Japan, Travel Tips & Prep

A Guide To Tokyo Public Transport

March 6, 2017

View over Tokyo streets from government building

Calm down, take a breath and follow the colours. The public transport in Tokyo can seem a bit overwhelming at first but don’t sweat it, you’ll have it cracked in a jiffy! The easiest and fastest way to navigate the sprawling city is using the subway.

If you’re staying more than a couple of days (definitely recommended), then your first step is getting yourself a prepaid travel card. There are two major cards accepted in Tokyo, the Suica card (below) and Pasmo card. We chose the Suica card, but there isn’t a great deal of difference between the two cards. Expect to pay ¥1000 (about £7) when getting the card, which is a ¥500 refundable deposit on the card and a ¥500 preloaded payment to use immediately. If you want to know a bit more about each card, check out this post by The Japan Guy.

Suica prepaid transport card for Tokyo public transport

Once you’ve got yourself a card, the next trick is knowing where you can top it up, known as ‘charging’ the card. This is most easily done at the ticket vending machines, but you need to choose the right machines, else you’ll be scratching your head, staring blankly at the wealth of options available on the screen. The machines you want are the JR-East machines (Japan Rail), which will have the Suica/Pasmo logo above the screen if you can top up your card there. Have a look below for clarification. Extra tip, make sure you select English from the top corner of the vending machine, it makes the whole process much easier!

Suica and Pasmo top up machines for Tokyo public transport

Now we everything we need to jump on a train, but which one do we get on?! This is where the colours really come to life. All the subway lines have there own colour and a letter, so they are easily identifiable despite any language barrier. The real difficulty is in not getting distracted by the names of stations, as the names are typically quite long and remarkably similar. Use the maps, stick to the pretty colours and we’ll make it to the other side!

Subway route map for Tokyo public transport

When you do get to your station, the final lesson in mastering the public transport is in getting out of the station in the right place. Well we’re in luck! There are maps posted up in the stations that give a layout of the station with labelled exits, and then an overground map showing where the exits meet the street. What could be easier??

Exit location map in subway stations on Tokyo public transport

Follow the tips above, and you’ll be riding the subways of Tokyo without a care in the world! Let us know if you’ve got any extra tips to add!

Tokyo Public Transport Cover Image

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