Tokyo's subways and trains are the best way to get around Tokyo. Here, I'll give you all the details on the Tokyo subway and train system.
Tokyo Subway: cowardlion / Shutterstock.com
- The best way to get around Tokyo is by train and subway.
- There are two subway systems in Tokyo (Tokyo Metro and Toei Subways). They're interlinked, so you don't have to worry much about this.
- The most useful train line in Tokyo is the JR Yamanote Line, which is commonly called the "Tokyo Loop Line" or just "Loop Line." You can use a Japan Rail Pass on this line.
- The best way to pay for all trains and subways in Tokyo is with a prepaid Pasmo or Suica card.
See below for all details.
- The Two Tokyo Subway Systems
- Tokyo Metro
- Toei Subways
- They're pretty well interlinked, so you don't really have to worry about which one you're on etc. The only time you really have to think about this is when buy an individual ticket. In order not to have to worry about this, I recommend either buying a subway pass or prepaid card (for details on both, see below).
Tokyo Subway Passes
There are two useful passes to consider when exploring Tokyo:
Common One-day Ticket for Tokyo Metro & Toei Subway
- Validity: Unlimited use for one day of both Toei and Tokyo Metro subways (but cannot be used on JR trains like the Loop Line).
- Cost: Y1,000 for adults and Y500 for children
- Where to buy: At all Tokyo Metro and Toei ticket offices and machines.
- Best for: Travelers holding Japan Rail Passes who want to ride the subway several times in one day.
Tokyo Combination Ticket
- Validity: Unlimited use for one day of both Toei and Tokyo Metro subways, JR trains and Toei buses (ie, almost everything you are likely to ride when exploring Tokyo.
- Cost: Y1,590 for adults, Y800 for children.
- Where to buy: Tokyo Metro vending machines and ticket offices, Toei ticket offices, JR East ticket offices.
- Best for: Travelers without Japan Rail Passes who want to ride the subway and train several times in one day.
Using Subways and Trains with a Prepaid Card (Pasmo or Suica)
- By far the easiest and best way to use Tokyo's subways and train is with a Pasmo or Suica card. You merely swipe the card over the reader on the turnstiles when you pass through when entering and leaving the system. The fare will automatically be deducted from your card and the machine will show the remaining balance.
- For details on where and how to buy one of these cards, see my Prepaid Cards – Pasmo and Suica page.
JR Trains in Tokyo
In addition to the two subway systems described above, several train lines run through, around and to/from Tokyo. There are really only two lines that concern the traveler:
- JR Yamanote Line: Commonly known as the "JR Loop Line" or just "Loop Line," this line runs right around central Tokyo and connects most of the major hubs (the main exceptions are Roppongi and Akasaka). You are likely to be riding this line a LOT in Tokyo.
- JR Chuo Line: This line cuts across Tokyo, running roughly east-west. It can be useful for moving from, say, Shinjuku to Tokyo Station.
- To ride JR trains in Tokyo, you can buy individual tickets, use a Japan Rail Pass, use a Tokyo Combination Ticket or a prepaid card like Suica or Pasmo.
Tokyo Train and Subway Maps
- Here is the best English-language Tokyo subway and train map:
- Here are the best English, Chinese and Korean subway maps:
Tips for Riding the Subways and Trains in Tokyo
- Avoid riding subways and trains during rush hours (7.30am-9.30am and 5pm-8pm).
- Use the JR Yamanote Line to move to nearby hubs on the edge of the city.
- Use the subways to cross the city or access hubs on opposite sides of the city.
- If you are buying single tickets and can't figure out the fare for your destination, simply buy the cheapest ticket. When you get to your destination, put the ticket in the fare adjustment machine, insert the proper additional fare and use the ticket it spits out to pass through the turnstiles.
Tokyo Vacation Checklist
- For all the essentials in a brief overview, see my First Time In Tokyo guide
- Check Tokyo accommodation availability and pricing on Booking.com – usually you can reserve a room with no upfront payment. Pay when you check out. Free cancellations too
- Need tips on where to stay? See my one page guide Where To Stay In Tokyo
- You can buy a Japan SIM card online for collection on arrival at Tokyo Narita or Haneda airports. Or rent an unlimited data pocket wifi router
- See my comprehensive Packing List For Japan
- Compare airline flight prices and timings for the best Japan flight deals.
- If you're visiting more than one city, save a ton of money with a Japan Rail Pass – here's why it's worth it
- A prepaid Suica card makes travelling around Tokyo much easier - here's how
- Get essential travel insurance for Tokyo – World Nomads is well-regarded (and here's why)