The Japan Railways Group, commonly known as JR, is a government-subsidized group of eight private companies which operate Japan's largest railway network including shinkansen bullet trains. They operate in all prefectures except Okinawa. They took over the government-owned and debt-ridden Japanese National Railways (JNR) on April 1, 1987. Their customer service, employee courtesy, train speeds (especially the shinkansen lines, in order to compete with airlines), and train comfort and technology have improved significantly since 1987.
JR's six passenger-train companies are separated by region, but most operate long-distance train service beyond their regional boundaries (the Tokaido Shinkansen, for example, is operated by JR Central but extends to JR East and JR West stations).
- JR Hokkaido or Hokkaido Railway Company (北海道旅客鉄道 or JR北海道)
- JR East (JR Higashi Nihon in Japanese) or East Japan Railway Company (東日本旅客鉄道 or JR東日本)
- JR Central (JR Tokai in Japanese) or Central Japan Railway Company (東海旅客鉄道 or JR東海)
- JR West (JR Nishi Nihon in Japanese) or West Japan Railway Company (西日本旅客鉄道 or JR西日本)
- JR Shikoku or Shikoku Railway Company (四国旅客鉄道 or JR四国)
- JR Kyūshu or Kyūshū Railway Company (九州旅客鉄道 or JR九州)