Rail - Metro - Subway, Tokyo
Subway/metro is another commonly used transportation in Tokyo other than JR. There are quite a lot of subways in Tokyo: the Tokyo Metro, the Kotsu Metro, the Tokyu Line, the Keio Line, just to name a few. With so many different subway lines and JR lines, its very important for you to have a copy of the complete train line map on hand. So that you'll know where to get transitted.
Those subways' online resources are quite useful too: checking of fares, how and how long to get from locations to locations, etc.
Tokyo Metro: http://www.tokyometro.jp/
Kotsu Metro: http://www.kotsu.metro.tokyo.jp
Tokyu Lines: http://www.tokyu.co.jp/index_flash.html
Keio Lines: http://www.keio.co.jp
Tickets: Advise to purchase the Passnet card, for the the value of 1,000 , 3,000 or 5,000. You can take most of the subways / trains other than the JR with the Passnet Card. (If you see the passnet logo on the ticket machines, it means you can use the passnet card for that train line) It saved me time as I dont have to queue up every time I take the trains. Value can be added after used up, and you can keep the card after the trip~
Tokyo has a perfect system of subway and local trains - and it's easy to use, even for foreigners.
During rushhours it's a bit crowded at the major stations.
Just imagine, at Shinjuku station about 12 Mio. passengers are changing/entering daily.
Don't even think about using a rental car, you won't find your way, and there are no parking lots.
The Tokyo Subway system is the best way of getting around Tokyo, and the cheapest. It can be tricky though, as there are many different subway lines, and the writing is not always in English.
The first thing to know about the subway system is how to get on and off it. The subway opens around 5am and stays open until midnight. Starting around 6 am and going until 9 am, and also 4 pm to about 7 pm are the busiest times. Things are easier if you just avoid Shibuya and Shinjuku stations at those times. You will have to wait in line for a trian, they do fill up, and you will get pushed into a car. Once the school and business rush is over though, it is really convenient. The hardest thing is figuring out where you are going.
That is easy if you have a copy of the map with you. Most all of the cars on the lines have english signs and announcements for the stations. All you have to do is know which one you are looking for. Switching stations is easy, you just need to know which train to get on. Trains go in the direction of their farthest point, look at you map. If you are on the Ginza line wanting to go to Roppongi, but the train says Ueno, you are looking at the wrong direction, turn around and take the other train.
Getting on the train is easy too. Have some money ready and buy one of those cute little plastic paper cards. Slide them into the gate, walk through and pick up your card on the other side (You will need it to switch lines and get out of the station.) If you get stuck, there are information booths at most all of the stations. Just be sure to have taxi money handy though if you plan to be out later than midnight, or be prepared to sleep wherever you are.
The coverage of the subway in Tokyo is mainly at the Central Metropolitan Area. This Subway service is equally convenience with JR. Make sure your direction is clear then decide using JR or the subway.
I use the subway almost everyday.
It's always a little frightening for a stranger to descend underground...to try to get from pillar to post in a foreign language. Fortunately, the Japanese Metro system is almost fool-proof. There are lots of visual cues (with station names and other information given in English spelling as well as the Japanese characters, so you aren't left trying to puzzle out whether you've reached Omotesando or not). For the mobility challenged, there are elevators; but most stations are more easily accessed by stairways and some require a good deal of walking to make transfers, etc. The cost is very reasonable and the subways are very clean.
I had the most marvelous sense of accomplishment when I navigated from Aoyama to Akasuka to visit Senso-ji. The hardest part was finding the temple after I emerged from the underground!
Here is the link to the latest map
A good tip from a local is : if you have limited time, just take the Ginza line, and make stops along the way. You should be able to see some popular spots - e.g. Ginza itself, Shibuya (G1), Omote Sando (G2), Asakusa (G19). The Marunouchi Line has some nice spots too like Shinjuku/ Harajuku (M8), Tokyo (M17), & Ginza too (M16).
The Subway in Tokyo is operated by two Separate companies.
Tokyo Metro, who operate the Ginza, Marunouchi, Tozai, Yurakucho, Hibiya, Chiyoda, Nanboku, Hanzomon and New Line, and Toei Metro who operate the Oedo, Asakusa, Mita and Shinjuku lines.
Tokyo Metro's day pass is 710 yen, and Toei Metro's day pass is 500 yen. Alternatively you can buy a 1000 yen pass which covers both systems.
Only available at the airport, it's your best friend when travelling around Tokyo on the Metro (subway). Cost 980Yen for adults, 490Yen for child. Good for 2 consecutive days of UNLIMITED travel on Tokyo Metro lines (not on Toei lines). Very convenient and invaluable for me as I keep getting on the wrong lines and had to alight and cross to the opposite tracks. The date of purchase is printed on the envelope and the date of your 1st day of use will be printed on the back of the ticket. After use, you get to keep it as a souvenir.
Inside Japan, our tour company, supplied us with preloaded Manaca cards which we found easy to use as the system is the same as the Oyster one we are so used to in London - you put the card flat on the reader as you go through the gate to catch your train, and do the same as you leave the station, and the fare is deducted from the total on your card. When you need to you can top up the funds via machines in every station.
