Short stories & travel reports from a life spent living, working and exploring the globe.
The Tokyo Subway, Trains & Electric Lines
No matter what you’re doing or where you’re going in Tokyo, you’ll almost certainly have to get to grips with the city’s gargantuan subway system, an initially intimidating 304-kilometer spiderweb consisting of 13 lines and nearly 300 stations.
The bad news? With multiple operators (Toei Subway and Tokyo metro) and a number of interconnected rail lines (JR East, Odakyu Electric Railway, U-Line) this is one of the world’s most complex subway systems and it can be quite confusing working out which tickets you need as more often than not you find your daily journeys flitting between the various providers. Even if you’re savvy enough to secure a bunch of multi-day subway passes like I did, chances are you’ll still need to fork out extra as your scheduled route diverts you to a line outside the Subway/Metro banner.
The good news? Once you get the lay of the land you’ll find the number/color system really straightforward. Station staff are always friendly and helpful, with a decent level of English, while Japanese passengers are polite, well-mannered and orderly. For the most part my daily travels with the Subway, trains and electric lines were a joy, certainly compared to the which line is broken today? frustrations of London and the etiquette-doesn’t-exist-hell-on-earth multitudes of Beijing. Some of Tokyo’s stations are really beautiful too, with artistic flourishes aplenty and cool posters promoting good Subway behavior, city attractions, upcoming events and more.
So don’t think about the subway and train lines as things simply to get you from a to b. Open your eyes and there’s so much to see as you shuttle around this magnificent city. For more details, check out my articles on: