metro in Tokyo
Updated 11 months ago

It seems that Tokyo and its high-density population density chose to favour public transport and the two-wheelers. Many employees also use public transportation and companies pay all or part of the transport costs. Of course, cars can move freely but finding a parking space can be a real pain.

By car in Tokyo

In Tokyo, parking lots are very often payable and expensive. Fees range from 100 to 110¥ (departure rate) for fifteen minutes of parking. These rates are given as general guidance since they depend on your parking area.

You can easily and quickly be fined, so avoid parking your car by the street. Some zones are equipped with parameters where you can park, but they are very rare.

Most often, you will see car parks using coins or self-service ones. You pay according to your occupancy time. Once parked, your car is blocked: a ground installation raises a bar, which immobilises the vehicle. As long as you have not paid the amount corresponding to your occupancy time, the car will remain blocked.

Another alternative is to use underground car parks. You will find them, for example, in the vicinity of large shopping centres. They operate using the same system as some Western countries, free parking provided that you buy products in the shopping centre that provides the parking facility.

And in this megalopolis, where every square metre is significant, innovation is indispensable: Tokyo has opted for parking towers. The system is ingenious and impressive. It is different from traditional parking lots as the cars are stacked one on top of the other in these towers. The system is fully automated, but employees are present to help with the manoeuvre. Make sure you don't forget anything in your car, as it will be difficult for you to get back there once the car is stacked in the tower!

Carpooling is slowing integrating the Japanese lifestyle. Carpooling is an excellent way to make your vehicle profitable while earning extra income. Websites such as Norimoto san or CarpoolWorld intend to exploit the market by capitalising on the cool side of carpooling (by creating links), a service which is new to the general public.


The Japanese cycle a lot. It is an economical and practical means of transport, and it's an essential part of everyday life in Tokyo.

When you move in, your town hall provides you with a practical guide which includes information on proper cycling. Feel free to ask for a list of bike parking lots in your area. Some town halls have lists which are translated into English.

There are many parking areas, especially near railway stations, shops and residential areas. There are also huge underground garages.

It's worth noting that most of these parking areas are paid. Type "chûrinjô" (bicycle parking) on your search engine to find available parking sites and/or applications. Remember to download Navitimes (app available in English) on your mobile.


You will have to register your bike or else you run the risk of being fined. Whether it is new or second-hand, it is your responsibility to register it. Go to a bicycle shop and inquire whether it offers registration facilities (some shops do).

Trains, Metros

Tokyo has a sophisticated transportation network technology. It covers all the areas of Tokyo and is very punctual, so this makes the use of cars superfluous.

Besides being punctual, trains (densha) and metros (chikatetsu, or metoro) are well-maintained, clean, comfortable, and quiet. You will often see reminders on this subject: please turn off your mobile phone, and avoid making calls so as not to disturb other passengers.

Practical info

  • Stations provide Wi-Fi.
  • Pay attention to the directions indicated on the ground: in Tokyo, you walk on the left.
  • Even without speaking and reading Japanese, you can travel by train and metro with complete peace of mind: station names are also written in the Western alphabet and are translated into English. Each metro line has its own colour, and so does the train. In the transport system, the information is given in Japanese and then in English.
  • You pay according to the company used, and the route taken. The further you go, the more different companies are used, and the fare is higher (e. g. from the train to the metro).
  • Purchase a Suica, or Pasmo card: these rechargeable transport cards can be used throughout Japan. By using the map, you earn 5¥ on the price of your trip. There are no small savings!

The stations and metros network

A station is called "eki". For example, "Shinjuku eki" for "Shinjuku Station.

A metro line is called "sen". For example "Marunouchi sen", for "Marunouchi line".

There are two major metro companies: Tokyo metro and Toei Subways. The first one manages nine metro lines and the second one manages four.

In its preparation for the 2020 Olympic Games, the government announced its plans to create two additional lines. Still because of the Olympic Games, but on the train side, Yamanote surprised the locals with the construction of a new station (delivery planned for 2020). Named "Takanawa Gateway", this new station will create a stopover between Tamachi and Shinagawa. Until then, there was no possible stop between these stations which are 2 km away from one another. With this construction project, a whole district has been redesigned including shops, green spaces, etc.

The Yamanote is owned by Japan Railways East (JR East). The circular line is particularly known to work for Tokyo's main districts. JR East also manages the Sobu (JR Sobu), Chuo (JR Chuo) lines and each has its own colour. There are no less than 36 lines in total! The famous Japanese high-speed train, the Shinkansen, also belongs to Japan Railways.

