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How to get to Tokyo

By air - Tokyo has two airports: Narita Airport handles the majority of international flights and only a small number of domestic flights. It is located 60 kilometers outside of central Tokyo. The more centrally located Haneda Airport handles a smaller number of international flights and the majority of domestic flights.

By shinkansen - Most shinkansen lines lead to Tokyo. The trip from Osaka/Kyoto takes about three hours. There are also direct trains to/from Kyushu, Kanazawa, Niigata and various destinations in the Tohoku Region and Hokkaido.

Basic Orientation

Tokyo is covered by a dense network of train, subway and bus lines, which are operated by about a dozen different companies. The train lines operated by JR East and the subway lines are most convenient for moving around central Tokyo.

Tokyo's most prominent train line is the JR Yamanote Line, a loop line which connects Tokyo's multiple city centers. The city's 13 subway lines are operated by two companies and run largely inside the Yamanote circle and the areas around Ginza and Shitamachi. Most of the many suburban train lines commence at one of the six major stations of the Yamanote Line (Tokyo, Ueno, Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, Shibuya and Shinagawa).

Major JR train lines in Central Tokyo

The map shows Tokyo's major railway stations and the five JR lines that are most relevant to people who travel within central Tokyo.

Subways

Tokyo's subway network is operated by two companies, the Toei Subways with four lines, and Tokyo Metro (formerly known as Eidan Subways) with nine lines. Together, they densely cover central Tokyo, especially the area inside the Yamanote circle and the areas around Ginza and Shitamachi.

Note, that at their terminal stations, the trains of some subway lines continue to operate on the tracks of different companies on suburban train lines. For example, the Chiyoda Subway Line is directly connected with the suburban Odakyu Line at Yoyogi-Uehara Station, and trains on the Fukutoshin Subway Line continue to run on the tracks of the Tokyu Toyoko Line at Shibuya Station.

Other railway companies

Besides JR East and the two subway companies, most other railway companies connect Tokyo with the metropolis' outer regions and surrounding prefectures. Their lines typically start at one of the stations of the JR Yamanote Line. Many of the private railway companies also operate department stores usually at their train lines' major stations.

Tickets

A whole variety of day passes is available for the Tokyo area, however, most of them are overpriced and/or not very practical because they do not cover all of Tokyo's train and subway lines. Consequently, single tickets or prepaid cards usually come cheaper, especially if you plan your city sightseeing in a geographically wise way.

Prepaid IC cards are generally the recommended way to get around Tokyo. Prepaid cards don't give you any discounts over single tickets, but they provide convenience as you can ride virtually any train or bus in Greater Tokyo (and many other major cities in Japan) with just a simple swipe over a card reader. They can also be used to make quick purchases at a constantly increasing number of shops in Tokyo (and across the country).

Two types of IC cards are available for purchase in Tokyo: Suica cards at JR stations and Pasmo cards at non-JR stations. Furthermore, eight IC cards from other major cities of Japan can also be used on the trains and buses of Tokyo, including Icoca, Kitaca, Toica, Manaca, Pitapa, Sugoca, Nimoca and Hayakaken.

Only on days when you use trains or subways a lot, can it make sense to consider one of Tokyo's day passes:

  • Tokyo Free Kippu (aka Tokyo Tour Ticket) (1590 yen)
    Unlimited use of all subway lines (Toei and Tokyo Metro) and JR trains in the central Tokyo area on one calendar day (i.e. from the first to the last train of the day). It is also valid on buses and streetcars operated by Toei. The pass is overpriced and will unlikely provide any savings over regular tickets or prepaid cards.
  • Tokyo Subway Ticket (24 hours: 800 yen, 48 hours: 1200 yen, 72 hours: 1500 yen)
    Unlimited use of all subway lines (Toei and Tokyo Metro). Not valid on JR trains. The pass is sold at Narita Airport, Haneda Airport and Bic Camera electronic stores in central Tokyo to foreign tourists only (passport required). Furthermore, it is sold to both foreign tourists and residents of Japan through selected travel agencies outside of the Kanto Region.
  • Toei and Tokyo Metro One-Day Economy Pass (900 yen)
    Unlimited use of all subway lines (Toei and Tokyo Metro) on one calendar day. The pass only pays off if you use the subways excessively. The pass is not valid on JR trains. Unlike the lower priced Tokyo Subway Ticket (see above), this pass can be purchased at the subway stations in central Tokyo.
  • Tokyo Metro 24-Hour Ticket (600 yen)
    Unlimited use of the nine Tokyo Metro subway lines, but not the four Toei subway lines and JR trains. The ticket is available through ticket machines at Tokyo Metro stations.
  • Toei One-Day Economy Pass (700 yen)
    Unlimited use of the four Toei subway lines, buses and streetcars on one calendar day. It is not valid on the nine Tokyo Metro subway lines and JR trains. The pass is available at ticket machines and ticket counters at Toei stations.
  • Tokunai Pass (750 yen)
    Unlimited use of JR trains in the central Tokyo area on one calendar day. The pass is available at the purple vending machines and ticket counters at JR stations.

The Japan Rail Pass and JR Tokyo Wide Pass are valid only on JR trains and the Tokyo Monorail. They cannot be used on subways or any other non-JR train.

Hotels around Tokyo

Recommended Hotels
Backpackers Hostel K's House Tokyo
One of the most popular hostels in Tokyo.
Book:
Hostelworld
Hotel Century Southern Tower
The most conveniently located hotel in Shinjuku, just a few steps from the station entrance.
Book:
Japanican
Hotel Metropolitan Marunouchi
Adjacent to Tokyo Station, this is one of the city's most convenient and comfortable hotels.
Book:
Agoda Booking
Hotel Sunroute Plaza Shinjuku
Just a few steps from Shinjuku Station, this hotel ranks among Tokyo's best values.
Book:
Agoda Booking
Keio Plaza Hotel
One of Tokyo's most popular hotels and best values, a 5-10 minute walk from the station.
Book:
Agoda Booking
Ritz Carlton Tokyo Hotel
Leading 5-star hotel on the top floors of Tokyo Midtown.
Book:
Agoda Booking
Shangri-La Hotel
Adjacent to Tokyo Station, this is the city's most conveniently located 5-star hotel.
Book:
Agoda Booking

Tours and Experiences

Page last updated: August 19, 2016