JR is originally a public enterprise, and there are many private
railroad companies in Japan.
They are profit-oriented business enterprises, so most of them are concentrated around big cities.
Basically they are commuter railway.
But, some railroads companies have popular sightseeing areas, so they offer nice limited express trains.
To tour around Japan, these are the effective transportations.
On below maps, patchy lines are Shinkansen, gray lines are JR, and colored lines are main private railroads.
Many private railroads are concentrated around Tokyo.
Their terminal stations of Tokyo side are largely on JR Yamanote Line (Loop line) and their lines radiates from Tokyo to the suburbs.
Moreover most of their lines lead to subway lines, so commuters from the suburbs can go directly to central Tokyo.
"Keikyu (Keihin Kyuko) Line" leads to Haneda Airport, Yokohama and Yokosuka. (Rose red line on the map)
"Tokyu (Tokyo Kyuko) Line" leads to Yokohama and southwest uptown of Tokyo. (Brown line on the map)
"Odakyu Line" leads to Odawara, Hakone-Yumoto, Katase-Enoshima. The
limited express named "Romancecar" departs. (Green line on the map)
"Keio Line" leads to Hachioji and west uptown of Tokyo. (Orange line on the map)
"Ikebukuro Line (Seibu Railway)" leads to west uptown of Tokyo. The
limited express named "Red Arrow" departs to Chichibu mountains to the
west of Kanto Plain. (Yellow line on the map)
"Tojo Line (Tobu Railway)" leads to Kawagoe and northwest uptown of Tokyo. (Red line on the map)
"Keisei Line" leads to Narita International Airport and Chiba. The
limited express named "Skyliner" departs to the Airport. (Pink line on
Asakusa is not on Yamanote line, but there is the starting station of
It leads to Nikko and Kinugawa-Onsen. The limited express named
"SPACIA" departs from this station. (Red line on the map)
Additionally, see the page of Railroads other than JR and subway in Tokyo Prefecture.
Several private railroads are concentrated around Osaka.
Osaka Plain is narrower than Kanto Plain, so we find some routes that a few lines run parallel.
Their terminal stations are Osaka, Nanba and Yodoyabashi.
JR Osaka station is to the north of central Osaka.
Two private railways start from here, and both station name is "Umeda".
"Hankyu Line" leads to Kyoto, Kobe and Takarazuka. (Brown line on the map)
"Hanshin Line" leads to Kobe. (Yellow-green line on the map)
Both companies compete with JR.
Nanba is to the south of central Osaka.
Two private railways start from here, and both companies have limited express trains.
"Nankai Line" leads to Kansai International Airport, Koya-san and Wakayama. (Green line on the map)
"Kintetsu Line" is the biggest private railway company in Japan. You can find the many routes of Kintetsu line on the map. (Rose red line)
It leads to Nara, Kyoto, Nagoya and Ise, too. And a lot of long-distance limited express trains run.
Yodoyabashi is to the south of Osaka station.
"Keihan Line" leads to Kyoto. (Orange line on the map)
This competes with JR, too.
Nagoya is one of big cities in Japan, but the JR network is very simple.
The population of Nagoya is less than Tokyo or Osaka, and farming area stretches around Nagoya.
Therefore former national railway needed not construct many branch lines.
But there were many small local private railways in this area, and "Meitetsu (Nagoya Railway)" of today merged these railways in the early 20th century. (Yellow-green line on the map)
In addition, "Kintetsu line" from Osaka or Ise leads to Nagoya southwest. (Rose red line)
So the private railways are two companies.
Meitetsu runs many limited express in its network, and especially have only route of railway to Chubu International Airport.
As above, Kintetsu runs limited express to Osaka or Ise.
There are many small private railways across the country.
Some railways of them are popular for travelers.
This is the mountain tram from Odawara (80 km southwest of Tokyo) to
Small trams run up the steep hill, and leads to old and famous hot-spring resort on the mountainside.
See the page of Hakone.
This is the railway along the Ooi River which flows from central
mountains toward south.
The starting station is Kanaya on JR Tokaido Line, and is midway between Tokyo and Nagoya.
This railway run some steam locomotives which had worked in JR several decades ago.
It makes many Japanese feel nostalgic that the old steam locomotive runs in the country.
see the page of Ooigawa Railway.
Kurobe gorge is located west side of central mountains in Japan. It's
very steep and there is the huge "Kurobe dam".
This railway is originally material handling one for the dam construction, and small open trains run on the thrilling cliff.
As it is very snowy in winter, this railway is closed from December to mid-April.
See the page of Kurobe Gorge.