Tokyo Rail and Subway

Tokyo Travel Guides / November 18, 2016
Tokyo Rail and Subway Image credit: akulamatiau

Tokyo has one of the most dense and sophisticated mass transit systems in the world. And while this system may be confusing for tourists, it’s still one of the most efficient ways to get around in Tokyo.

In fact, buses in Tokyo are even more confusing than trains, especially if you don’t know Japanese. So taking a train or subway is the faster and easier way to reach any destination in Tokyo.

Don’t be surprised when you see about a dozen of white-gloved ‘pushers’ (oshiya–train station assistant), who squeeze passengers into train cars during rush hours.

While it may seem a little wild for most foreigners, Tokyo residents don’t mind being squeezed into train cars.

Tokyo’s mass transit system can be broken down into three parts:

  1. JR East rail network, which has 28 lines and its 5 main lines include
    Yamanote loop (light green) goes around central Tokyo — read below for more info about this line
    Chuo (orange) and Sobu (yellow) go east and west
    Saikyo (dark green) and Keihin-Tohoku (blue) run north and south
  2. Subway – run by two operators: Tokyo Metro (has nine lines) and Toei (has four lines). Both are useful to get around the city and well connected with the Yamanote loop.
  3. Private rail – about a dozen private rail lines that run into the outlying suburbs.

JR Yamanote Loop
JR Yamanote loop line is the most important and most used line in Tokyo. The line runs in a circle and connects the city’s major centers.

The line has 29 stations, but the most popular ones are:

  • Shinjuku – sits right in the center of the huge Shinjuku business, entertainment and shopping district
  • Harajuku – is home to the favorite Harajuku shopping and entertainment district of teenagers
  • Harajuku – is located in the large Harajuku shopping and business district, which is also loved by young people and teenagers
  • Shinagawa – is the closest JR station to reach Sengakuji Temple. The station also connects central Tokyo with Haneda Airport via Keikyu Railways.
  • Hamamatsucho – is the closest JR station to reach the Tokyo Tower and Zojoji Temple. The station also connects central Tokyo with Haneda Airport via Tokyo Monorail.
  • Yurakucho – is the closest JR station to the Ginza shopping and entertainment district
  • Tokyo – is home to the famous Marunouchi business district, and is the terminal station of all high-speed railway lines in Tokyo
  • Nippori – provides a connection to and from Narita Airport via the Keisei trains
  • Ikebukuro – is home to one of the biggest shopping and entertainment districts in Tokyo

Train & Subway service hours: 04:26 – 01:18 daily (JR East trains) and around 05:00 – 00:00 daily (subway)

Train & Subway service schedule: Every 3 minutes during rush hours and every 4 – 5 minutes during off-rush hours

Train & Subway fares
– Tokyo Metro subway fares start at 170 yen ($1.56), follow this link to calculate fares
– Toei subway fares start at 190 yen ($1.74)
– JR trains fares start at 130 yen ($1.19), follow this link to calculate fares

Notes
– If you’re planning to travel around Tokyo a lot using trains and subways in a few days, consider purchasing one of day passes or tickets mentioned in our BEFORE YOU GET STARTED IN TOKYO section above.
– See full subway and train map here

Best Ways to Get Around in Tokyo