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Home > Transportation > Chiba Train Guide

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Updated:June 15, 2020

Explore Chiba by Navigating the Trains Like a Local


When I first moved to Chiba, I looked at the train map of my local area and thought getting around would be as simple as following the colored lines like I did when I rode the T back home in Boston. I learned quickly that there probably aren't enough colors on the spectrum to cover the complexity of the train system in Japan. To help your first visit to Chiba go smoothly, I'd like to share some of the basics I've learned for getting around by train.

The first thing you need to know for taking trains in Chiba is that while the Japan Rail (JR) lines are the most well-known, there are also many private railways. When you first land at Narita Airport, you may notice that there are two rail companies offering express service to Tokyo. Both the JR Narita Express and the Keisei Sky-Liner will get you to Tokyo at Japan-famous speed. If you're headed for a station in Chiba, the JR Sobu Rapid Train or Keisei Rapid Train will be likely be best.

In addition to figuring out which line to take, there's the next step of finding out what time your train will come. As long as you know which station you're headed for, the Hyperdia website or app can accomplish both of these tasks for you. If you’re going to be exploring anywhere in Japan by train, I strongly recommend familiarizing yourself with Hyperdia, and making sure you can access it on the Internet as you go. Here’s a handy guide for how to use Hyderdia: https://www.jrailpass.com/hyperdia

Buying tickets to ride the train can also be a cumbersome experience, but you can avoid that process by getting your hands on a Suica IC card before boarding the train at Narita Airport, or any major station around Chiba. With a Suica card in hand, all it takes is a quick tap to get through the ticket gates. Simply charge it up with some cash, and you’re ready to ride the rails. Beyond train fares, you can also use a Suica card to pay for all sorts of things, including a quick snack on the train platform convenience store. Learn more about using a Suica card here: https://www.tsunagujapan.com/suica-japans-most-popular-ic-card/

Navigating the Lines


If you have the JR Rail Pass you can cover a lot of ground in Chiba, including riding for hours along Chiba’s beautiful coastlines. Check out the map above and you can see the JR Uchibo and JR Sotobo lines hugging the coast at the southern end of the peninsula. However, some of the spots you want to visit may be on the Keisei Line, one of the other private railways, or even the Tokyo Metro. If a spot on one of these lines is on your itinerary, please be aware that it won’t be covered by your JR Rail Pass. The good news is, these private lines link with the JR system throughout Chiba, making transferring to these lines quick and convenient.

Chiba also has a few “retro” local train lines, which are very popular with tourists. As a resident of Chiba, these are my personal favorite. Perhaps the most well-known are the Kominato and Isumi Rail Lines, which cut across the peninsula and meet in Chiba’s mountainous interior, linking with JR stations on both the Tokyo Bay and the Pacific Ocean sides of the prefecture. A single one-day pass lets you ride both lines, which is great for exploring all the charming local spots from one end of Chiba to the other!


 The Isumi Rail Line Passing in front of Otaki Castle