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Your Ultimate Guide To Navigating Tokyo’s Public Transport

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Shasha Dania  •  Sep 21, 2019

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If you’re planning your trip to Tokyo, you’ll definitely find yourself puzzling over the city’s various train and subway maps. 😅 Figuring out how to get around Tokyo especially with its extensive public transport system is practically a rite of passage for any visitor - between subways, trains, passes, and cards, we understand if it all feels too overwhelming! Credit: Giphy To help you start your Tokyo journey without any worries, here’s a guide on how to get around Tokyo by public transport! 😊
1. Public transport options in Tokyo
Subway The subway is by far the most convenient way to get around Tokyo. No matter where you are in the city, you’ll never be too far away from the closest subway stop to bring you to your next destination. Make sure to download Tokyo Metro’s subway app or use HyperDia to help you navigate! 2 main companies - Toei Subway and Tokyo Metro- operate 13 lines that run across Tokyo. There are some smaller companies whose lines connect the outer areas of Tokyo with nearby cities or prefectures (e.g. Kanagawa, Nikko, Saitama, Hakone), but if you’re not planning a day trip you’ll only have to focus on the main 2. 😊Thankfully both systems areinterlinked and if you’re using anIC card such as Suica (I.E. a reloadable transport card - more on that below!) you’ll be able to transfer between lines smoothly. Trains There are also several train lines in Tokyo, but the most famous ones are the JR lines. Tokyo’s local JR trains are sufficient to reach most major attractions so you’ll have no problem getting from Ikebukuro to Akihabara in a heartbeat! 😁 P.S. Click here for useful maps of the Tokyo Metropolitan Area’s JR trains! Credit: @t.yuiiiii122 on Instagram These are the local Tokyo JR lines to take note of:
  • Yamanote (also known as the loop line, it’s a circular line that covers all major stations such as Harajuku, Shinjuku, Ikebukuro, Ueno, and Tokyo)
  • Keihin-Tohoku (covers the eastern half of Yamanote including Ueno, Akihabara, Tokyo, Shimbashi, and Yokohama)
  • Saikyo (covers the western half of Yamanote including Ikebukuro, Shinjuku and Shibuya)
  • Chuo-Sobu Local and Chuo Main/Rapid (cuts across the Yamanote line, including Yoyogi, Shinjuku, and Suidobashi. The local line goes to Akihabara, and the rapid line goes to Tokyo station)
  • Tokaido Shinkansen(Inter-city or inter-prefecture travel, stopping at Tokyo and Shinagawa stations heading to Shizuoka, Nagoya, Kyoto, and Shin-Osaka. Werecommend using a JR pass if you’re planning to take the Shinkansen - keep reading to find out how!You can also purchase single Shinkansen tickets to Kyoto or Osaka via Klook for a convenient journey.)
Some easy tips for dealing with subways and trains:
  • Avoid rush hours (morning ~7.30am - 9.30am, evening 5pm - 8pm) as trains can get extremely crowded (especially for those travelling with prams, wheelchairs etc.).
  • If you can’t avoid travelling during rush hours and you have prams or wheelchairs with you, there are usually dedicated spaces for prams in the 1st and last carriages of subway trains.
  • Priority seats can usually be found at the start and end of most carriages, but do note that during busy periods it may still be difficult to get a seat.
  • Maps and direction signs almost always have English words. Just note that for several major stations, there tends to be multiple floors/exits so we recommend planning ahead to check which is the nearest exit for you to get to your destination.
BusesTokyo has an equally extensive bus network, but it might not be the best for most tourists as it does take a bit more timecompared to subways or trains. However if you’ve got some hidden gems or niche destinations on your itinerary then you might be able to find a bus that brings you right to its doorstep! 😊 Credit: @forjoyo on Instagram Most public buses are run by the Toei Transport Network and you can go to their website to find maps containing all of the bus routes. A flat fee (find out the various fees according to age here) is charged for each bus ride, regardless of whether you’re travelling for 1 stop or 10 - so make sure to make the most of your ride and try not to take the bus too often for short or walkable distances! Credit: @tokiyollo on Instagram Here are some simple steps for taking the bus in Tokyo:
  1. Plan ahead and find out which bus stop you need to head to - some of them are as simple as the one above!
  2. Check the map to find out which route you need to take
  3. Arrive at the bus stop and look out for a list of timings. These will tell you when the bus is expected to reach that stop.
  4. Flagdown the bus once it arrives, and board from the front door.
  5. Use an IC card or insert your fee into the fare machine - try to have exact change as not all machines give out change!