Other companies share the Tokyo rail market:

  • The Tobu, which links, among others, Saitama and Tokyo. The company even has a huge shopping mall in Ikebukuro West.
  • Let us also mention the Seibu, the Odakyu, the Keio, the Keisei... Many companies, to ensure the functioning of the impressive Tokyo-based network.

Good practices

At the station

You have to the platform, behind the marking which is a yellow or a white band in general; some even indicate whether the wagon that will stop in front of you has priority seats or not. Indications are also displayed on the barriers present in front of you.

Queue up. Passing in front of other users is impolite. Avoid waiting just in front of the opening of the barriers either. Stand to the left, or the right. Let the passengers get out before boarding the train.

In the train or subway

Avoid eating on board.

Avoid talking on the phone (or so it in a low voice, and for a short call).

Beware of priority seats which are reserved for pregnant women, the elderly, the sick, the wounded, etc. In principle, if no one uses them, you can sit down, but make sure to offer your seat as soon as you see a priority person. Strangely, it seems that the Japanese are often reluctant to offer their seat in such circumstances, pretending not to notice the person in difficulty.

Beware of "Women only" wagons: here again, pay attention. Access is allowed in principle. However, these should be avoided at certain times, such as in the morning (rush hour).

When getting off the train or subway, take the time to read the yellow signs: they show you the surrounding areas, and help you to choose the best exit.

Some stations have only two exits (north and south, for example), others, such as Shinjuku, are real labyrinths. Without equaling Shinjuku, a large station like Ikebukuro has four access points: North, South, East, and West Ikebukuro. Each access has its exits.

Reading the yellow sign before leaving the station can be vital, to avoid getting lost: some exits are quite far from each other.

Tokyo displays clear indications. The further you go, the Japanese language becomes present. On the eve of the 2020 Olympic Games, the government is working on coordination, so that the suburbs and nearby cities also benefit from the Tokyoite intelligence system.

What about the bus?

The main benefit of taking the bus, compared to the metro and train is the price. Some buses have a fixed fare regardless of the distance (while metros and trains fares depend on the route travelled, and the companies used).

However, expats in Tokyo rarely take the bus since all the major roads are served by trains and subways. Another important reason is that in buses, information is exclusively given in Japanese. There is little or no English translation.

There are three types of buses:

  • The single-rate bus is the most advantageous one.
  • Community buses: they go around an area. It is an excellent opportunity to rediscover a specific area of Tokyo. Shibuya, for example, has its community bus.
  • The bus with variable fares.

There are a lot of single rate buses in Tokyo.

Good practices on single-rate bus

To take the bus, you need to queue up just like for the train or the subway. Wait along the street, parallel to the roadway, so as not to obstruct pedestrian traffic.

At the bus stop, or on the bus, you can check the main stops on its path. Bus stop names are written in Kanji on the bus and at the stops, although some translate the station names into the Latin alphabet.

To get into the bus, take the front door and get off from the back door.

Pay the exact amount for your trip, in cash: 210¥ for an adult.

You can also use the transport card (Suica, Passmo): in Japan, these cards are used as electronic wallets. You load them, and they are debited as you travel ' count 206¥ with the card.

Front seats are often reserved for the elderly, pregnant women, etc.

Travelling by bus is a unique experience. The trips are often longer than by subway or train, but you will discover Tokyo differently, in a quieter and more contemplative way.

Transportation costs

Tokyo is in perpetual reconstruction, and it has invested massively intending to provide its population with a quality transport service. In Tokyo, transportation costs are a significant expense.

Full-time employees and even people in baito can rely on full or partial payment of their transport costs. Children benefit from discounts. Walking is thus a good idea to reduce your expenses.

For example, if you live in Shiinamachi, Toshima district, and work in Ebisu, you should normally take the Seibu Ikebukuro train, stop at Ikebukuro, take the Yamanote, get off at Ebisu. This should cost around 320 yen (315 with Suica card, Pasmo).

Within a 25-minutes walk, you can reach the Ikebukuro station. All you have to do now is take the Yamanote to Ebisu. The cost will, therefore, be 170 yen (165 yen with Suica card, Pasmo)

Good to know:

You can also take the "Saikyo" and "Shonan-Shinjuku" trains for the same price. The Yamanote is better known to foreigners.

Walking or cycling are interesting alternatives: free or almost free (walking is 100% free!), they help make savings while helping you keep fit while rediscovering Tokyo.

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