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Q. How extensive are Japan's train and subway systems?


The Yamanote Line, which runs in a loop in central Tokyo, is one of the busiest in the country.
The Yamanote Line, which runs in a loop in central Tokyo, is one of the busiest in the country.
©East Japan Railway Company
Yurikamome, a pioneering computer-operated mass-transit system in Tokyo.
Yurikamome, a pioneering computer-operated mass-transit system in Tokyo.
©Yurikamome

A.

The six passenger-carrying railway companies that emerged after the break-up and privatization of the Japanese National Railways in 1987 have lines covering 20,124.1 kilometers (12,500 miles) nationwide. An additional 7,518.7 kilometers (4,672 miles) are operated by 182 private railway companies.


Subway systems are also extensive; as of March 2011, lines stretched for a total of 857.3 kilometers in nine major cities, including Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya. The total for Tokyo alone is 304.1 kilometers, the fourth longest in the world after Shanghai, London, and New York.


Commuter rail networks are well developed in greater Tokyo and other urban areas, and residents use trains as their main means of getting around, including going to work and school.