  6. Priority seats are reserved for elders, pregnant women, disabled or injured people, and young children. You can sit here during off-peak hours but there is a strong cultural taboo against sitting there if you look able-bodied so do try to give up your seat if you see someone who might need it more!
  7. Once you reach your destination (look or listen out for electronic displays or recorded announcements so you won’t miss your stop) press the button on the side or ceiling to disembark
#HHWT Tip: There are also some free shuttle bus and paid sightseeing buses that cater specially to tourists! For a convenient and comfortable sightseeing experience, book a tour on Klook to enjoy the best that Tokyo has to offer!
2. Must-visit attractions and how to get there
Asakusa Asakusa is definitely one of the most popular neighbourhoods in Tokyo! It houses the more traditional side of the city, and you can visit the famous Sensoji Temple and Nakamise shopping street. 😊The Tokyo Skytreeis also inthe Asakusa area - once you’ve experienced the hustle and bustle of the street, it’s time to take in a bird’s eye view of the city!#HHWT Tip: Lines to get into the Tokyo Skytree can sometimes get quite long during peak tourist seasons - we recommend using Klook to prebook your ticket for an easy and convenient visit! Credit: @luv_dians on Instagram Asakusa is also one of the areas with multiple halal eateries so you can fuel up before you continue on your journey around Tokyo. Pop by Naritaya for a warm, steaming bowl of ramen with a side of crunchy chicken karaage, or treat yourself to some wagyu at Asakusa Nagomi! 😋 To find out more about this iconic neighbourhood, click here for a guide to what Asakusa has in store for you! How to get there:
  • Tokyo Subway: Ginza line
  • Toei: Asakusa line
  • Tobu Railway: Nikko-Kinugawa, RYOMO, Shimotsuki-Kirifuri, Tobu Skytree lines
  • Buses: Services S1, 草63
Shinjuku Credit: @samuraimuseumtokyo on Instagram One of our favourite neighbourhoods in Tokyo has got to be Shinjuku! 😁 Whether you’re a nature lover, foodie, or shopaholic this place has it all. The Shinjuku Gyoen National Gardenis atranquil and peaceful spot to watch the clouds drift by - or if you prefer some excitement, visit theSamurai Museum or go shopping at the biggest Don Quijote in Tokyo! Credit: @suci.arief on Instagram Fuel up for an exciting day with more ramen at Shinjuku Gyoen Ramen Ouka, or treat yourself to delicious curry rice at one of CoCo Ichibanya’s 2 halal-certified outlets! There’s nothing better than trying out local dishes. 😋 How to get there: Shibuya and Harajuku Credit: @chuckpatterson73 on InstagramIf you love to shop, then Shibuya and Harajuku should definitely be in your itinerary! You can find everything from youth fashion to vintage clothing to the latest trends here. We recommend taking a leisurely walk from Harajuku through Cat Street and enjoying the fashion-forward crowds along theway. Before you know it you’ll reach Shibuya where you can watch the world-famous Shibuya Crossing! Credit: @aiman.saari on Instagram Tired from all that walking? Then it’s time to treat yourself to halal yakiniku at Gyumon! Getting to cook your own beef is half the fun at this restaurant - the other half is being able to sink your teeth into a juicy, tender slice of beef after a long day. 🤤 How to get there: Harajuku
  • Tokyo Subway (Meiji-Jingumae Station): Chiyoda, Fukutoshin lines
  • JR: Yamanote line
Shibuya
  • Tokyo Subway: Ginza, Hanzomon, Fukutoshin lines
  • JR: Yamanote, Saikyo, Shonen-Shinjuku line
  • Buses: 都06, 渋88, 都01
Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea If you're a Disney fan, no Tokyo trip would be complete without visiting Tokyo Disneyland or Tokyo DisneySea - or both! 😍 Whether you’re a fan of the classic Disneyland experience or looking for something unique at the only DisneySea in the world, you’ll fall in love with the characters and rides the moment you step foot into the happiest place on earth. Credit: Food Diversity  There are now Muslim-friendly meals available at Tokyo Disney Resort! Operated by Red Lobster, you can choose from a small but delicious menu of BeefBowl, Butter Chicken Curry, or Vegetable Penne. 😋 Sounds like the perfect way to reenergize yourself after a long day!How to get there:
  • JR: Transfer to the Keiyo/Musashino lines from Tokyo Station (JR Chuo Rapid or Yamanote)
  • Bus: Express Bus (Shinjuku Station), Keisei Express (Tokyo Station Yaesu Exit), Transportation Plaza (Akihabara Station Central Exit East)
