Examining the Provision of Railway Transit Information to Foreign Visitors in the Tokyo Metropolitan Area and Strategies for Improvement

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - rail, place - asia, place - urban, technology - intelligent transport systems, planning - signage/information, planning - surveys


railway transit information, multilingual signs


Well known for its extensive network and state-of-the-art technology, the Japanese railway system has become a must-see attraction for foreign tourists and yet has not ceased to perplex them. Despite the growing use of multilingual signs, real-time train information, and information centers equipped with English-speaking staff, visitors from abroad could still find themselves lost when navigating the railway system. This research aims to examine the provision of railway transit information to foreign visitors in the Tokyo Metropolitan Area, and focuses on the railway system of Japan Railway (JR) East—the largest railway company in Japan and a global railway leader—as a case study. We identified four areas of research that are critical to the ease of use of railway systems, namely wayfinding, route planning, ticketing, and staff assistance. We examined the factors contributing to successful information provision and quantified the influences of sign design on the cognitive cost of wayfinding through interviews and surveys. We found that sign legibility, inadequate explanation for those with little background knowledge, and station staff’s language skills were pressing concerns among foreign passengers, and transit information needs to be addressed systematically. This research will contribute to the understanding of tourists’ use of public transit and provide a practical guide to improving the usability of urban railway systems not only in Japan but also worldwide.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by SAGE, copyright remains with them.