- Tokyo operates nearly two-dozen train and subway lines that encircle and crisscross the city, many of which connect Tokyo’s hubs, which include Ikebukuro, Shibuya, Shinagawa, Shinjuku, Tokyo, and Ueno. With trains consistently running on time, this travel option is arguably the most efficient means of transportation available within the city.But with such an expansive network comes some confusion in determining the fastest course to and from your intended destination. All stations offer train maps in English and have staff that can speak at least enough English to point you in the right direction. There are also a variety of websites that can be used to determine the best route and calculate fares. One such example is http://www.hyperdia.com. Alternatively you can download an English language map of the system here: http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/info/map_a4ol.pdf.
All tickets can be purchased at automatic ticket machines near the gate entrances and, in the case of Shinkansen (Bullet Train) and Narita Express, at ticket offices located with the stations. Tickets cannot be purchased online or on board the trains (with limited exception to seat changes, upgrades, and some other situations aboard the Shinkansen and other national train lines, and the Narita Express). Passengers can purchase one-way tickets, monthly train passes, and refillable transit cards called “Suica” for trains and most subway lines. Some transit cards can be used on city buses and in convenience stores located in or immediately around stations. Costs for travel vary greatly depending upon the distance traveled from your station of origin to your destination, but the base price for most subway lines is roughly $1.40.
Once you arrive at your intended platform, you’ll notice the formation of two lines of people for each train car doorway. These lines make way for those exiting the arriving train. Once on board the train, eating and drinking is generally frowned upon, as is cellular phone usage. In fact, some train cars have specific areas where cellular phones must be turned off completely. All trains have special “silver seats” at each end of the individual cars that are intended for pregnant women, the handicapped, and the elderly.
The train system is typically very clean and safe, although some trains do operate “women-only” cars during rush hour in an effort to prevent “chikan” (groping) during overly-crowded commutes.
Most trains stop operating between midnight and 1 a.m. on weekdays and earlier on weekends and holidays and begin operating around 4:45 a.m. onwards.