What to do when you miss the last train home in Japan
Thursday, February 27, 2020
Going... going... gone....
Maybe you’re having a nice night out with friends, drinking and celebrating the beginning of a new adventure. The laughs and smiles speed up time, and before you know it, it’s almost midnight. You say your goodbyes and start heading to the train station. Along the way, you steal a quick glance at your phone and realize that the last train leaves in a few minutes. The walk turns into a run, and you make your way through the night towards the station, huffing and puffing through the gates and up the stairs only to see the doors of the train close and slither away into the distance. The happy memories from before are replaced by frustrated thoughts on how to get home. Veterans of living in Japan know this feeling all too well. For newcomers, however, the challenge of finding your way home in the dead of night can be daunting. So, what can you do if you miss the last train home?
Take a taxi
The easiest solution is to take a taxi. Although prices vary across the country, the base fare is usually between 400 to 700 yen. From there, the fee increases by 80 to 90 yen for every 300 to 400 meters travelled. You can use credit cards, prepay app services, IC cards and cash to pay for most taxis in big cities, but cash is usually the safest option. Most taxi drivers don’t speak English, so it’s always good to have your address on hand, ideally in Japanese to ensure you get to your destination safely.
If you live somewhere close-by, taking a taxi would be a good option to choose. But, for those who live in the suburbs, prices can grow exponentially the further you travel. Fare calculators like Taxi Fare Finder and Navitime will help you figure out how much the ride will cost. There are also apps like Didi and JapanTaxi that make it easier to hail a taxi on the way home, while apps like Takuru (たくる) help you calculate whether taking a taxi or spending the night somewhere would be cheaper.
Stay overnight at a capsule hotel
It was designed by architect Kisho Kurokawa and was stereotypically used by salarymen who were too intoxicated to head home. Now, capsule hotels have become ubiquitous, and come in a variety of themes, with some looking like spaceships or Zen gardens. Prices are reasonable, usually ranging from 3000 yen to 4000 yen for one night. Although the dark and cramped spaces are typically used by men, businesses have taken more open designs and safety considerations into account for female customers like female only sections or entire capsule hotels that are for women and decorated with the female clientele in mind, which makes the chances of finding a suitable place for the night more likely.
Relax at an overnight sauna
Spend the night at a Manga or Internet Cafe
Another option would be to find a manga or Internet cafe. They have free Wi-Fi and lots of reading material and DVD’s, as well as a drink bar where you can find a variety of refreshments ranging from soft drinks, tea, and coffee. Some also come with a food menu for those who are willing to pay an extra fee.
Pass the night singing Karaoke
Singing until the sun rises is another way to pass the night, and karaoke bars offer an affordable place to do so. Usually located near train stations, most come with free Wi-Fi, drinks, and food. Each room is private, and the seats inside are cushioned and comfy. There are a number of plans to choose from before entering the karaoke bar, but if you’re going to spend the night, the unlimited plan, which is approximately priced around 1000 yen to 2500 yen, is the one to choose. Studies have also shown that singing can have health benefits like reducing stress and improving the immune system. So if you miss your last train, that frustration can be channeled into your voice as you sing your favorite songs.
The next day
If you decide to spend the night somewhere, it’s important to note that trains usually begin operating around 5am, and rush hour is from 7am. To head home in peace, the key here is to leave early or around noon, past rush hour. Regardless of how and when you get home, the important thing is to get home safely.
About the Author
I was born and raised in America and is a recent graduate of the Global Studies program at Sophia University. In my free time I like to read novels.