Tokyo Trains

Twelve Tips for Surviving Tokyo's trains and buses

Tokyo Trains are a fast and efficient way of getting around this huge metropolis. But it is wise to hone up on how the system works before you leave home! You will know what to expect and find the initiation relatively painless.


Train or Bus?

Tokyo train stations can seem impossible to navigate when you first step foot into their bustling, crowded concourses. People are rushing in all directions. Different lines to different places by different companies on different levels, add to your confusion.

But once you sort the process, with the help of the Tokyo Metro Guide found at the stations, the Tokyo trains are remarkably easy to use, and it is amazing just how far and how quickly you can move from place to place.

It is sometimes easier to use a bus in preference. It may take a little longer, but excluding the need to change trains, or carry heavy bags up and down stairs or escalators, makes the extra time worthwhile. The view is an added bonus. The buses invariably arrive and leave from outside the Tokyo's train stations.

Japan Rail Pass- Don't leave home without it!


1)Before leaving your country of residence,purchase a Japan Rail Pass. Your local travel agent can order one or you can buy direct from the Japan Rail Office.

These passes will save you a lot of money in the course of 1,2 or 3 weeks depending on which Pass you opt for. You have unlimited use of your pass anywhere in Japan for the duration of its validity. It is also valid on some buses and boats. You cannot buy them in Japan.

FOR NEW ZEALANDERS -The Japan Rail office is in Parnell Road, Auckland-currently NZ$355. (above the Movenpick ice cream shop.)

2) Once you arrive you must have them verified. In Tokyo, the office is just inside the Western door of Shinjuku station. Take your passport. Once they are verified, they will start from the date of the first day you use the Pass.


3)When you first start out, the train system can be daunting. If you have bought a single trip ticket, or a Y1000 pass, you feed this into the barrier machine. It will open the gates and you whip the ticket out when it pops up at the other end of the machine, as you walk through.

You do this at each end of your trip. At the beginning it records where you started your trip, and at the end docks off the price for that trip.

If you are using your Japan Rail Pass, you will need to go through at the side and show your pass, and often your passport, to the person manning the office. They will open the gate manually for you.


4)If you have not enough money left on your Tokyo train pass for the trip, you can use a new one and feed both the old and the new passes in together. This then splits the fare between the two tickets. Clever, isn’t it. You can see how much is left on your ticket as it is recorded on the back.

5)If you are ending a trip with eg. a Japan Rail ticket, and starting a trip with a different line company, meaning you have bought a different ticket for your ongoing trip, you will need to feed both tickets through together, for the barrier to open. One ticket will be the end of a trip, the other the start of the next trip.


On trips out of Tokyo on the shinkansen you can book seats in advance, including non smoking . Just take your JR pass to an office. If you have seats allocated for a specific carriage you find the number on the platform. Very handy as many of the trains are quite lengthy.


6)Japanese are very orderly, so when you are waiting for a train you stand in line behind any of the numbered markings for the carriages.


7) Expect to stand if it is a busy time of day or public holiday! Japanese are fairly adept at pushing to get in, so you need to find a space and hold your ground!

8)In both buses and trains there are banks of seats reserved for disabled, elderly, pregnant women, or people with small children . These have signs above(pictures- you can't miss them) and often the seat has a different coloured fabric. People do sit in them if none of the people they are reserved for are on the bus or train. But if they do get on, you are required to give the seat to them.

9)On the escalators you should always stand to the left, so people can walk down the right side if they wish.


On trips out of Tokyo on the shinkansen you can book seats in advance, including non smoking . Just take your JR pass to an office. If you have seats allocated for a specific carriage you find the number on the platform. Very handy as many of the trains are quite lengthy.

10)You can buy Tokyo train tickets from machines on the station walls, or at the ticket office. Before you press anything – it is helpful to press the button marked ENGLISH. This will mean you are given instructions you can understand, unless you speak Japanese!

11)Press for which ticket you want, feed your money in and the ticket will pop out. There are booklets that will help you work out in advance which lines you want to use, and where to find them.

12)Buses are usually located directly outside Tokyo train stations.They are easy to use but initially may seem confusing. Some companies open the doors and you get on via the back door, and off at the front, paying as you go.

Others reverse this and you get on at the front and pay, exiting from the back. Following the locals and getting on the opposite door to those disembarking is your best option.

ENGLISH ANNOUNCEMENTS FOR EACH STOP - In both buses and trains the next destination is announced, and also shown on a running strip above the driver, in both Japanese and English. So you do not need to panic about when to get off.


More Japan Information

Japan Information

Tokyo Attractions

Tsukiji Fish Markets

12 Tips on how the Tokyo Train System works

Kamakura Day Trip

Fuji-Go-Ko ( Fuji Five Lakes)



Ancient Nara





Nagasaki Sightseeing

Japan Rail Pass

Japanese Lessons and Ipod Phrasebook

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