month. The 6 month ticket is the equivalent of riding 24 times a month. If you ride round-trip more than 15 times a month, any of those commuter tickets are a good deal. Just don’t lose it!
If you read Japanese, you can click on the “map”, “hotel”, or “rent-a-car” options next to your final destination for extra travel help. If not, I recommend using a hotel website, like Welcome Inn Reservations Center to go ahead and find a place to stay. Train stations are natural landmarks in Japan, and if a hotel is near the train station, they’ll advertise it proudly.
Good luck with your travels!
P.S. Hyperdia recently got a facelift, but if you like the classic look better (or find it easier to use), you can still use it. Click the “classic view” on the first page before you enter your departure and destination points!