What does the “shin” in train station names mean? (and the Osaka mix-up)

Shin-Kobe station entrance

entrance of Shin-Kobe station (Credit: Hitoshi)

Several train stations around Japan start with the word “shin”. Hubby told me that shin means new. I thought about my experiences riding the shinkansen (bullet train) and realized that these fastest of trains tend to stop at stations that start with “shin”. This now made sense to be because the shinkansen often run on their own tracks and new stations were built to accommodate them. Examples include Shin-Yokohama, Shin-Osaka, Shin-Kobe, Shin-Yamaguchi and Shin-Aomori.

Why is the name important in, say, Osaka?

Knowing the station name is important, especially if you are changing trains. My husband and I made this mistake travelling west from Tokyo with a connection in Osaka. We forgot that the shinkansen arrives at Shin-Osaka and our next train was leaving from Osaka station. This meant we had to travel between the stations, which put a wrench in our plans of touring Osaka during our stopover.

Shin-Osaka station also had a few lockers, but far fewer than expected and they were all full. There was a small pack of us doing the rounds again and again and avoiding eye contact in case one of us happened upon an empty locker and needed to pounce.

After wandering around in disbelief at the lack of lockers for half an hour, we followed a sign that indicated more lockers. We found ourselves outside in a neglected part of the station at the entrance to a bag storage facility. For Y1,000 (about $10) per bag, we could leave our bags there. No way! We could leave our bags for days in a regular locker for this much.

We finally decided to haul our bags to Osaka station and store them there. And there was a whole area of free lockers!

entrance to locker area

Lockers at last!

Is there something you have wondered about in a Japanese train station?

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2 thoughts on “What does the “shin” in train station names mean? (and the Osaka mix-up)

  1. Is there something I have wondered about in a Japanese station – yes – pretty much everything! Though we managed to visit a beautiful place that was two train rides away and get back without being able to speak the language, so it’s not quite so hard as it looks.

    • Hello and my apologies for taking so long to get back to you! I really appreciate you stopping by. Ha ha! I loved your comment about wondering about so much about Japanese train stations but also being able to use the system! I love accomplishments like that… it gives me a real sense of independence and pride in being able to do something so simple but in a language and place that is so unfamiliar.

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