Travel Around Japan

Transportation Network in Tokyo : How to Explore Tokyo Using Train and Subway (Part 1)

A FIRST LOOK AT TRAIN NETWORK IN TOKYO

Are you visiting Tokyo for the first time? Are you feeling anxious, what if you get lost in Tokyo? Don’t worry too much because the transportation network in Tokyo is well-integrated and reach all over area in Tokyo. There are at least three train companies who run the transportation system in Tokyo, one company is owned by government and two other companies are owned by private company. Government owns Japan Rail (JR) network. JR trains are operated literally on the ground, while the other companies operate train system both on the ground and underground (they called it subway and metro) under Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway.

  • Tokyo Metro (private company) has nine lines, consist of Ginza Line, Tozai Line, Hanzomon Line, Marunouchi Line, Chiyoda Line, Namboku Line, Hibiya Line, Yurakucho Line, and Fukotoshin Line.
  • Toei Subway (private company) runs four lines, there are Toei Asakusa Line, Toei Shinjuku Line, Toei Mita Line, and Toei Oedo Line.

JR trains of course have the most effective coverage area for tourists. You can stop by in any interesting places in Tokyo on the Yamanote Line (an inner loop line around Tokyo). If you are first timer visiting Tokyo, I highly recommend you to take tour based on route which is served in the Yamanote Line. Here’s the station in the Inner Loop Yamanote Line : Tokyo, Yurakocho, Shimbashi, Hamamatsucho, Tamachi, Shinagawa, Osaki, Gotanda, Meguro, Ebisu, Shibuya, Harajuku, Yoyogi, Shinjuku, Shin-Okubo, Otsuka, Sugamo, Komagome, Tabata, Nishi-Nippori, Nippori, Ugusuidani, Ueno, Okachimachi, Akihabara, and Kanda, the go back again to Tokyo Station. Of course, JR runs another train lines, but Yamanote Line is the famous line for tourist. Just see the picture below to understand Yamanote Line route.


CHOOSING THE SUITABLE ONE-DAY-TICKET

Japan is well-known as one of the best countries in serving tourists accommodation, such as one-day-pass ticket to ride all trains, buses, and also waterbus. There are various one-day-tickets in Tokyo, so you can choose which ticket suits your itinerary. Before I inform you how to make an effective route, here’s the information about one-day-pass tickets.

  • Tokyo One-Day Free Ticket / Tokyo Free Kippu (JPY 1.590 for adult & JPY 800 for child). You can ride any transportation methods in Tokyo which are under JR, Tokyo Metro, Toei Subway, Toei Bus, and Toei Street Car. This ticket is available at various places such as JR stations, the View Plaza, and ticket machines at Tokyo Metro stations or Toei Subway stations.
  • Common One-Day Ticket (JPY 1.000 for adult and JPY 500 for child). By buying this ticket, you can ride train in Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway in one day. This ticket is available at ticket machines at Toei Subway or Tokyo Metro stations. It can be purchased on the day of the use.
  • Tokyo Metropolitan District Pass / Tokunai Pass (JPY 750 adult and JPY 350 for child). This ticket accommodates you to take any train in JR lines all around Tokyo. Available at JR Ticket Offices in most major Tokyo Stations and at Travel Service Centers (View Plaza).

There is also one day ticket for buses but I have no experience in using bus while in Tokyo so I don’t have any information to share. All I know is that using bus can be so confusing. Most of the buses using Kanji letters on it.  So, in my opinion, bus is not friendly for foreigners. Please be informed that transportation in man-made island (such as Tokyo Resort and Odaiba City) doesn’t provide one-day-pass ticket like the three majors train companies. I only experienced in riding Rinkai Line to Odaiba City and Tokyo Disney Line. It’s quite expensive.

YOU KNOW WHERE TO GO… (IF YOU HAVE TOKUNAI PASS)

As I had already described on the top of this post, if you are first timer in Tokyo, the best way to do sightseeing activities is by using JR Yamanote Line (Inner Loop). Let’s say you have Tokunai Pass in hand, we assume you start your tour from JR Tokyo Station. Here we go…

1. JR TOKYO STATION

Marunouchi District

If you just arrive here from the airport or you stay at hotel around JR Tokyo Station, this is a perfect starting point. You may be amazed by the Tokyo Station building, so I recommend you to exit from Marunouchi exit then go to the small square in front of Tokyo Station (just ± 350 meters). You will see a view of Tokyo Station (which is looked like a castle), a contrast view compared to modern buildings around it.


