Trains and Subways in Japan

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Posted on December 14, 2014 7:40 pm | Leave your thoughts

Whether you are traveling near or far, Trains and Subways in Japan provide a fast, precise and efficient way of reaching your destination.

Trains and Subways in Japan

The Tokyo public transport system is the fastest and the most convenient way to travel around the city. Avoid the morning rush hour between 7:30 am and 9:00 am, as it is the time you do not “get on,” but rather “get packed” into the train cars. In general, both trains and subways run from around 5am to 1am. You can buy a prepaid card which you can use on trains, subways and busses in Tokyo and Yokohama. For further information, see “PASMO and Suica” below.


Tokyo has an aboveground train system which is run mostly by JR East. The center of the system is the Yamanote Line, which loops around the city and links to all the major stations. The Chuo Line cuts across the Yamanote “loop”. Apart from JR East, there are other private train companies. Japanese trains are very punctual, and quite reasonably priced.


There are 13 subway lines including 9 Tokyo Metro lines and 4 Toei Subway lines. For ease of use, each station is coded with a letter and number. You will find these on platform signs and route maps.


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PASMO and Suica

Both are prepaid fare IC cards (Integrated Chip Cards). They offer a convenient way to travel around Tokyo and many outlying areas because they can be used for trains, busses and subways. You simply need to tap the card over a card reader as you pass through the turnstiles at the station or in front of the driver’s cabin on a bus. You can do this in a “touch and go” fashion. No longer do you have to stand at a ticket machine and try to figure out the fare each time you have to transfer to a new train, bus or subway line. Especially, since many of the fare charts are in Japanese. It is more convenient to just add money to your Suica or Pasmo Card at the beginning of your trip and off you go.

Both of these cards are also accepted at various shops, restaurants, some convenience stores and vending machines where the PASMO or Suica Logo are shown, which can make purchases “on the go” faster and easier. To purchase one of these cards, you will need to locate a ticket machine at a train/subway station with the PASMO or Suica Logo shown. You can choose English instructions by touching the word “English” on the screen. You can charge your card starting at 1,000 yen. A refundable 500 yen deposit is required when purchasing your card.

Video about PASMO/Suica & Train Stations


Buying a ticket

The ticket machines usually have a “switch to English” button on the screen. If you are not sure of the fare, buy the cheapest one, and then pay the difference at the fare adjustment machine located near the turnstiles at your final destination. (This only applies to non-express trains.)

Types of tickets

  • Single fare tickets
    Adults: 12 years* and above
    Children: 6 years* and above
    (*varies among railway companies)
  • Multiple single fare tickets (Kaisuken)
    Buy a set of 11 tickets of the same fare for the price of 10 tickets. You get more free tickets at off peak hours and holidays.
  • Commuter’s pass (Teiki)
    It is probably cheaper to buy a commuter’s pass if you have to go to work or school for more than 15 days a month. They are available in 1 month, 3 month or 6 month passes.

Other convenient passes for trains & subways

Here are some popular passes for trains and subways.

  • Tokyo Metropolitan District Pass (Tokunai Pass)
    One-day pass for JR trains running in the Tokyo Metropolitan District.
    Adults: 730 yen, Children: 360 yen.
  • Tokyo Round Tour Ticket (Tokyo Furii Kippu)
    One-day pass for most trains, trams and buses in the Tokyo Metropolitan District.
    Adults: 1,580 yen, Children: 790 yen.
  • Tokyo Metro One-day Open ticket
    Allows one-day unlimited travel on all Tokyo Metro lines, and can be bought from the ticket machines. Adults: 710 yen, Children: 360 yen.
  • Tokyo Metro Special Open Tickets for Foreign Tourists
    Bargain tickets for tourists. They can only be purchased at Narita Airport.
  • Tokyo Metro Special Open Tickets for Foreign Tourists
    Bargain tickets for tourists. They can only be purchased at Narita Airport.

    1. Special 1-Day Open Ticket:
      (Valid between the first and last trains on one specified date)
      Adults: 600 yen, Children: 300 yen.
    2. Special 2-Day Open Ticket
      (Valid for two consecutive days (not 48 hrs.))
      Adults: 980 yen, Children: 490 yen.

Railway(JR) Map of Tokyo

Railway (Shinkansen) Map of Japan

Railway Map of Yokohama


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This post was written by Matt Desmond

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