Moving around such a huge city as Tokyo may seem difficult at first due to the extensive public transport system – but I will help you to make it easy!
Public transport in the capital of Japan is one of the most modern and most punctual in the world. Although it is used by several million people every day, the Japanese move it very efficiently and quickly. I would like to share with you our experience of communication in Tokyo .
In this article you can discover the top 3 ways to get around Tokyo:
Table of Contents
Way 3 – Walking
Is it a good idea to walk around Tokyo when we visit Tokyo? It depends on where we want to go.
For example, I marked 4 routes in Google maps:
- Asakusa (specifically Kaminarimon “Thundergate”) – Tokyo Sky Tree .
The distance on foot is about 1.3 km , the time needed to walk is 17 minutes.
Route link: https://goo.gl/maps/92pDi4Qa7eBNFfQt8
- Asakusa (specifically Kaminarimon “Gate of Thunder”) – Akihabara .
The distance on foot is about 2.7 km , the time needed to walk is 36 minutes .
Route link: https://goo.gl/maps/ZvEH9n4veZuxqV2H9
- Ueno Station – Akihabara Station .
The distance on foot is about 1.4 km , the time needed to walk is 18 minutes .
Route link: https://goo.gl/maps/RKUvPXBZx2cbUnMz8
- Asakusa (specifically Kaminarimon “Gate of Thunder”) – Shibuya station .
The distance on foot is about 12 km, the time needed to walk is 2 hours and 36 minutes .
Route link: https://goo.gl/maps/JzfTjmeVuU3n7RndA
Examples 1, 2, and 3 provide the opportunity to explore the surrounding areas on foot and discover interesting places, shops, and restaurants. Walking allows us to discover the “ordinary” streets and alleys of Japan. When traveling from Asakusa to Tokyo Sky Tree, looking up is enough to stay on course and avoid getting lost.
Example number 4 involves a longer route, approximately 12 km long, from the “Thunder Gate” in Asakusa to Shibuya station, where we can find famous landmarks like the Hachiko statue and Shibuya crossing. While it is possible to walk this route, it would take over 2.5 hours.
Alternatively, we can take the subway, which will get us there in about 30 minutes. However, if the distance between our destinations is not too far, walking can be a great way to explore Tokyo’s streets and avoid the crowded subway during peak hours and nice weather.
Way 2 – Yamanote Line
One of the most important railway lines in the Japanese capital is the Yamanote circular line connecting the most important districts in Tokyo. Trains run every 2-4 minutes in each direction and the journey takes about 60 minutes. The most important stations are: Tokyo Station, Shinjuku, Shibuya, Shinagawa, Ikebukuro, Ueno, Akihabara.
If you have a JR PASS ticket , you can travel on this line for free . In some cases, such as between Tokyo and Shinjuku Station, the fastest transport option will not be the Yamanote line or the subway – the JR Chuo line will be . It is always worth checking carefully which railway line will get you to your destination the fastest. An interesting fact is that each station of the Yamanote line has an individual theme tune played when the train arrives at the station.
Way 1 – Subway
The vast Tokyo subway system is composed of 13 lines and almost 300 stations, with a total length of over 300 km, managed by two companies: Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway. Surprisingly, there is no station where all the lines meet. A map of the subway lines may appear daunting at first, but the system is actually easy to navigate and intuitive, making it unlikely to cause any issues for travelers.
How to “read” a subway map?
Let’s use an example to better understand how to navigate the Tokyo subway system, specifically for a ride between Tokyo and Shibuya station:
On the subway map, Tokyo station is marked with the symbol M17 and Shibuya station with the symbols Z01, F16, and G01. The red border around the M17 station symbol represents the color of the metro line, which in this case is the Marunouchi Line. The letter “M” represents the symbol of this line, followed by the station number, which is 17 in this case.
Since Tokyo and Shibuya stations are not directly connected by Line 1, a transfer is necessary.
We need to find a station on the subway map where the subway lines from the starting station intersect with the subway lines that go to the destination station. In this case, the red subway line from Tokyo station intersects with the subway lines from Shibuya station at several points.
To get to Shibuya station, we can take the Marunouchi Line from the M17 station to the Ginza station (M16) and then transfer to the orange Ginza Line from the G09 station (where the red, silver, and orange metro lines connect) directly to the G01 station at Shibuya.
Although it may be necessary to make 2 or 3 transfers in other situations, using the subway is simple and intuitive with the help of the map.
Alternative connections are M16 → M18 / Z08 → Z01 or M16 → M09 / F13 → F16 . After a few rides, no one should have any problems with traveling by subway if only we know the starting and ending station. Even if we make a mistake and go in the opposite direction, we can get off at the nearest station and turn around.
Tokyo subway – prices
Prepaid cards, such as Suica or PASMO, are another option for traveling around Tokyo. These can be purchased at ticket vending machines located at almost every metro station and marked with the Suica or PASMO logo. A special version of the PASMO card called “PASMO PASSPORT” is available exclusively for tourists. It is valid for 28 days, differs in appearance from the standard card, and can only be purchased at specific locations listed on the website. The cost of the card is 2000 yen, of which 1500 yen can be used, and the card can be topped up if necessary.
IC cards, such as Suica and PASMO, can be used to pay for subways, trains, buses, vending machines, and some shops and restaurants. To use the card when traveling by subway, select the appropriate gate marked with the “IC Card” inscription, and apply the card to the “reader” of the gate where tickets are validated. The appropriate amount will be charged from the card when passing through the gate to leave the subway platform.
For those planning to travel frequently by subway, purchasing tickets valid for a certain period of time is the most cost-effective option. These tickets are available for 24 hours (price 800 yen), 48 hours (price 1200 yen), and 72 hours (price 1500 yen). It is convenient to purchase these tickets upon arrival at the airport or at tourist information points located in several places in Tokyo. To pass through the subway gates, insert the ticket on one side, pass through the gate, and collect the ticket on the other side, making sure not to leave the ticket behind.
A Yurikamone line is somewhat complementary to the metro line. Thanks to the fully automatic trains (there is no driver in them), we will get to the island of Odaiba . However, we must remember that travel on this line is not possible with 24-hour tickets, multi-day tickets or with the JR PASS ticket. To get to the artificial island of Odaiba, where there are, among others, attractions such as a huge Gundam robot or a replica of the Statue of Liberty, it is most convenient to use a prepaid card, e.g. PASMO.
The basis is a good sightseeing plan
Although the subway runs every few minutes and it will take you to the most important tourist places in Tokyo, the basis is a good sightseeing plan so as not to waste our time. If we only have a few days for Tokyo, we can mark all the places we want to see on the map and then group them by distance and the days on which we will visit them. For example, on one day attractions in the vicinity of Asakusa, Ueno, Akihabara on another day Shibuya, Harajuku on the next Shinjuku, Ikebukuro on the next central Tokyo and Ginza, etc.
Of course, this is just an example and it all depends on how many days we have for visiting Tokyo and what exactly we want see.
I hope all the tips in my article would help you move smoothly and quickly around Tokyo!