Ticket to Ride Japan Guide

From the vast beauty of Mount Fuji to the bustling streets of Tokyo, Japan has captured the hearts and minds of millions. I love immersing myself in this small island nation’s rich culture and history, and I know I’m not alone in my enthusiasm for all things Japan.

Given the country’s impressive transport system, it’s no surprise that the creator of one of the most successful board games of all time, Ticket to Ride, saw an excellent opportunity to create a Japanese expansion pack.

After all, railways are Japan’s primary method of passenger transport. There are bullet trains (these are seriously fast; I still can’t quite comprehend them) and complex subway systems keeping vibrant metropolitan areas connected.

What better setting for a game of Ticket to Ride? I bet you five bucks you can’t think of one. I certainly can’t!

Let’s take a closer look at this awesome expansion pack.

Ticket to Ride Japan: A Quick Overview

  • Players – 2-5
  • Recommended age – 8+
  • Playing time – 30-60 minutes

Ticket to Ride Japan is the seventh addition to the game’s extensive Map Collection. It comes with a double-sided board – one side displaying a map of Japan, the other a map of Italy – and several new features. In Japan, the main focus is the subway system and bullet trains; in Italy, a new type of ferry route has been introduced.

What’s New in Ticket to Ride Japan?

Ticket to Ride Japan

  • 54x Destination Ticket cards
  • 7x Bullet Train Progression Markers
  • 16x white Bullet Train miniatures

From the base game, you will need:

  • Train Car cards
  • Matching scoring markers
  • 20 trains each

Rule Variations – Claim a Route

Bullet Train Routes

Ticket to Ride Japan introduces Bullet Train Routes. This is one of my favorite parts of the expansion pack because players work together, rather than against one another, to develop a Bullet Train network. Isn’t that nice?

After a Bullet Train route has been claimed, anybody in the game can use it to complete a Destination Ticket.

Now, I know what you’re probably thinking: “isn’t that a little boring? We’re supposed to be competing against one another!”

Never fear; there’s still a competitive element to all of this because, at the end of the game, the players who contributed most to the network will win the biggest reward.

I’m sure you know the drill by now: to claim one of these routes, you need to play as many cards of the same color as the number of spaces in the route.

Here’s the interesting part – rather than using the usual Ticket to Ride scoring system, players advance the Progression Marker on the Bullet Train Track according to the number of cards they just played. Then they place one white Bullet Train on the relevant space.

If you run out of Bullet Train miniatures – it’s rare, but it happens – all unclaimed routes become standard gray routes.

Tokyo Subway and Kyushu Island

Another difference you should be aware of is that, on the map, you will see two regions – Kyushu Island and Tokyo subway – which are zoomed in. These can be claimed as per the regular rules.

This can be confusing, but you must remember that a route leading to Kokura or Tokyo on the main board is connected to all routes going to the same city on the zoomed-in part of the board.

Don’t worry if that all sounds a little confusing – you’ll pick it up quickly once you start playing.

The Aomori-Hakodate Route Case

If you’ve got eagle eye vision, you might have noticed two routes between these locations, but they don’t share the same number of spaces. Take note: they are not a double route; they follow the standard rules.

Draw Destination Tickets

You must keep at least one whenever you draw three Destination Tickets. Return any unused cards at the bottom of the deck.

You can use any mix of Bullet Train routes or routes with wagons in their color to complete Destination Tickets.

Draw Train Car Cards

Ticket to Ride Japan Cards

Relax, there’s nothing new to learn here! Follow the same rules as the base pack.

End of the Game & Bullet Train Bonus

I’m gonna let you in on a secret: even if you think you’re not doing too well, you might be able to bring it all back at the end of the game by winning a bonus. This has happened to me a few times now, so never lose hope. More on that in just a second!

As always, the game ends when one player’s stock of trains gets down to two, one, or zero, and each person takes one final turn. Final scores are calculated by adding points for Destination Cards.

The Bullet Train Bonus awards points depending on each player’s contribution to the network. In a five-player game:

  • 1st player (who contributed most): +25
  • 2nd: +15
  • 3rd: +5
  • 4th: -5
  • 5th: -10

If there is a tie, affected players earn points for their position; the next player earns points from the position as if there were no tie.

How to Play

Ticket to Ride Japan

Now we’re going to focus on how to play a full Ticket to Ride game, just in case you’re not already familiar with the rules of the base game.

I’m a competitive person (understatement of the year), so I’ve noted all the tips and tricks I’ve discovered while playing. Luckily for you, I’m going to share them in this guide. Read on to find out how to play (and win)!


First, gather the Bullet Train miniatures and place them close to the board.

Next, each player chooses a color and takes the matching Bullet Train Progression Tracker, placing it on the “0” part of the track.

Take the Destination Ticket cards and deal four to each player. You have to keep at least two, but if there are more cards that it will benefit you to keep, then definitely do so.

When deciding which destinations you want in your hand, it’s a good idea to think carefully about the map you’re playing on and what routes are likely to strengthen your position in the game. So if you’re using the Italy map, Destination Tickets involving longer routes are preferable.

