go to content go to search box go to global site navigation

Getting Around

The Basics

How to Hail a Taxi

  • Train stations and hotels will have designated taxi stands.
  • In the absence of a stand, you can hail a cab from the street by standing on the curb and sticking your arm out, though it might be quicker to walk to the nearest stand.
  • A red light means the taxi is free and a green light means it's taken.
  • All cabs run by the meter.
  • The driver will open the doors automatically, so take a step back instead of reaching for the handle.


  • Have your train pass or ticket in hand when approaching the ticket gates, especially during rush hour, to avoid creating a jam.
  • You will get dirty looks for getting on rush-hour trains with large luggage.
  • When the platform is crowded, Tokyoites will form neat lines on either side of where the doors will be when the train pulls up (though once the train pulls up this falls apart a bit).
  • It's considered bad form to eat or drink on the train (long-distance trains are an exception). Talking on the phone or having a loud conversation is also frowned upon.
  • Stand to the left on escalators.
  • Seats at the end of train cars are set aside as 'priority seats' for elderly, disabled or pregnant passengers (though Tokyoites are known to ignore this).

Top Tips

  • Figure out the best route to your destination with the Japan Travel app (www.navitimejapan.com).
  • Most train and subway stations have several different exits. Try to get your bearings and decide where to exit while still on the platform; look for the yellow signs that indicate which stairs lead to which exits.
  • If you're not sure which exit to take, look for street maps of the area, usually posted near the ticket gates, which show the locations of the exits.

Key Phrases

Chikatetsu (地下鉄) Japanese for subway.

JR Short for Japan Rail, the once national and now private train operator.

Midori-no-madoguchi (緑の窓口; green window) Found in larger JR train stations, these are ticket counters for purchasing long-distance (including bullet-train) tickets. Credit cards accepted.

Pasmo (パスモ) Pre-paid rechargeable train pass, good on all city subways, trains and buses. Also works on vending machines and kiosks in stations and at some convenience stores. Sold at subway and commuter line stations.

Suica (スイカ) Interchangeable with Pasmo, but sold at JR train stations.

When to Travel

  • Trains and subways run 5am to midnight.
  • The morning rush (7am to 9.30am) for trains going towards central Tokyo (from all directions) is the worst, with some lines running at 200% capacity.
  • Until 9.30am women (and children) can ride in women-only cars, which tend to be less crowded.
  • The evening rush (around 5pm to 8pm) hits trains going out of central Tokyo – though as many people work late or stay out, it's not as bad as the morning commute.
  • The last train of the night heading out of the city (around midnight) is also usually packed – with drunk people. Friday night is the worst.
  • Trains going the opposite directions during peak hours (towards central Tokyo in the evening, for example) are uncrowded, as are trains in the middle of the day.

Key Routes

Ginza subway line Shibuya to Asakusa, via Ginza and Ueno. Colour-coded orange.

Hibiya subway line Naka-Meguro to Ebisu, Roppongi, Ginza, Akihabara and Ueno. Colour-coded grey.

JR Yamanote line Loop line stopping at many sightseeing destinations, such as Shibuya, Harajuku, Shinjuku, Tokyo and Ueno. Colour-coded light green.

JR Chūō line Express between Tokyo Station and Shinjuku, and onwards to points west. Colour-coded reddish-orange.

JR Sōbu line Runs across the city centre connecting Shinjuku with Iidabashi, Ryōgoku and Akihabara. Colour-coded yellow.

Yurikamome line Elevated train running from Shimbashi to points around Tokyo Bay.

Tickets & Passes

  • Prepaid rechargeable Suica and Pasmo cards (they're interchangeable) work on all city trains, subways and buses.
  • Purchase from any touch-screen ticket-vending machine in Tokyo (including those at Haneda and Narita Airports); most have an English option. JR stations sell Suica; subway and independent lines sell Pasmo.
  • Both require a ¥500 deposit, which is refunded (along with any remaining charge) when you return the pass to any ticket window.
  • Passes can be topped-up at any touch-screen ticket-vending machine (not just, for example, at JR stations for Suica passes) in increments of ¥1000.
  • To use the cards, just run them over the card readers at the ticket gates upon entering and exiting.
  • If you somehow manage to invalidate your card, take it to the station window and staff will sort it out.
  • Bonus: fares for pass users are slightly less (a few yen per journey) than for paper-ticket holders.