Guide to taking the subway in Tokyo

Subway is one of the most popular means of public transportation in Japan, especially Tokyo. Here are some subway travel tips that will make your visit to Tokyo more comfortable and convenient.

Apr 14, 2022 - 10:46
May 23, 2023 - 09:14
Guide to taking the subway in Tokyo

1. Planning the move:

If you do not watch the time in advance, it is easy to be submerged in the sea of ​​people during peak hours from 7:30 to 9 am and 5 to 7 pm. During rush hour, train benches are folded up to maximize capacity, and staff in white gloves are always pushing passengers through the doors. Some subway lines have women-only carriages during the morning rush hour, so women and children can travel more comfortably.

2. The schedule is strictly followed:

In other parts of the world, a train delay of about 1 minute can be considered “on time”, but in Japan it is a significant incident.

3. Operating time:

If you want to take a tour of “Tokyo by Night”, you will have to choose between going home early on the last train or staying and waiting to catch the first train, or you have to take a taxi. Subway operating hours are from 5am to 1am the next day.

4. Bring a map:

You can get subway maps in English at hotel counters or at station platforms. If you have a map, it will be easier to navigate. Metro stations will be marked with symbols including the station name written in English. Each route is represented by a letter and a certain color.

5. Find the right station:

When you arrive at the platform, there are two ways for you to identify your station or line. One is to use the name of the station (in English) as a guide. The second is to find the letter and code to identify each station. The letter represents the route and the code identifies the station location on the route.

6. Buy a prepaid card:

A type of “smart card” that can be recharged. There are two major brands of train passes, Suica and Pasmo. But they are only used on subways, trains, and bus lines in Tokyo (with the exception of JR's Shinkansen and limited express trains). Most Tokyo subway tickets and passes can be purchased from vending machines with an English language option. Ticket machines are located at each subway station. Some large stations have ticket offices.

7. Scan your card to pass the ticket gate:

To pass through the ticket gate, you have to scan your card through the reader and it will be confirmed by a blue light. When you place your card on it, it will show how much money is left on your card. If you leave a train station without knowing the exact exit number for your intended destination, you may have to wade through the endless maze of the Tokyo subway system.

You can find the exit number easily on the maps placed on the platform or after going through the ticket gate. Once the exit number has been determined, follow the appropriate exit signs. If not, you can find the supervisors standing on the platform or next to the ticket gates for help.

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