If you are used to an urban transport system in another city (the London Underground, the New York subway, the Paris Metro) you will have little trouble in planning your route here nor in following it. Determine which line you need to catch (all are colour-coded) and in which direction, and follow the signs - which are helpfully in English as well as Japanese. Stations also each have a code number which consists of the initial letter of the line and their number on it - Tawaramachi, for example, is G!* - the 18th stop (reading left to right) on the Ginza line. This makes it very easy to spot and follow signs.
On the train you will find that the next station is clearly announced each time and displayed above all the doors, so you shouldn't miss your stop. One thing to be aware of though is that changing lines at a transfer station may involve exiting the station and walking a little way at street level to re-enter for the other line (Kuramai is one example of those we used, on the Oedo (station E11) and Asakusa (station A17) lines). And even when you can connect below ground you may have to walk some distance. This useful map of the entire system shows several stations which straddle a lot of lines in this way.
Next tip: our hotel in Asakusa
There are two nests of subway lines, a maze of train lines, and many feeder lines from the suburbs. Use a good map of the system and figure out your route.
Approach the entry turn styles and look for the ticket machines (they will be near by). Go to the machine and find one that has an English button. Turn the machine to English and begin to pump money into it. Push the button with the lowest fare and get your ticket. Never worry about having the correct fare because when you exit you will adjust the ticket. You could try to figure out what the correct fare is at the entrance – but you will only screw it up.
Understand how the turn styles work. Walk up to them, look for the green entrance arrow and feed your ticket into it. It will shoot through the machine and pop out the other end. Walk through the entrance and retrieve your ticket. Walk through like you have lived there all your life – it will make you feel better.
Board the subway/train and start counting stops. This implies that you know how many stops to your destination. Never try to read the names of the stops as you pass through the stations. They are Japanese names after all – names like Aoymaichi-chome. Even if you can manage to recognize them – the two thousand people packed onto the subway with you will obstruct your view of the platform names.
Never sit down because with two thousand people jammed into the car with you, getting up is rather difficult.
You must present your ticket on entering and exiting. So hang onto it. Before you exit however, you will have to adjust the ‘fare’ on the ticket (assuming you followed my advice above). Find a machine that says ‘fare adjustment’ – many of them actually have English above them. Stick your ticket into the machine and it will automatically display how much money is owed on the fare. Drop some coins into the machine and a new ticket will pop out. You may now exit.
Tokyo has such a great subway service that any other form of transportation is mute. Cabs are way too expensive to consider and traffic will make them a very slow way of getting around anyway. However, you need to be careful because the Tokyo Metro System is run by private companies and the ticket you buy for one line may not be good for another.
Several points to take note of when using the JR lines + subways, which are a great way to travel but come along with their fair share of frustrations. I was in Tokyo with my wife and young kid for 7 days and relied mainly on subways for travel to Shinjuku, Harajuku, Otomesanto, Asakusa, Disneyland etc. Our kid was largely in the pram.
(1) The stations have many exits - Always observe which exit to use for your destination as that can save you lots of trouble. A wrong exit means lots of walking.
(2) Lots of frustration if you intend to bring along your kid(s) in prams!!! Most of the exits do NOT have escalators or lifts, which means climbing up the staircases, which can be awfully long. This is especially problematic if your kid(s) is/are asleep in the pram(s). Solution is to look for exit with escalator or lift - which is oftentime located far away from your intended exit/destination. By the way, we discovered to our horror that there are some stations with no escalators/lifts at the exits at all!
(3) Make sure you get a map of the subways + JR lines which include BOTH English and Japanese names for the stations from your hotels. Believe it or not - Maps at the ticket booths often do not have English names! This means you need to compare Japanese names on both maps to know where you are headed.
(4) There have been suggestions on buying Passnet - For us, we find the Toyo Metro single day pass which cost Yen710 very useful if you intend to keep using the subways. Note however that it cannot be used for JR lines or other metro lines. We made the mistake of trying to travel on the Asakusa line - not realising that it was by a different operator from the Tokyo Metro subway line and had to use the Ginza line instead.
It's fairly straightforward, not too much to worry about:
The crowds aren't always bad. Mostly during peak hours.
If you want to navigate easily, you'll probably want to switch metros a few times. Two pieces of advice for this.
1. At the stations, there don't seem to be metro-maps in english that you can take with you, so you might want to print one out before you go. There's one at www.tokyometro.jp/rosen/rosenzu/pdf/rosen_eng.pdf
2. Sometimes it appears like two lines are crossing at one station, but you might find out that the other line's station is actually 500 metres away. There are generally easy-access tunnels conencting the various cities.
Traveling in Tokyo is no problem. The metro stations have numbers and inside the metro cars there are maps that light up to show the next station.
Everyone involved in the tourist infrastructure speaks English.
All other Japanese people read English.
I found carrying a small notebook in my shirt pocket so that I could write my question (printing, not cursive) worked just fine.
Tokyo's subway system is not the most beautiful in the world by any means, but it is one of the most extensive, and is pretty cheap as well, with journeys beginning from 160 yen (less than half of what you'd pay in London for example).
It's a great way to get about the city once you learn to navigate your way around.
There are 13 lines, run by two separate companies.
You can either buy day passes for one or both companies, or buy a passnet pay as you go card which you put into the wicket as you go, meaning you don't need to buy a ticket for each individual journey.