Then, shuffle the train cards and give four to each player. The rest of the cards should be placed near the board, with the top five turned face-up.

Taking a Turn

You can do one of three things when it’s your turn:

  • Claim a route
  • Draw Train Car cards
  • Draw Destination Tickets

Claiming a Route

The cards you play when claiming a route must be the same type, and the number of cards should also equal the number of spaces in that route.

Don’t forget there are some slightly different rules for this in the Japan expansion pack due to the addition of Bullet Trains.

No matter how eager you are to build an impressive network of routes, you can only claim one per turn. This can be frustrating when you’re in a strong position and could claim multiple routes, but ultimately I think players should be encouraged to pace themselves.

Don’t forget to move your scoring marker when you claim a new route (as if you need reminding)!

Drawing Train Car Cards

You can choose two Train Car cards, either from the already face-up cards or the top card from the deck.

If you take one of the face-up cards, don’t forget to turn a new one over from the top of the deck to replace it.

Picking a locomotive card means you’re not allowed to choose a second card. Don’t let this put you off, though – locomotive cards are super helpful because you can use them in any other set of cards. Trust me, get as many of these as you can!

Sadly, you also can’t take a replacement locomotive card as soon as it’s drawn.

Once the deck is empty, shuffle the discarded cards and make a new pile. If no discarded cards are available, players can no longer draw Train Car cards.

Drawing Destination Ticket Cards

When it’s your turn, you can choose to draw more Destination Ticket cards by taking three from the top of the deck. You’ll have to keep at least one, but you could choose to keep all of them.

In my experience, most of the time, it’s best to focus on the Destination Tickets you already have; I’d only select more if I felt I was in a solid position to be able to complete them all by the end of the game.

This is an essential strategy because you’ll lose points for any routes you haven’t completed!

End of the Game

The final turn begins when a player’s stock of plastic trains gets down to two or less. Players then calculate their final scores.

Throughout the game, you should have kept track of your points for completing routes; this saves you from doing mental math to add them all up at the end, which is my worst nightmare.

Destination Tickets can finally be revealed; for any routes that haven’t been completed, you’ll lose points.

Now it’s time to compare routes. The player with the longest continual path receives a bonus of ten points (in the event of a tie, both players win ten points).

As you’d expect, the player with the highest points is the winner!

How Many Pieces are There in Ticket to Ride Japan?

The expansion pack includes:

  • 54x Destination Tickets cards
  • 16x white Bullet Train miniatures
  • 7x Bullet Train Progression Markers
  • 1x double-sided map
  • Instructions

Ticket to Ride Japan Alternatives

Ticket to Ride Africa

Ticket to Ride Africa

This is another excellent expansion pack, particularly if you’re an experienced Ticket to Ride player. The Africa map is one of the most expansive, allowing players to unleash their strategic competence and get to grips with tactical play.

Learn more about why this expansion pack is one of my favorites in this Ticket to Ride Africa guide.

  • Players – 2-5
  • Recommended age – 8+
  • Playing time – 30-60 minutes

Ticket to Ride Europe

Ticket to Ride Europe

Ticket to Ride Europe introduces ferries and tunnels, adding extra layers of complexity to the much-loved original game. It includes larger format cards and Train Station game pieces. Personally, I love how vast this map is, allowing players to explore multiple countries rather than just one.

Think this sounds like a game you’d enjoy? Read more about Ticket to Ride Europe in our guide.

  • Players – 2-5
  • Recommended age – 8+
  • Playing time – 30-60

Catan Settlers of America

Catan Settlers of America

You can’t call yourself a real board game enthusiast unless you’ve played Catan, which, like Ticket to Ride, is known as one of the best games on the market. There are numerous editions, but I think Catan Settlers of America is one of the best. The aim is to expand across America, creating thriving settlements.

I’ve summarized the game briefly, but you can find out more in our Catan Settlers of America guide.

  • Players – 3-4
  • Recommended age – 12+
  • Playing time – 120 minutes

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Is Ticket to Ride Japan a Standalone Game?

Answer: No, it’s an expansion pack that can be used to develop the original game. You’ll need a copy of Ticket to Ride to use the pack.

Question: Does Ticket to Ride Japan Come with Multiple Maps?

Answer: It comes with two maps, one of Japan and one of Italy.

Question: Is Ticket to Ride Japan a Family Game?

Answer: Like the original, it’s suitable as a family game; it’s quick to learn and easy to play, making it ideal for children and adults alike.

Question: Can I Play Ticket to Ride Japan Solo?

Answer: Unfortunately, it isn’t possible to play the game on your own. There are plenty of solo board games on the market, so don’t give up looking!

Question: What Other Ticket to Ride Expansions are Available?

Question: Is There a Strategy Involved in Ticket to Ride?

Answer: Ticket to Ride’s success can almost certainly be attributed to the fact that it’s easy to learn and easy to play – it takes less than ten minutes to learn the rules.
However, don’t be fooled by this apparent simplicity; there are many strategies you can use to get ahead of your fellow players once you start playing the game more competitively.
Learn about the best Ticket to Ride strategies in our guide.

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