Getting Around Tokyo

Getting Around by Train

Always crowded! Trains and subways are probably the most convenient form of transport in Tokyo.

Bullet Train (Shinkansen)

Bullet Train (Shinkansen)

The service is punctual, fast and efficient and although it looks confusing, it can be scaled down to just a few useful lines:

The JR Yamanote Line (Green on the map).

The Yamanote Line is probably the most useful. It’s a circle line linking all of Tokyo’s major districts – Shinjuku, Harajuku, Shibuya, Tokyo Station, Akihabara, Ueno and Ikebukuro.

The JR Chuo Line (red)

The Chuo line cuts right through the centre of Tokyo. Shinjuku, Ochanomizu and Tokyo Station are on this line.

The JR Sobu Line (Yellow)

Like the Chuo line the Sobu line cuts through the center of Tokyo. It doesn’t go to Tokyo Station but use it for Akihabara and the museums located in Ryogoku.

The Ginza (TRTA) Subway Line (gold)

Use this line to get to Asakusa, also Shibuya, Omotesando, Ginza, Nihombashi and Ueno.

The Hibiya Subway (TRTA) Line (grey)

Use this for Tokyo Tower (Kamiyacho Station), Roppongi, Ginza, Tsukiji Fish Market, Akihabara and Ueno.

The Marunouchi (TRTA) Subway Line (red)

Shinjuku, Ginza, Tokyo, Ochanomizu and Ikebukero are all on this line.

The Odakyu Private Railway Line (blue)

This line goes out to Fujisawa and Enoshima (change here for Kamakura).

The Keio Private Railway Company (pink)

This line serves the western suburbs. Use it for Mount Takao and Sanrio Puroland.

Train Lines

As you can see, a number of different companies own the lines – JR (Japan Railway), TRTA Subway, Odakyu and Keio to name but a few. One station building is often shared by two or more different companies. Each company is then allocated its own space inside for ticket machines, platforms etc.

Tickets are bought from vending machines. Vending machines are not universal, each company has its own so make sure you use the correct one (JR machines are usually green). Most machines take both coins and notes and will automatically dispense change. You don’t need to worry about working out the price of your fare – buy the cheapest ticket, then at the end of the journey top it up to the correct amount by inserting it into the yellow “Fare Adjustment” machine (located near the exit gates).

The Japan Rail pass is valid on all JR line services. For more information call the English information telephone line 03 3423 0111. The Japan Rail pass is not valid on the subway lines or private lines.

If you plan to make extensive use of the TRTA subway lines various discount tickets are available. One day open tickets can be purchased for 710 yen. There are also “12 rides for the price of 10” tickets (valid on weekdays 10:00 am to 4:00 pm) and “14 rides for the price of ten” tickets (valid on weekends). Further details and a map can be obtained from the subway information desks located in Ginza, Shinjuku, Nihmbashi and Otemachi Subway stations.

For 1580 yen, “One Day Tokyo Combination” tickets entitle you to one day’s use of the subway system in conjunction with TOEI buses and JR lines in the Tokyo Metropolitan area. Tickets can be bought from most subway and JR stations.

Finally, don’t get caught out! Trains stop surprisingly early – around midnight on most lines! (First train approximately 5 am).

By Bus

Contrary to popular belief, the bus system isn’t that complicated at all. On the front of most buses destinations are clearly labeled in roman letters, and bus stops are clearly marked too. Routes often begin and end at railway stations.

Buses in Tokyo

Tokyo Bus

The flat fare of 200 yen is usually paid on boarding – post the money into the machine next to the driver.

Tokyo Bus

Tokyo Bus

The one-day Tokyo Combination ticket can be used on TOEI buses as well as the subway and JR railway lines. Price: 1580 yen.

There are no night buses. The service usually stops at around 10:00pm. A map and timetable is available from the bus station in the basement of Shinjuku Station.

By Taxi

For non-Japanese speakers taxis are not an easy option. To travel in confidence you really need to have your destination written down in Japanese. Having done this, still don’t be alarmed if the driver suddenly stops and pulls out a large A-Z. This is quite routine.

Tokyo Taxis

Tokyo Taxis

Taxi’s can be expensive. The starting rate is 660 yen and this will take you 2 km. The meter then quickly mounts up. At night time be prepared for steeper charges. Between 11pm and 5 am the rate goes up by 20 per cent.

Most stations have a taxi rank or a taxi can be hailed from the roadside. A red light means vacant, a yellow light means not available. The green light means the night time surcharge is in operation.
By Car

With heavy traffic, expensive toll roads and a terrible parking problem, driving through Tokyo is not a good idea. However if you want to try it, there are a number of car hire firms including Nippon Rent-a-Car (3485 7196) and Nissan Rent-a-Car (3587 4123). (An international driving license is required).

Japan drives on the left – the internet guide to driving in Japan at has more information.

By Bicycle

Many Japanese people use bicycles to get around Tokyo

Many Japanese people use bicycles to get around Tokyo

It’s acceptable to cycle along the pavement in Japan so as a pedestrian, particularly in the suburbs, you may find yourself out-numbered.

From discount stores you can buy a bicycle for as little as ten thousand yen. If you plan to stay in Tokyo for a while, both in terms of convenience and exploring your local area, it’s well worth the investment.

Just a word of warning – if a bike looks like it’s been abandoned don’t whatever you do take it! In Japan all bicycles have to be registered. The police quite often carry out random checks and if they discover that you are not the registered owner there are likely to be repercussions.


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3 Responses to Getting Around Tokyo

  1. MC amrel April 10, 2016 at 1:34 pm #

    Helpful information, I will visit Japan this June 2016, I don’t have any idea how to roam around Tokyo, don’t have friends there either to guide and tour me around. I hope I won’t get lost.

    • Yno May 15, 2016 at 5:46 am #

      We’re going in October. Also looks a bit daunting but we like adventure!


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