Tokyo’s train system is undoubtedly the most convenient way to get around. There’s usually no downtime, trains run every six minutes, and every major area has multiple access points. Signs are usually in English and Japanese. Once you figure out how it works, it’s pretty easy to use. In contrast, buses require you to know when your stop is. You’d really benefit from knowing Japanese! As far as taxis go. It’s expensive.
If you’re staying in the Tokyo zone and not going elsewhere in Japan, get a local train pass. Passes for one day and re-chargeable cards called Pasmo or Suica are available. They both work the same way. Pasmo is run by the metro, while Suica is run by JR East. Looking to explore more of Japan? Buying a Japan Rail Pass is a great idea. You can use it on almost any Japanese public transportation for 1, 2, or 3 weeks. The nozomi shinkansen is the fastest, but you can ride all the others. Although it’ll take half an hour longer, you’ll save money.
Yamanote Line connects all the major areas of Tokyo. It takes about an hour to do a complete city loop. If you spend any time in the big T, you’ll use this line at least once. There are English maps on the platforms and near the exits. Make sure you check which exit you need at big stations like Shinagawa or Tokyo! Most guidebooks tell you where the closest exit is to the attractions.
Overground and subway trains criss-cross the city. If you’re in the Greater Tokyo area, you can get just about anywhere you need to go within 10 – 15 minutes of getting off the train. Don’t carry heavy bags or large items on the trains. Train lines are often connected by walkways and stairs if you need to change trains. If this is all new to you, the last thing you need is to have to maneuver bulky items through crowds.
Rush hour is hectic, to say the least! Trains are best avoided during these times, especially if you have kids – 7:00 – 9:30 in the morning, and 17:30 – 19:30 at night. Go ahead, see what it’s like to travel in the rain in Tokyo during rush hour. Be prepared to get jostled and squashed. It’s all part of the fun.