Monday, May 28, 2012

Train Stations and Platform Tickets

A while ago a friend of mine came to visit from the US. It was his first trip to Japan. As he was without a cell phone, we spent a little more time than usual planning how we'd meet up. He told me which train he'd be riding on, and I started to explain the layout of my station--how to exit from the shinkansen area instead of transferring to a local train, which exit I'd be waiting at, what stores were in the area, where the payphones were if he couldn't find me... the conversation got a bit bogged down until finally I realized, "Oh, duh. I can just meet you as you step off the train."

For every time you've wanted to go inside a train station but not actually take a train anywhere, JR (as well as many private lines) has got you covered. The name of the ticket is the 入場券 (nyujouken), the "entrance ticket," or in perhaps more fitting English, the "platform ticket."

The ticket is a way for people to meet and send off friends and loved ones just a little farther into the journey than the station's entrance wickets. It's not a big practical difference, except perhaps in the case of a young child or a friend like mine who wasn't used to Japan, but for some, the sentimental value is worth the few extra yen spent.

And just how much does that sentiment cost? Usually the 入場券 for a local train station will run from 100 to 150 yen. Shinkansen platforms also have 入場券, and again each station has leeway to determine its own platform ticket price. But even a shinkansen platform ticket will rarely exceed 200 yen. My last one was 220 yen, but Tokyo is just 130 yen, Osaka 120 yen, and Nagoya 140 yen.

Aside from seeing off friends, the platform ticket allows you access to the shops located within the station. Usually there isn't a big difference in the souvenirs sold there from the ones sold just outside, but occasionally there's a special or popular store exclusive to the inside of a station.

I also met someone who claimed that every time he went to Shinagawa from his home in Western Japan, he'd just buy the 入場券 and then shoulder his way through a crowded wicket at the exit station, getting himself an almost free ride for a route that should have cost him 14,000 yen or more. As I got to know that guy a bit better, though, I realized most of the stories he told were just that. When I once traveled with him to Tokyo, he bought all his tickets as usual. :)

But perhaps the most inventive use I've heard for the platform ticket is as a family outing: Kids--or at least a huge number of kids here in Japan--love trains. And bullet trains are one of the coolest varieties. Instead of spending an average 5,000 yen a head on a day trip to Tokyo Disneyland/other generic, cramped, neophile Japanese attraction, during half of which your toddler will be complaining about the sun and the lines, why not take the family out to see the bullet trains? If your child is the right age, this trip is a blast, it's light on the wallet, and it won't be too hard to find a place to sit or a place to eat without a line. "You wanna go see the trains today, Toshi?!" (And seriously, they are pretty cool to watch for a while.)

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  1. You know, the best thing about this site is how you consistently come up with such a wide variety of consistently interesting and useful topics. That's no small task! And this was great, I lived in Japan for four years and never knew about 入場券! :)

  2. Thanks very much for the comment. We always appreciate words of encouragement.

  3. This is interesting, I have been living in Japan for nearly a year now and never knew that such a ticket existed. It's a shame it costs something though.

    Here's what I do: Normally, when you enter a station by swiping your Suica/Pasmo, you can just leave the same station by swiping again, that way you can get out again without paying anything. This worked at all the JR stations I tried (admittedly, I didn't try so many of the bigger ones in central Tokyo, as I don't spend so much time there) - and it makes sense, because some people just enter a station to cross the building; at other stations you even have to enter the gated area of one transport provider to get to the gate of the other one's (on whose line you are actually going somewhere). Also here, you get deducted 0 yen.

    In stations where this doesn't work, and you get the embarassing "no exit" sound (like at Keiou Line stations), I just go to the guy at the counter and ask him to let me out. Sometimes they ask if I came in at this station, and until now noone has questioned me further when I simply said yes.

    TL;DR: Just entering/exiting with Suica/Pasmo also works, and is free!