The city of Tokyo has the third largest population in the world. The first two positions belong to Beijing and New Delhi. Its surface covers over 2,188 square kilometers, while the population of this thriving city numbers over 13.62 million people. Ever since the Summer Olympic Games were held in Tokyo in 1964, the city has become an increasingly popular destination. Tokyo’s infrastructure and transportation system have developed significantly over the last years, making it easier and faster for commuters and visitors to reach any part of it.
So, how do you get around using the Tokyo Metro, the Yamanote line, Narita Express, and the Japan Rail Pass.
Tokyo Skyline credit: ooyoo/iStock
Arriving in Tokyo
There are two international airports in Tokyo: Haneda Airport and Narita Airport. Haneda Airport is located about 20 minutes away from Tokyo Station and 23 minutes from Shibuya Station. To reach the city centre you can take the airport commuting train on the Keikyu Line. The price per single ticket on this line to both Tokyo and Shibuya Station costs 580 yen. This is the fastest and easiest way to reach the city from Haneda Airport.
Narita Airport is located outside of Tokyo, in the Narita Prefecture. You can reach Tokyo Station from the airport by taking the Narita Express. It will take you approximately 1 hour to reach the city centre. A one-way ticket on the Narita Express (N’EX) costs 3,190 yen. However, Japan Rail Pass holders can take the N’EX free of charge. The Narita Airport transfer is fully included in the JR services.
Discover Tokyo: the city metro explained
There are 9 metro lines in Tokyo as follows:
- Ginza Line
- Marunouchi Line
- Hibiya Line
- Tozai Line
- Chiyoda Line
- Yurakucho Line
- Hanzomon Line
- Namboku Line
- Fukutoshin Line
It is the fastest way to get around the city. Purchase your metro ticket from any of the ticket vending machines, located at each station. Here is a guide on purchasing a metro ticket from a ticket vending machine:
- Search for your destination station on the map, located above each machine
- Remember the fare, written under the destination station’s name
- Select the fare on the screen in front of you (in Japan you don’t select the name of the final destination, you select the fare it costs to reach that destination)
- Insert the required amount in the machine and take your ticket
Ticket purchasing tip: Make sure to have cash on you. Some ticket vending machines don’t accept cards.
If you plan to make more than a few trips on the Tokyo Metro, it is recommended to buy a 24-hour Ticket, valid for 24 consecutive hours from the first use of the ticket. The price for adults (12+ years) is 600 yen. Childrens price (ages 6 through 12) is 300 yen. With a 24-hour ticket, you can travel an unlimited number of times on the Tokyo Metro during the validity period of the ticket.
Yamanote line: Tokyo’s circular line
Yamanote line map credit: jrailpass.com
The Yamanote line is the busiest Tokyo metro line, stopping at the most central and tourist attractive points of the city. The following are some of the most popular stations on the Yamanote line:
- Ikebukuro Station
- Shinjuku Station
- Shibuya Station
- Shinagawa Station
- Tokyo Station
- Ueno Station
The Yamanote Line provides direct access to some of the most prominent places in Tokyo such as the Shibuya Crossing, the Ueno Zoo, Ueno Park, the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden and much more.
A single ride on the Yamanote Line will vary in cost, depending on your departure and arrival stations. You can purchase your ticket from any metro station by following the same ticket purchase guide, provided above.
However, if you hold a Japan Rail Pass, you won’t be charged when taking the Yamanote Line. The services of the circular Tokyo metro line are fully included in the JR Pass.
Japan Rail Pass: what is it?
Japan Rail Pass is a multi-use discounted ticket, valid for travel on all national Japan Rail trains, as well as JR buses and special ferry services. You can select from 7, 14 or 21 validity days. As mentioned above, the JR Pass also covers the cost of Narita Express and the Yamanote Line. Foreign nationals who visit Japan for touristic purposes for less than 90 consecutive days are eligible to purchase the pass. The Japan Rail Pass is not sold in Japan. The services are provided by authorised vendors such as www.jrailpass.com.
After ordering the pass online, you will receive an Exchange Order (a JR voucher), which you will need to activate once in Japan at a Japan Rail Pass Exchange Office. Once you select the activation date of your past, it cannot be changed. Make sure to purchase the pass no sooner than 3 months before your intended departure day to Japan.