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.
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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 the area east of the loop line. 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.
- Yamanote Line
Circle line that connects all major city centers.
- Keihin-Tohoku Line
Runs parallel to the Yamanote Line on the eastern half of the circle.
- Chuo/Sobu Line (Local)
Runs across the Yamanote circle (local slow service).
- Chuo Line (Rapid)
Runs across the Yamanote circle (rapid service). Connects Tokyo Station with Shinjuku Station.
- Saikyo Line
Runs parallel to the Yamanote Line on the western half of the circle. From Osaki Station, some trains continue running along the Rinkai Line in direction of Odaiba.
Tokaido Shinkansen trains stop at Tokyo and Shinagawa, while bullet trains to the north stop at Tokyo and Ueno.
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 the area east of the loop line.
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.
- Tokyu Railway
Serving southwestern Tokyo and Kanagawa.
- Tobu Railway
Serving Saitama and Tochigi, including Nikko.
- Seibu Railway
Serving the Tokyo Tama Region and Saitama.
- Keio Railway
Serving the Tokyo Tama Region.
- Odakyu Railway
Serving Kanagawa, including Hakone.
- Keisei Railway
Serving Chiba, including Narita Airport.
- Keikyu Railway
Serving Kanagawa, including Haneda Airport.
- Tsukuba Express
Connecting Akihabara with Tsukuba City, Ibaraki.
Passes and 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, ticket offices at some major subway stations, and selected Bic Camera and Yamada Denki 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 Pass (Toei Marugoto Kippu) (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.