What is commuting like in Tokyo?

The most convenient method for you to get around Tokyo is through the metro subways and trains. Buses tend to be more expensive and slower than trains. Taxis can get very expensive—minimum fee is around ¥ 730.

Japan Railway Company

Tokyo is a dense network of subways, trains, and bus lines operated by several companies. The trains operated by JR East are convenient for central Tokyo. The city’s most famous train line is the JR Yamanote Line that connects the city’s centers.

Tokyo has 13 subway lines operated by two companies. These lines run around the Yamanote circle and areas around Shitamachi and Ginza. Many of the suburban train lines start at Yamanote Line, which is made up of six major stations—Ueno, Tokyo, Shinjuku, Ikebukuro, Shinagawa, and Shibuya.

The Subways

The city’s subway network is managed by two companies—Tokyo Metro with nine lines and Toei Subways with four. Together, these subways cover central Tokyo and are concentrated on the Yamanote circle, Ginza, and Shitamachi. At terminal stations, trains of other subway lines still operate on the tracks run by other companies on train lines. For instance, you may see trains on the Hibiya Subway Line that run on the tracks of the Toyoko Line in the Nakameguro Station.

Other Railways

Besides JR East and the two subway companies, several other railways connect Tokyo with the outer towns and prefectures. Their lines usually begin at the JR Yamamote Line. Most of the private railway firms also manage department stores at their major train stations.

  • Tokyo Railways—Kanagawa and Southwestern Tokyo
  • Tobu Railways—Tochigi and Saitama
  • Seibu Railways—Saitama and Tokyo Tama Region
  • Keisei Railways—Chiba
  • Odakyu Railways—Kanagawa
  • Tsukuba Railways—Ibaraki
  • Keio Railways—Tokyo Tama Region

As mentioned above, there are a lot of railways, and transfer is complicated at first.

You can check in advance how to get to your destination by using this Japanese Transit Planner.

See What is the train ticket system like in Tokyo?

See What is a PASMO or Suica card?

See Maps


Useful words for Commuting

切符 (kippu) = (train or subway) ticket
電車 (densha) = train
地下鉄 (chikatetsu) = Subway, Underground, Metro
定期券 (teikiken) = commuter ticket
乗り換え (norikae) = transfer