subway vocabulary 日本語

February 5th, 2013 / by / in: travel / 8 Responses


I should do a blog post about subway Japanese, I thought today as I rode the subway to Shinjuku Station. Most subway/train lines in Tokyo make a lot of their announcements in English and Japanese, but the line I was on (Keio) doesn’t have any English. So I wrote down some words on my iPhone that I thought would be useful and well, here we are.

NOTE: I am by no means an expert in Japanese (ha!) so any corrections or additions are welcome.

地下鉄 (ちかてつ)chikatetsu – subway
Specifically the subway (underground). The Yamanote Line is not a subway because it’s above ground, but all of the Tokyo Metro lines (the Ginza line, the Hibiya line, etc.) and all of the Toei lines (the Oedo line, the Asakusa line, etc.) are subways.

電車(でんしゃ)densha – train
The cars themselves (whether underground or not) are called densha. At some stations, there are electronic signs that tell you when a train is about to arrive, and they say 電車がきます (densha ga kimasu), or “the train is coming.” (Like this!) On the train, you will often hear “この電車は…” (kono densha wa…) and then where the train is headed.

次(つぎ)tsugi – next
You’ll hear this on the train — “次は…” (tsugi wa…) and then the name of the next station.

駅(えき)eki – station
For example, Shibuya Station is called Shibuya eki (渋谷駅) in Japanese.

間もなく(まもなく)mamonaku – soon
You will often here mamonaku in the station (“the train is arriving soon”) or on the train (“we will will be arriving soon at…”).

お待ちください(おまちください)omachi kudasai – please wait
A polite form of saying “please wait.” You’ll hear this said, but I also see this on signs at street crossings while you wait for the light to change.

出口(でぐち)deguchi – exit
This is useful because a lot of the time, the announcement about what side of the train the doors will open on is made only in Japanese. The JR lines announce it in both English and Japanese, but the Tokyo Metro lines only announce it in Japanese. (And some lines have no English announcements at all.) They will say “お出口は右側です” (odeguchi wa migigawa desu), which means “the doors will open on the right side.” 右側  (migigawa) means “right side” and 左側 (hidarigawa) means “left side.” Deguchi (出口) is also a useful word in general — you’ll see it on signs everywhere!

右(みぎ)migi – right

左(ひだり)hidari – left

終点(しゅうてん)shuuten – last stop
They’ll always announce that a station is the end of the line.

線(せん)sen – line
For example, the Yamanote Line is called the Yamanote sen (山手線) in Japanese. You will hear things like “JR線はお乗換ください” (JR sen wa onorikae kudasai), which means “please change here for the JR Line.”

乗換 or 乗り換え(のりかえ)norikae – transfer
As mentioned above, norikae means transfer, or where you change to another line.

ドア doa – door
Pretty self explanatory! Yes, the Japanese use the English word for door.

閉まります(しまります)shimarimasu – to close
You’ll hear “ドアが閉まります” (doa ga shimarimasu) a lot — it means “the doors are closing.” 閉 is also a useful kanji — it means “close” and you’ll see it on elevators as the “close door” button.


マナーモード manaa moodo – silent mode
“Manner mode” means silent mode in Japanese. There are signs and announcements everywhere reminding you to keep your phone on silent mode because it’s rude to talk on your phone on the train!

ホーム hoomu – platform
ホーム is short for プラットホーム (platform). You know, the thing you stand on while you wait for the train.

終電 (しゅうでん) shuuden – last train
Not to be confused with shuuten, shuuden means the last train of the night. Which comes weirdly early in Tokyo and you better be on it, or you’re taking an expensive cab ride home! You can always ask someone “終電は何時ですか” (shuuden wa nanji desuka?) or “what time is the last train?”

To recap:

  • 地下鉄 (ちかてつ)chikatetsu – subway
  • 電車(でんしゃ)densha – train
  • 次(つぎ)tsugi – next
  • 駅(えき)eki – station
  • 間もなく(まもなく)mamonaku – soon
  • お待ちください(おまちください)omachi kudasai – please wait
  • 出口(でぐち)deguchi – exit
  • 右(みぎ)migi – right
  • 左(ひだり)hidari – left
  • 終点(しゅうてん)shuuten – last stop
  • 線(せん)sen – line
  • 乗換 or 乗り換え(のりかえ)norikae – transfer
  • ドア doa – door
  • 閉まります(しまります)shimarimasu – to close
  • マナーモード manaa moodo – silent mode
  • ホーム hoomu – platform
  • 終電 (しゅうでん) shuuden – last train

Hopefully this is useful for someone! Or at least, if you’re ever on a train in Tokyo, you’ll understand a couple random words.

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