Akihabara Credit: @maxgiddings on Instagram Shibuya isn’t the only major shopping hub in Tokyo - only Akihabara is known to be THE place to be if you’re planning to buy gadgets and tech! Electronic retailers line the streets, and if you’re a fan of manga or anime you’ll find just about every type of merchandise you could dream of here too. Make sure to visit Akihabara Electric Town for some of the best deals on tech around! 😆 Make sure to visit Coco Ichibanya’s other halal-certified outlet right in the middle of this neighbourhood! Customize your plate of curry rice to your liking, and bite into their crispy chicken katsu cutlets or tender strips of beef. How to get there:
  • Tokyo Subway: Hibiya line
  • JR: Yamanote, Keihin-Tohoku, Chuo/Sobu Local lines
  • Tobu Railway: Tsukuba Express
  • Buses: 茶51
Odaiba Located on a manmade islandin the Tokyo Bay, Odaiba is a popular shopping and entertainment district in Tokyo. It’s also home to teamLab Borderless, one of the most famous attractions in Tokyo that you can’t miss! teamLab’s exhibitions can sell out very quickly, so make sure topre-purchase your teamLab admission ticket on Klook to avoid the long queues. You’ll also love Joypolis, which is Japan’s largest indoor theme park! Enjoy interactive VR and simulator games all day long that will leave you feeling like you’re in a whole new world. 🤩 You can pre-purchase your Joypolis passport on Klook too, that covers admission and almost all of the rides! Head to DiverCity Tokyo Plaza to refuel for your exciting day of fun and games. Tuck into an authentic bowl of halal Japanese soba at Sojibo, an eatery on the 6th floor that sells everything from cold soba topped with vegetables and grated yam, to hot soba with fried shrimp tempura. 😋 #HHWT Tip: Click here for a 7D7N Tokyo itinerary under RM3000 to find out how you can enjoy the best of Odaiba on a budget! 😁 How to get there:
  • Yurikamome Railway (Monorail)
  • Rinkai Railway
  • JR: Saikyo line
  • Buses: 海01, 森30
3. What passes or cards should I get?
Reloadable IC Cards (500 yen deposit) IC cards are reloadable transport cards that can be found across Japan with each city or area typically having their own unique card or design. In Tokyo, the 2 main cards are Suica and PASMO. Suica can be purchased at JR railway stations, and PASMO at non-JR railway stations. To get your deposit back at the end of your trip, you’ll also have to return them at these respective stations. Pros:
  • Can be used across subway, trains, and buses, as well as in convenience stores and some shops or vending machines.
  • Nation-wide use is available for IC cards, so you can use the Suica and PASMO even if you’re in Osaka or Kyoto! Similarly, IC cards such as the Kansai region’s ICOCA can also be used in Tokyo.
  • Prices for subway, train, or bus rides are discounted if you use an IC card (compared to a single-ride ticket).
  • Suica introduced the Welcome Suicain September 2019 exclusively for tourists! The card works just like a normal Suica but no deposit is needed and it can be used for up to 28 days from the date of purchase. It even comes with a unique cherryblossom design so it’s the perfect souvenir to bring home! 🌸
  • The Welcome Suica can be purchased for 1,000 - 10,000 yen so you can pay for a starting balance that will suit your transport needs.
Cons:
  • If you’re planning a commute-heavy day an IC card may not be worth it as the individual rides will quickly add up.
  • If you’re ending your trip outside of Tokyo you won’t be able to get the deposit back BUT you can still use them again for up to 10 years across Japan!
#HHWT Tip: As IC cards are extremely popular for locals and visitors alike, beat the queue to get your own by pre-purchasing your Suica card on Klook! 😄 Subway or day passes There are several subway or day passes available for visitors to Tokyo, which can make it confusing when you’re deciding which one to buy. We’ve included some of the more popular ones below to help you out! Tokyo Subway Pass (24/48/72 hours, 800/1200/1500 yen) The Tokyo Subway Passis one of the most convenient options if you’re only in Tokyo for a short period of time. Average train rides in Tokyo range between 200 - 400 yenper ride, so if you’re planning on seeing the major sights then this pass is definitely worth it! Just make sure to plan out your itinerary first. 😉 Pros:
  • Can be used across all subway lines for a convenient and easy journey - it’ll save you time AND money too as line transfers can sometimes come with a small fee!
