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Transportation System in Tokyo

by Paul Joulot

If you are planning to go to Tokyo, you must know that  transportation is a very important thing. It can bring you to almost everywhere in Tokyo, and wherever you are, you will find a transportation nearby. But as it is huge and quite complex, it may be an obligation to read this simple explanation.

How do I pay for transportation?

Well, this is a great question to begin with. You have two options. You can either buy a ticket, or an IC Card. The ticket may be quite difficult to apprehend, since you don’t pay for a certain number of travel, but for the distance of it. So that means that it exists as many prices as possible trips. And if you are doing a transfer from a subway to a train, for instance, you must keep both of your tickets, to validate them. If by any chance, you paid the wrong price for your trip, don’t worry. There are loads of machines next to the gates that offer you the possibility to complete the ticket’s price.


Via WikimediaCommons

The other way to pay, that is way less painful, is the IC Card. What is this? This is an electronic wallet, that you reload with bills and coins. You can pay for the transportation and in loads of convenient stores (Konbinis). It costs 2000¥containing a 500¥bail. Which means that when you buy one, you got 1500¥ ready to spend. You can buy one in every vending machines located next to the gate. What is really interesting about it is that all is fully automatic, and you got a 5 percent discount on all your trips. It is way better than tickets, but if you lose your card, you lose all the money on it. There are two major brands of IC Card, Pasmo and Suica, but those are exactly the same.

Via WikimediaCommons

How can I find my way?

By Jean-François Gornet via Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/jfgornet/

Finding your route in Tokyo when using public transportation can be fairly easy. First of all, lot of applications and websites are available to indicate what you should do to go where you want to. Including transfers and price. The one I use is Hyperdia, which is very convenient. Also, when on the train, the next station is announced in Japanese… and in English! They also announce on which side doors will open. So don’t worry about that. Finally, upcoming stations are written on little screens in the train. Some of them got an English display, whereas some others don’t. So you should learn a little bit of Hiragana, just in case.

Another important thing is that train stations have loads of different exits. But you will find maps, showing where exits are heading to. Also, be careful. Maps in Japan are not pointing North, but what you are in front of!

What to do and not to do

Japan has got lot of rules and usages. So has public transportation. So this is what you should do not to bother anybody.

-Step in line and don’t cut the line.

-Don’t eat in the train.

-Let the seats to people who really need it (especially those ‘priority seats’ that surprisingly Japanese people don’t respect often)

-In the escalators, stay on your left if you want to stay still, or on your right if you are in a hurry and want to walk.

-Keep nice and quiet in the trains, don’t talk too loud and set your phone to the vibration mode.

-Keep your backpack in front of you or on the ground. Not on your back.

-Let all the people get off the train before getting in.

But with all those safety and moral rules, the Tokyo’s transportation is one of the safest in the world, and it is note a chore to take it.

JR, Seibu, Keio, what are those?

Via Wikipedia

Well, in Tokyo, transportation is operated by private companies. Those are some of them. IC Cards are working with every companies. And when you are transferring to another line, but from the same company, it is free. Whereas changing company is costing some yens. Also, you can’t pass through a station for free. You will have to pay 140¥ to do this, and show your transportation ticket or card to the cashier (every exit got its own cashier… and stamp sometimes).

What about the Bus?

By Hans Johnson, Via Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/hansjohnson/

Bus are a part of Tokyo’s public transportation. The fact is that buses are way less used than trains. That means that they are less crowded. But it might be more difficult to find them. You can take buses to go to Kyoto, it’s cheaper than Shinkansen, but it obviously takes more time.


As a conclusion, I would say that now, you know how to encounter the Japanese public transportation. It is safe, clean, always on time and convenient. It is not this hard, and it should be OK now that you have those tips! Have a good trip!

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