Getting Around by Train

Japan (and Tokyo in particular) has one of the world’s best train and subway systems: trains are nearly always on time, have clean facilities, and provide a safe environment. But—it’s 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. Regional trains: About 70% of Japan's railways are owned by Japan Railways (JR Group), the other 30% are owned by private companies. Non-JR lines include Tokyu’s Toyoko Line between Tokyo’s Shibuya and Yokohama to the south. The main line of the Odakyu Company and Keio Inokashira Line use Shinjuku and Shibuya, respectively, as hubs to serve the west of Tokyo. For service to Saitama Prefecture, Tobu offers the Tojo Line, which leaves Tokyo from Ikebukuro Station. The most important JR-owned regional line in Tokyo is the Yamanote Line, which loops around the city, while its Sobu and Chuo lines cross that circle east to west; JR trains also travel to Tokyo Disneyland.

Subways: The easiest way to explore Tokyo is via subway. There are two subway companies: Tokyo Metro and Toei. Because these are separate entities, they have separate fares, and it's cheaper to stay with one company. At the outer edges of the subway networks, private companies operate the line. If you're going far afield, 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 (and other major cities) basic fares (train or subway) are between ¥110 and ¥310. Tickets can be purchased from machines that take coins or cash near the gates. Maps above each machine—usually in Japanese and English—give destinations. If a station map is written only in Japanese, buy the lowest-priced ticket and adjust the fare on arrival. Purchase tickets for Shinkansen lines and other long-distance regional lines that require a seat reservation at a ticket window.

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