Transportation in Tokyo is so diverse and great that it’s tough to explain it all in one guide. Nevertheless, I want to sum up all the necessary information you need for getting around in Tokyo in this guide. Like that you’ll see how easy it is to get from A to B in Tokyo.
When thinking of Japan, you might think of the so-called Bullet Trains. Those Shinkansen high-speed trains connect Tokyo with dozens of other cities in Japan in just a few hours. The trains are incredibly quick and punctual, but that’s generally true for transportation in Tokyo.
Leaving aside the high-speed trains, you can easily get from Tokyo to places around the city by regular train services, too. It’s very easy to find necessary information online and book tickets, so there’s no need for a lot of information about this. I’m sure you won’t have problems to book your train to or from Tokyo. You may also be aware of the many metro or subway like trains that run through the city, connecting different train stations as well as the city with its suburbs. There are also direct trains from central stations to both airports, Tokyo Haneda and Tokyo Narita. Yet, you need to be aware that those trains come with a hefty surcharge and are not included normal day passes and the likes.
Understanding the subway in Tokyo isn’t exactly easy. This is because there are two different underground networks, the so-called Tokyo Metro and the Toei Subway. Both companies are state- or city-owned and work together very closely. This means that you can use tickets for connections between the two networks and you’ll find a couple of connecting stations between all lines, including those of both operators. Aside the two major subway networks (Tokyo Metro operates nine lines and Toei Subway operates five), there are many further underground lines, operated by the national railway company or other companies.
However, those are not officially a subway and those belong to the railway network, which I’ve spoken about above. Understanding the whole network in Tokyo is incredibly difficult, but as the trains are operating very often and there’s a station pretty much everywhere, getting around is very easy. While the different operators don’t share a common price system, you can use the tickets of one operator for connections between the two. Additionally, all train operators in Tokyo, including the two subway systems and other rail operators, share the so-called Pasmo System (Suica Card), which allows automatic calculation of fares for all train journeys in Tokyo.
While the subway nowadays is the main means of transportation in Tokyo, back in the days trams played a way more important role. However, only one line exists till today. You can find the Toden-Arakawa-Line in the North of the city center. This tram is operated by the city and might also be used with a Suica Card, making it very easy to change between different means of transportation.
If there’s a destination you can not reach with any of the many subway lines or other trains, buses might be a good option to get around in Tokyo. The bus system is way less known as a means of transportation for tourists, but is rather easy to use as well. There are hundreds of lines spread around the city center, connecting different spots in the city with each other.
Additionally, there are tons of bus lines in the suburbs, which are helping you to get around in areas with lacking subway stations. The buses are all very modern and comfortable. Most lines operate relatively frequently and there is information about the buses at all stops, which again are very easy to locate. For bus transportation, you may also use the Suica Card for paying the fare.
Another option to get around in Tokyo are taxis. However, you should be aware that taxis in the Japanese capital are very expensive. The base fare usually is 430 JPY (~ 3.10 Euro / 3.50 US-Dollar) and every kilometer is charged approximately the same amount. That leaders to rides to the airport (Narita) costing a fortune, with longer rides in the city being still very expensive.
While taxis are comfortable and safe, they are still a very expensive means of transportation in Tokyo. There are also several similar services, including Uber, available. Those offer lower fares, but are still expensive compared to other cities.
With the sheer size of Tokyo, it’s not surprising that there are several means of transportation. Among those are the Nippori-Toneri Liner (a people mover), Ueno Zoo Monorail (a monorail), the Yurikamome (an automated rail between Tokyo and Odaiba) and river cruises. Other than that, there are several more means of transportation, including suburban ones.
Additionally, there are lots of touristic options to get around, including sightseeing buses and more. Last but not least, Tokyo has an extensive bike network for those who wish to get from A to B by using a more environmental friendly means of transportation.