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I'm planning to visit Tokyo this year, trying to plan out my trip, but in Google maps I get things like: x03towards xxxx (where x is a Japanese letter) This is a bus station. Are they available in Latin letters? How can I get help with this?

  • This is actually one of the hardest parts of visiting Tokyo. Almost no English signs, and almost nobody speaks English. But that's what is nice about it also. – zundi Aug 13 '15 at 15:58
  • I would use the subway rather than buses: grab the Tokyo Metro App and navigating is a breeze (I know very little Japanese). This is what I use whenever I travel to Tokyo. – chembrad Aug 13 '15 at 17:26
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    Do you actually mean you want names in English, i.e. with the place names translated to their literal meanings, or do you just mean that you want names in the Japanese language but transliterated into the Latin alphabet? – Mike Scott Aug 13 '15 at 17:28
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    Yes i wasn't paying attention, i meant "Latin letters" – Ayyash Aug 13 '15 at 17:51
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    @sandy Public transport in Tokyo is extensively signposted in English, and has been since the 1970s. – jpatokal Aug 23 '15 at 8:11
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That's actually the bus line and its destination, and the Google Maps directions already convert both the starting and ending stops into English (well, romanized Japanese). For example, if going from Roppongi to Shibuya, the only sane choice is the 都01 (Metropolitan #1) bus and this is what you get:

enter image description here

(courtesy Google)

"Ex Theater Roppongimae" (EXシアター六本木前) is the stop you board from, and "Shibuyaeki-Mae" (渋谷駅前, "in front of Shibuya Station") is both the destination of the bus and the stop you get off at. Tip: "-mae" (前) means "in front of", and is very commonly used in the names of bus stops to mean the stop is right outside a landmark.

While Japanese bus stops typically do not have any English, Tokyo buses are generally an exception and they will have it in small print, like this. This also applies to the destination sign on the bus itself. Note that the kanji prefixed to the bus route is not translated, but in practice it's unusual to have overlapping numbers, much less destinations.

  • So do the names appear in romaji in reality? Or do i have to memorize Japanese letters? – Ayyash Aug 13 '15 at 12:31
  • @Ayyash Explanation added. – jpatokal Aug 13 '15 at 12:39
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    Not super-relevant but Kyoto buses display the destination in Japanese and English on the outside of the bus, and have a display inside giving the next stop, also in both languages. – David Richerby Aug 13 '15 at 15:41
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    @JamesRyan Contrary to popular belief, not everything in Tokyo is accessible by train, esp. outside the Yamanote loop. Also, JR passes crazy expensive, for tourists only, and not valid on subways. – jpatokal Aug 14 '15 at 1:50
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    @JamesRyan PASMO is the regular Tokyo stored value card: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pasmo – jpatokal Aug 14 '15 at 10:58
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One (more) thing to take note of is that the actual locations of bus stands around large stations can be spread out quite significantly. They are usually numbered, but these numbers have no correlation to the bus route number, and AFAIK, Google's transit directions do not consider the exact location either.

See the attached image for buses departing from Shibuya for one example.

Shibuya Station bus stands

source

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I was in Japan a couple of months back (visited both Tokyo and Kyoto as part of the trip), and pretty much everything is written in kanji AND romanised Japanese when it comes to public transport. You don't have to memorise the kanji! :)

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    Sometimes in a subway station I can find a huge wall map of the system in Japanese and know there's an equivalent in English but can't seem to locate it. Especially during rush hours when you can get lost in the squillions of milling people hurrying hither and thither. I use my camera to take photos of the Kanji for when I do have to use them. Memorizing is too hard until your Japanese is really good. – hippietrail Aug 14 '15 at 9:33
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In addition to the answers provided the signboards in the bus the destination is provided in English with the Bus number. Be sure to board only from the front door. but, you can alight from either of the doors

And once you hop in there is an electronic display which says the next stop(mostly in Japanese Kanji, try to match the kanji by looking from your app) and the audio plays before every stop both in Japanese and English. Press the illuminated yellow button to alert the driver, these can be found on the backs of seats or along the walls.

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