Domestic Travel by Train

While planes and highway buses only service major cities in Japan, trains keep the country connected, even in the most inaka locations. Traveling by train can oftentimes be the most convenient and flexible, particularly if you have decided last minute to go somewhere during a busy holiday weekend.

That being said, you should still try to plan ahead even if you use the train. Though, you will be guaranteed a spot on the train no matter how busy it is (as long as you go for an unreserved ticket), you may not be the most comfortable. It is not uncommon to be left standing and shoved into the corner for 4 hours or more during the peak season.

There is no shinkansen in Shikoku proper, but you can connect to it via Okayama. The Limited Express goes all the way from Uwajima through Matsuyama and Imabari, and on to Okayama

Tickets (including Shinkansen tickets) can be purchased at any JR station.

Train Schedules

The best place to go for train schedules is The advanced search options let you choose your prefered method of transportation, transfer points, and arrival times. The site is both in English and Japanese.

Estimated Travel Times and Prices

Just to give you an idea of how much it might cost to travel across Japan via trains, we've put together some estimated intineraries from Matsuyama to some of Japan's major cities. Keep in mind that these may not be wholly accurate so it's best to check them yourself on Hyperdia. These also assume you are taking express and shinkansen Nozomi trains without any special discounts.

  • To Kochi City // 9,230 yen unreserved || 262 mins || 1 transfer
  • To Takamatsu // 5,670 yen unreserved || 149 mins || nonstop
  • To Okayama // 6,310 yen unreserved || 165 mins || nonstop
  • To Osaka // 10,410 yen unreserved || 229 mins || 1 transfer
  • To Tokyo // 19,260 yen unreserved || 387 mins || 1 transfer

Seishun 18 Ticket (青春18きっぷ)

One of Japan's best kept secrets is the Seishun 18 Ticket. While it literally translates into "Youth 18" these tickets can be purchased by anyone regardless of age or occupation. The Seishun 18 ticket isn't the most efficient, but if you have time to spare it is the cheapest way to travel.

The Seishun 18 ticket costs only 11,850 yen and allows you unlimited travel on local (普通), rapid (快速), or super-rapid (新快速) trains for up to 5 days (it is not valid on express or shinkansen trains). The ticket is actually five one-day passes condensed onto a single piece of ticket stock. When using the ticket for the first time, the passenger presents it at the manned ticket gate, and the employee on hand stamps the ticket, making it valid on every non-express JR train until midnight. After midnight, the ticket becomes invalid unless it is stamped again. The ticket has spaces for five stamps, after which it is invalid.

The ticket can be used for 5 days by one person or split between several people. For example, if two people use the ticket for a day, it will take up two stamps. The days do not have to be consecutive, but must fall within a special time frame.

The Seishun 18 ticket is only available 3 times a year during Japan's school holidays.

Effective Period

Tickets Go on Sale

Spring break (March 1 - Apr. 10)

Feb. 20 - Mar. 31

Summer break (July 20 - Sept. 10)

July 1 - Aug. 31

Winter break (Dec. 10 - Jan. 20)

Dec. 1 - Jan. 10

Two additional sleeper trains run during the Sesihun 18 season. These are the:

  • Moonlight Nagara: Runs between Tokyo, Shinagawa, and Ogaki
  • Moonlight Echigo: Runs between Tokyo and Niigata

For more information on planning your trip via Seishun 18, see Japan Guide.