Getting Around by Train

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Getting Around by Train

Tokyo's train and subway system is punctual, clean, and safe. But it’s also quite complicated.

Shinkansen: The JR Shinkansen bullet trains travel up and down Honshu and into Kyushu. Tokyo Station is Tokyo’s main hub, with lines heading north, south, and west. There are two seat classes offered: ordinary and green; the latter is roughly 30% more expensive, but the cars are less crowded and marginally more comfortable. Smoking and nonsmoking cars are available.

Regional trains: About 70% of Japan's railways are owned by Japan Railways (JR Group), the other 30% are owned by private companies. In Tokyo, Japan Railways Yamanote Line loops around the city, while its Sobu and Chuo lines split that circle into east and west directions. Tokyu’s Toyoko Line travels between Shibuya Station and Yokohama to the south. For Tokyo Disneyland take the JR Keiyo Line east. The main line of the Odakyu company and Keio Inokashira Line use Shinjuku and Shibuya, respectively, as hubs to serve Tokyo to the west. For service to Saitama Prefecture, Tobu offers the Tojo Line, which leaves Tokyo from Ikebukuro Station. Many of these rail companies also offer express trains, similar to the Shinkansen, for extended destinations away from Tokyo.

Subways: The easiest way to explore Tokyo is via subway. There are two subway companies: Tokyo Metro and Toei. Each system operates separate lines and has separate fares, and it's cheaper to complete a journey on lines operated by one company. Tokyo Metro operates the majority of lines. The Ginza Line moves between Asakusa and Shibuya, which is also served by the north–south-running Fukutoshin Line and the east–west-bound Hanzomon Line. Like the JR Yamanote Line, the Oedo and Marunouchi lines loop around the city center. The Namboku Line begins in residential Meguro and heads through Korakuen, the station for Tokyo Dome. At the outer edges of the subway networks, private companies operate the line; be prepared to pay an additional fare.

Tokyo Monorail: Beginning at Hamamatsu-cho Station, the monorail provides the simplest access to Haneda Airport.

Purchasing Tickets

In Tokyo basic train and subway fares are between ¥110 and ¥310. Purchase tickets from machines that take coins or cash near the gates. Maps above each machine—usually in Japanese and English in central Tokyo—list destinations and fares. Sometimes the station map will be written only in Japanese. In that case, buy the lowest-priced ticket and adjust the fare upon arrival. For purchasing Shinkansen and other long-distance train tickets that require a seat reservation, go to ticket windows or counters where staff will assist you. At major stations, you should be able to find some staff members who can speak English.

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