The most convenient way to travel inside Tokyo is by train or metro (subway/underground). Buses are slower and more expensive than trains, and taxis are very expensive (the minimum charge is generally 630 ¥).
Tokyo Subway Map
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Greater Tokyo JR Map
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Train and Metro companies
There is little difference between train and metro, as most metro lines are connected to private railways and use the same trains.
The Japan Railway (JR) is convenient to move fast around the main centers or to the suburbs. The JR Yamanote line makes a circle passing through most of the main centers (Shinjuku, Shibuya, Shinagawa, Shimbashi, Tokyo, Kanda, Ikebukuro).
The two metro companies in central Tokyo are:
- Tokyo Metro (formerly "Eidan Chikatetsu") : 9 lines (Ginza, Marunouchi, Hibiya, Chiyoda, Hanzomon, Tozai, Namboku, Yurakuchō, New Yurakuchō)
- Toei (owned by the Tokyo Metropolitan Goverment) : 4 lines (Shinjuku, Mita, Asakusa, Oedo)
There are numerous other private companies serving the suburbs. The kanji in their name indicate their location, as it is the case in other regions of Japan as well. For example:
- Keikyu (京急) : Short for Keihin-Kyuko (京浜急行) Tokyo (東京) - Yokohama (横浜) Express
- Keio (京王) : Tokyo (東京) - Hachioji (八王子)
- Keisei (京成) : Tokyo (東京) - Narita (成田)
- Odakyu (小田急) : Odawara (小田原) Express (急行)
- Seibu (西武) : West (西) Musashi (武). Musashi is old name of the region North and West of Tokyo.
- Tōbu (東武) : East (東) Musashi (武).
- Tokyu (東急) : Tokyo (東京) Express (急行), which has 9 lines connecting various places in the Kanagawa prefecture and Southern Tokyo (Shibuya, Meguro, Gotanda, Oimachi).
Note that Toei operates buses in East Tokyo and Keio operates those in West Tokyo.
Tickets fares start from 130 ¥ for the JR lines, 160 ¥ for the Tokyo Metro and 190 ¥ for the Toei lines. Tickets can only be used for one company, although the Passnet (prepaid cards of 1000, 3000 or 5000 ¥ each) can be used on the Tokyo Metro, Toei and about all private lines. JR does not take it though.
Several of the private lines are connected to the Metro lines and share the same trains. For example, The Toei Asakusa line is connected to the Keisei line to Narita and Kekyu line to Yokohama, so that it is possible to go all the way from Narita to Yokohama without changing train.
You can buy one ticket for the whole journey, although it simply additions the three companies' fares, without discount. E.g. travelling for one station on the Toei Aakusa line, then one station on the Keikyu line is convenient because there is no change of train, but you have to pay the fare of two separate tickets.
Japan Railway (JR) has its own rechargeable card system, called Suika. Its advantadge is that it does not need to be passed through the ticket gates, but just held above it, which makes it faster. It can also be used to pay in some shops. The Suika card can be recharged for the desired amount of money at the ticket machine.
How to buy a commuter ticket?
Commuter tickets are useful if you often travel between two particular stations, for instance, between your home and your work or school. Season tickets valid on all subway/underground lines are rather expensive and not common in Japan. Each train company has different tickets, however there should be a possibility to combine commuter tickets.
To buy one, you will have to find a station that has a commuter ticket office (usually big stations). Once you are there, you will have to fill an application with your name, age, address, telephone, and most importantly, the two stations between which you would like to commute and the length of validity of the ticket (usually one, three or six months). Your ticket will enable you to use any station on the same line between the two stations selected, but no other. If your journey involves several changes, you might be able to use different lines to reach your destination. For example, an Eidan Chikatetsu commuter ticket from Nihombashi to Shibuya should be valid in all Eidan lines and stations between these two (i.e. Ginza-line, Tozai-line till Kudanshita, Hanzomon-line from Kudanshita, Marunouchi-line between Otemachi and Akasaka-Mitsuke).
- 定期券 ("teikiken") = commuter ticket
- 地下鉄 ("chikatetsu") = Subway, Underground, Metro
- 電車 ("densha") = train
- 切符 ("kippu") = (train or subway) ticket
- 乗り換え ("norikae") = transfer