One of my fellow crazy-about-Japan girlfriends just gave me the Most awesome tip on planning train travel in Japan. For the first time, I will be taking the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Sendai (Yipee!), and will be traveling around extensively to Yamagata, Matsushima and Ibaraki over the span of one week. Getting from Point A to Point B can be a headache, despite Japan's highly extensive and efficient rail system. It is important to know one's routes and train schedules to effectively plan trips and ensure there is sufficient time for your visits and that you don't waste time over bad connections.
The brilliant solution can be found on this incredible website www.Hyperdia.com. Invented by Hitachi Systems, you can just key in your starting point and destination anywhere in Japan, and voila! The site generates a few different routes with train times and connection points. You will know exactly how long the journey will take, and when you will arrive at your final destination. It even gives you the total fare you would have to pay for the whole trip!! Freaking fantastic tool, and a must have for all Japan travellers!
I am not so concerned about fares at this point in time since I have just purchased my 7-day Japan Rail Pass, but Hyperdia is truly god sent. Now I am even more prepared for my upcoming trip and am busy counting down. Eighteen More Days!