Tokyo Imperial Palace
It was built in Edo era, formerly known as Edo Castle. Just walk from Marunuochi District to this place. Don’t worry, there are many direction signs which will lead you to the palace, just follow it for about 1,5 kilometers (it’s quite far, isn’t it? But once again, don’t worry, walking is good for your health!) Basically visitors are not allowed to enter the inner ground of the palace, so we just see the palace from afar. The interesting point of this place is the Nijubhasi Bridge, a bridge which was made of stones.

Tokyo Imperial Palace
Imperial East Garden

This garden is part of Tokyo Imperial Palace. If you go here in spring, many people doing hanami (picnic under Cheery Blossom Trees, I assume). This garden is superhuge but it was relaxing when I walked around the garden. You can lie on the grass if you get tired of walking, don’t worry many people do it too.


2. JR AKIHABARA STATION
Yeaahh, Akihabara is heaven for game lovers and gadget freak. It’s just four minutes train ride from Tokyo Station. Just a few steps from the station, you will arrive at electronic shops and game shops. If you are a fan of AKB 48 (groups of girl singer and dancer), there’s a venue which sometimes hold concert for AKB 48, Don Quijote 5th level. Also very close to the station, there are AKB 48 Café and Gundam Café.


3. JR UENO STATION

Ueno Park

One of favorite parks in Tokyo to do “hanami”. Sakura blooms stunningly and forms a beautiful white flowers canopy, make this place flooded by people. So many things to see here, so many museums, temples, and also shrines. But I was happy just lay on the ground beneath Sakura flowers, admired the beauty of those flowers. Love it! At spring time, Ueno Park will hold Spring Illumination Festival, it’s worth to visit.


Ameya Yokocho

Locals call it Ameyoko. This is a market. Various products are sold here; food, clothes, bag, cosmetics, raw fishes, and many more. The street foods look delicious too, try to taste some foods here. Ameyoko is just 250 meters from Ueno Station, located between Ueno Station and Okachimachi Station.

4. JR IKEBUKURO STATION
Ikebukuro provides entertainment, shopping, and dining experience. Famous department stores in Japan are built in Ikebukuro. You will find Seibu, Tobu, Bic Camera, Yamada Denki, and many more. I just skipped this place from my visit last April 2016. I imagined this place as crowd as Shibuya and as busy as Akihabara.

 5. JR SHIN-OKUBO STATION

Shin-Okubo often described as Japan’s biggest Koreatown. You will find anything about K-Pop and Korean restaurant here. Nice to try! If I go to Japan again, I won’t skip this place.

 6. JR SHINJUKU STATION

Place where tallest buildings stand here. One busiest district in Tokyo and also described as red light district. You can find many department stores here. The interesting place to visit in Shinjuku District is Shinjuku Gyoen, the largest park in town. One of favorite spots to do hanami in Sakura season. Shinjuku Gyoen is ten minutes walk from JR Shinjuku Station via new south exit.

7. JR HARAJUKU STATION

Takeshita Dori & Tokyu Plaza Omotesando Harajuku

Harajuku is famous because the extreme trends of teenage apparels are born here. Takeshita Dori or Takeshita Street (just 400 – 500 long) is the heart of Harajuku. There are many boutiques, cafes, and restaurants. While in Harajuku on April 2016, I saw Tokyu Plaza which has several floors and consists of fashion and lifestyle stores. Tokyu Plaza has rooftop area with green space on the top, makes you have a clear view of how busy Harajuku is.

Meiji Shrine

It’s modern, but it’s also cultural! That’s how to describe Harajuku. In the middle of crowded area, there’s a shrine, Meiji Shrine. The admission fee is JPY 500. It’s just few steps away from the station.


8. JR SHIBUYA STATION

Here we come to the busiest and the most crowded place in Tokyo. First thing about this district which attracts me is Shibuya Crossing. Take exit from Hachiko Exit, then you will see the large intersection. When the traffic light for cars turned red, so many pedestrian crossed the intersection like people doing flash mob. I joined the people who crossed the intersection just to feel the sensation. I crossed the intersection many times while my husband was busy taking a good picture of me. The other prominent landmark in Shibuya is Hachiko Statue. It’s situated just close to Shibuya Crossing. When you visit Shibuya, make sure you take a look at the stores around there and try to eat at some restaurants there (Genki Sushi is worth to try there, let’s hope the queue line is not long, fingers cross!).


That’s all I could share about my experiences (and my knowledge) in Tokyo. I hope this post will help you to make your own itinerary. Another post will talk about places to go around Tokyo with Toei Subway and Tokyo Metro. 

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