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Navigating Local Trains from Tokyo to Kyoto

This is a blog post on how we got from Oizumi-Gakuen through Tokyo and then through multiple local connections taking local trains all the way to Kyoto, to save half the train fare the Shinkanzen would have cost.

You need to bear in mind this is complex, confusing and slow, but it gives a unique opportunity to find your way from just about anywhere to anywhere in Japan once you learn how to do it.

The very detailed map below shows the Tokyo system, including the metros and the JR lines.

High res Tokyo rail and metro map

We began our journey in the morning at Oizumi-Gakuen on the Seibu-Ikebukuro line. We then transferred at Ikebukuro to the JR Yamanote line which runs a circle through central Tokyo, crossing many of the JR stations.

The Seibu-Ikebukuro line runs above ground until near Ikebukuro

The metro trains are very crowded.

Manga has a major adult following.

View from the elevated section of the Seibu-Ikebukuro line.

Ikebukuro station connecting Seibu-Ikebukuro to the Yamanote line.

Figuring the route map.

We took the Yamanote line to Shinagawa, where we changed to the JR Tokaido line and got a local ticket for Kyoto.

The train driver on the local out of Tokyo

Taking the locals is a lot slower and more complicated than a simple top price ticket on the Shinkanzen bullet train. From Tokyo we traveled to Odawara and transferred to an ongoing train Otami. Generally these transfers happen simply by getting off one train and waiting for one to come in on the same line or a line on the other platform at a station where the end points of two local lines coincide. From Otami we transferred to Shibawa and then to to Numazu, to Shimada, to Hamamatsu, and to Toyohashi and then Gifu via Nagoya.

Scenes along the coast on the way to Kyoto

The train driver has to comment on a recording on every signal and point at it to make sure he has taken every signal into account.

Scenes along the coast

Trying to make sense of where the current service switches to the next.

Each local has its own route map so you have to keep track of each one to know where you are getting to and where you need to get off and change.

Ladies enjoying a set lunch of sushi etc. they have brought along

A typical change point with us waiting for the next through link to arrive at a small local station.

Another route map on the Tokaido line.

Huge bicycle lockups at the station for commuters.

Thoroughly overtaken by the Shinkanzen

More confusing and varied local route maps we had to negotiate as the connections became a little more complex in the Osaka area.

Yet another transfer station en route.

Passing through the Gifu area in the evening.

By this time it was evening and getting a little desperate, we changed at Ogaki to a rapid limited for Osaka because it was the next ongoing train that came in. However, we were ejected at Maibara because our ticket didn't allow for being on a rapid limited local and had to wait for another local connection for about 15 minutes, picking up a train to Himeiji via Kyoto, eventually stopping about 8.45 pm at Kyoto.

Changing at Maibara after being thrown off the limited.

Here are some pictures of the return journey from Kyoto to Tokyo two weeks later, including our first and last genuine image of the shy lady Fuji.

We returned to Tokyo from Kyoto by local train a couple of days ago. As we passed Fuji city on the coast, Fuji-san mountain, the lady renowned for her shyness, finally revealed herself to us. Her summit was just poking out of the clouds as the train came round the coastal hills into the bay, but in the few moments we crossed by, the clouds opened up and separated and her form was revealed, and at the last moment the setting Sun was reflected in a glint of the shrine and shelter on the summit ridge.

Overtaken by the Shinkanzen yet again!

Manga reader with a hemp tee shirt.

Rice harvest and tea plantations, some of which have become contaminated since by Fukushima, even thought they lie south of Tokyo.

Contrasting traditional and modern clothing styles on the train.

Fuji just coming into view over the clouds.

The view below has the twinkle of the setting sun reflected in the windows of the building at the summit!

The flash from Fuji summit

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