Traveling Through Tokyo and the Importance of Timing

Published October 22nd, 2018

When you first arrive in Tokyo, you might be tempted to hire a taxi from the airport to your hotel. If you do, be prepared to fork over a lot of yen. The better option by far is to take the train. Just follow all of the Japanese passengers--they'll be heading the same way. Tokyo is a lot like New York City. You'll rely on the train to take you most places and only use taxis when absolutely necessary.

The Lines

There are five main JR lines within Tokyo that you should know. Yamanote Line This train line runs in a circle and connects all of the major city centers. Keihin-Tohoku Line This train line runs parallel to the Yamanote Line on the eastern half. Chuo/Sobu Line This train line runs across the Yamanote Line and provides slower, more local service. Chuo Line (Rapid) This train line connects Tokyo Station and Shinjuku Station and provides fast, constant service. Saikyo Line This train line runs parallel to the Yamanote Line on the western half. Tokyo is 845 square miles in size, which makes it impossible to walk across. You need to know your way around, but you also need to know what times you can rely on the trains. The trains stop around 1 AM, so your last ride should start at 12:30. If you miss the train, you face an expensive taxi ride back from wherever you are. For example, a taxi from the Roppongi district to the Ueno district runs about $60 USD. Comparatively speaking, you can purchase an unlimited use ticket for the subway lines in Tokyo for 1,590 yen, or around $15 USD.

Prepaid IC Cards

Another option is to purchase a prepaid card; the prepaid IC card. These are one of the most recommended ways to get around Tokyo due to their convenience. The price is around the same as that of a single-use pass, but a prepaid card lets you use any bus or train just by swiping it over a card reader.

Other Options

A final option is to consider renting or purchasing a bicycle during your stay. Travel by bicycle is common in Japan, and it is a great way to navigate the winding streets of Tokyo. It also provides an excellent way to see the city up close and personal that public transportation just doesn't have. Whether you visit Tokyo for business or for pleasure, make sure you know how to get around the city without paying a huge fare--or worse, finding yourself stranded.

Phrases to Know

One of the most difficult aspects of navigating Tokyo is the vocabulary. If you do not know what phrases to look for and listen for, it can be hard to find your way around. Here are a few of the most common words you are likely to encounter. Basu This word is simple. It means "bus" and is pronounced how it is read. Kuruma "Kuruma" is the Japanese word for "car." Jitensha This word means "bicycle." Densha This word is one you will encounter often. It means "train." Takushi This word means "taxi." Take the time to learn a few basic Japanese phrases and you will find it much easier to make your way around the city. Learn to ask for directions (and learn a few key phrases to listen for) and you will enjoy your trip to Japan much more than if you spend most of your time lost. Images via Wikimedia, Pixabay