Imagine embarking on a journey across Japan with your Japan Rail Pass, not just to explore the diverse landscapes and rich culture, but to uncover a unique tradition: collecting eki train stamps.
This custom offers a special way to document your travels and engage with the Japanese railway system. Below, we delve into everything you need to know about this fun pastime.
What are the stamps at Japanese train stations?
Eki stamps, found at train stations across Japan, are not mere imprints on paper. These stamps are beautifully designed and unique to each station. They often offer a snapshot of the locale’s character or key landmarks.
Eki stamps were first introduced in 1931 at Fukui train station. The aim was to encourage local tourism, particularly among young people, but has since spread to a widespread tradition.
Collecting Japan train stamps has become a quest to gather as many unique ‘signatures’ from different stations. Although, because, there are over 9,000 train stations across Japan, this is quite an endeavor!
Some locations also release limited edition and seasonal stamps at different times of the year. What’s more, JR East holds an annual Pokémon-themed-stamp rally in July/August. There are 6 special Pokémon stamps available, and you get a prize if you catch ’em all!
How to get train stamps in Japan?
Getting eki stamps is easy and fun. Most train stations in Japan, particulaly JR (Japan Rail) stations, have stamp stations—usually near the ticket gates, station master’s office, or waiting areas.
You’ll find a desk or counter with a stamp pad and the station’s unique stamp. Just open your eki stamp book, press it on the inked pad, and you’ve got yourself a memento of your visit.
If you have difficulty finding the stamp station, don’t hesitate to ask the friendly station staff for assistance.
What size is the Eki stamp book?
Eki stamp books come in a variety of sizes, but the most common one is about the size of a passport and contains around 50 pages. These books typically have thick pages to prevent the ink from seeping through.
They are available for purchase in major bookstores in Japan, often in the Foreign Book section, as well as online. They typically cost around ¥650.
If you don’t feel like splashing out for an eki stamp book, you can just use any notebook or even surface that you like. Additionally, most eki counters also have a stack of loose papers available for stamping if you don’t have anything else at hand.
Do all train stations in Japan have stamps? Does Tokyo station?
The majority of train stations in Japan, including small rural stops and bustling city hubs, have their unique eki stamps. Tokyo station, as a central hub and a symbol of the city’s energy and history, indeed has its own eki stamp.
Its design beautifully encapsulates the station’s iconic red brick façade. Each stamp is an artistic representation of the station’s character, so Tokyo’s stamp is as grand and distinctive as the station itself!
Collecting eki stamps is more than a fun pastime; it’s a unique way to connect with Japan’s culture and history. Each stamp represents a piece of the country’s vast railway network, linking the snowy peaks of Hokkaido to the tropical beaches of Okinawa.
So, as you journey across Japan, take a moment at each station to seek out its eki stamp. It’s a tangible, entertaining way to document your travels and keep the memories of your adventures alive.