East Japan Railway Co. will begin allocating alphanumeric codes to stations in the Tokyo area in a bid to make it easier for foreign visitors to navigate one of the world’s most complicated network of rail lines, company sources said Wednesday.
Commonly called JR East, the rail operator will start updating station signboards and other displays by the end of this year ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, the sources said.
JR East will be joining Tokyo Metro Co. and other railway companies in the metropolis that have already introduced such station numbering. Stations under JR Shikoku and those of JR Hokkaido were given letters and numbers in 2006 and 2007, respectively.
Tokyo Metro, which operates nine subway lines, adopted the display system in 2004.
Each line is given a specific color, such as orange for the Ginza Line and red for the Marunouchi Line. The color is then combined with a specific letter signifying the subway line and a number given to each station. For example, Ueno Station on the Ginza Line, is “G16″ inside an orange circle, with “G” signifying the Ginza Line. JR East is expected to use a similar display method.
The display is helpful for foreigners who are not familiar with the Japanese language.
A 31-year-old Swedish woman who works in Tokyo said it is difficult for her to remember the Japanese station names. When her friends visit her from Sweden, she explains the stations by referring to them using the letters and numbers, she said.