  • Good for short trips or commute-heavy days so if only 1 day out of your itinerary will require you to commute across the city, we recommend you get the 24-hour pass to save money.
  • No need to purchase tickets or top up your card.
  • Can be pre-purchased outside Tokyo on sites such as Klook, or at major spots in Tokyo such as Haneda and Narita airports, and major travel/electronic stores.
Cons:
  • Only valid for up to 72 hours - won’t be effective for any trips 4 days or longer. We recommend combining it with an IC card if you’re in Japan for at least 4 days!
  • Can’t be used on the JR railway lines, so you might need to transfer multiple times to reach major stations such as Shibuya or Harajuku. While using the pass means you won’t have topay extra fees, it might be slightly inconvenient especially if you’re on a tight schedule.
Toei and Tokyo Metro One-Day Economy Pass (900 yen) Credit: กินอยู่โฮมซิคแบบหมุ่ย on Facebook Pros:
  • Good for a layover within a day.
  • Can be used across different subway lines.
  • Can be purchased up till the day itself at any station in central Tokyo.
Cons:
  • JR lines are not included - we recommend using this pass only if you’re visiting more niche places or are only in Tokyo for an extended layover. Do remember to plan out your itinerary in advance to maximise it!
Tokyo Metro OR Toei One-Day Passes (600 and 700 yen respectively) Credit: @yumiantikwok on Instagram Pros:
  • Unlimited access across that selected subway line.
  • Good for those who have been to Tokyo before, and want to explore more hidden gems or niche attractions.
  • If you’ve done your research and planned your itinerary out perfectly, these day passes can definitely be worth it.
Cons:
  • Only valid on that 1 line, with no access to JR trains.
  • Validity period is just 1 day long.
  • Not suitable for first-time visitors or visitors planning to visit the major attractions.
JR Passes JR Passes will definitely come upin a discussion of transport around Japan, and fortunately there are several JR passes that include access to Tokyo’s JR lines AND popular destinations around Tokyo! 😄 Remember tocheck out which JR Pass suits your needs on Klook before purchasing! Pros:
  • Tokyo’s JR lines cover most major stations and tourist attractions so it’s totally possible to see Tokyo’s best sights using just the JR line!
  • If you’re taking day trips or travelling to/from different prefectures via the shinkansen, a suitable JR pass will definitely be much cheaper than buying individual tickets.
Cons:
  • The pass can be quite expensive and you should calculate the amount you save first before deciding to purchase one.
  • If you’re only using the JR pass, you won’t be able to use other subway or bus lines so you might have to plan ahead.
Credit: สโลว์ไลฟ์ในเจแปน on Facebook We recommend getting these JR passes that will give you the best value-for-money during your Tokyo trip:
    1. 5-Day JR East Tohoku Area Pass, which includes Nikko, Mount Fuji, Sendai, and Aomori too. We recently went on a trip around East Japan using this pass - check out our Instagram story to see more! You can pre-purchase the JREast Tohoku Area Pass on Klook for an easy and convenient journey. Just pick it up at the airport once you arrive. 😊
    2. 5-Day Nagano/Niigata Area Pass, which includes Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea, Yokohama, Mount Fuji, and Hakone. Click here to read our 5D4N itinerary where we used this pass to explore a hidden side of Japan! ☺️ You can also pre-purchase your Nagano/Niigata Area Pass on Klook for a convenient pick-up in Japan.
    3. Tokyo Wide Pass, which includes the GALA Yuzawa snow resort, Mount Fuji, Yokohama, and Nikko. The Wide Pass covers most of the popular day trips from Tokyo which makes it convenient if you don’t plan to go to other prefectures!
    4. Tokunai (or Tokyo Metropolitan District) Pass, which is a 1-day pass that allows for unlimited JR East and monorail access within the 23 wards of Tokyo. While day trips outside of Tokyo aren’t covered under this pass, it’s a great option if you’re only in Tokyo for 1 day or an extended layover and want to use the JR lines!
    5. JR Whole Japan (7/14/21 days), which covers JR lines across the entire country. We recommend getting this if you’re visitingfor more than 7 days and are planning to cover Tokyo and at least 1 other prefecture! For a quick and easy trip,pre-purchase it on Klook so you can pick it up when you arrive in Japan!
We hope that this article has made the Tokyo public transport system a little less confusing for you. 😊 Travelling around a different country and having to get used to their systems is always a little disorienting - but figuring it out is also half the fun! This article was brought to you by Klook.