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Travel: Getting around Tokyo

15:22 JST January 10, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

From the Airport

There are two international airports (both also do domestic flights) coming into Tokyo:

Narita Airport is the more main international airport located about a one hour train ride from Tokyo station.

Haneda Airport started international flights late last year and is closer to the city, but it’ll still take you about 30 – 40 minutes before you get to Tokyo station.

(in short, both airports are far away from Tokyo city)

Narita Airport

There are signs everywhere with English translations inside the airport and at the train stations, train station platforms, etc.

Just be careful because there are two terminals at Narita Airport (trains do stop at both though so don’t worry).

In my opinion, the most convenient forms of transport from the airport to Tokyo city are either by express trains or airport limousine buses:

Narita Express (N’EX) train.

  • Goes directly to Tokyo station, and then onto other major train stations in the Tokyo area.
  • Operated by JR (Japan Railways).  After getting out of immigration, follow the signs that say, “this way to JR line”; ticket machines and ticket offices can be found before you go through the gates to the train platform.
  • Tickets cost you 2940 yen to get to Tokyo station one way, all seats are reserved.  Tickets cost more if you choose Green Car (first class).
  • There are places at the ends of each carriage where you can store your suitcases.
  • Takes roughly one hour from Narita Airport to Tokyo Station

Narita Express train

Skyliner train

  • Goes directly to Nippori station, then onto Ueno station, which are a little north of Tokyo station (you’ll need to change trains if you’re wanting to get to Tokyo station)
  • Operated by Keisei railways.  After getting out of immigration, follow the signs that say “this way for trains”.  Pretty much the same pattern as the Narita Express, buy your ticket before getting on.
  • Tickets cost 1200 yen one way.
  • There are places to store your suitcases on board.
  • Takes less than 40 minutes to get to Nippori station, and just under an hour to get to Tokyo station (after that train change at Nippori or Ueno).

Skyliner train

Airport Limousine Buses

  • There are a lot of long-distance buses going to different places, and it roughly takes just over an hour to get from Narita Airport into Tokyo city.
  • Main bus companies are Airport Limousine Bus, Keisei Bus, and Chiba Kotsu.
  • Prices range depending on where you go.  Example: Going from Narita Airport to Tokyo station would cost one adult 3000 yen, one child 1500 yen, and takes about 75 – 125 minutes.
  • Ticket offices or sellers should be easy to find around where you board buses, but if you’re unsure, ask someone at the airport, there are a lot of information desks.

Haneda Airport

I haven’t used Haneda yet, but a lot of people I’ve worked with and friends have so I’m not the greatest expert here.  I do, however, use the train line that does go to Haneda Airport sometimes, if that is of help…(no?)

Double check which terminal you’re using because Haneda has more than one terminal too!  Mind you, people going on international flights will use Haneda Airport International Terminal Station so it’s relatively easy to spot?

The most convenient form of transport would still be the train or bus I would say.

Keikyu train line

  • Goes towards and stops at major stations such as Shinagawa station, Shimbashi station, Nihonbashi station, and Asakusa station.
  • Takes approximately 15 minutes to get from Haneda Airport to Shinagawa station (first major train station in Tokyo city the train stops at), and about 30 minutes before getting to Tokyo station (this would be after you’ve made the train change somewhere like Shimbashi station).
  • Costs about 400 yen to travel from Haneda Airport’s international terminal to Shinagawa station.

Keikyu line train

Tokyo Monorail

  • Goes towards Hamamatsucho station in Tokyo city, which is a little south of Tokyo station (you’ll need to change onto something like the JR Yamanote line to get to Tokyo station).
  • Takes approximately 15 minutes to get from Haneda Airport to Hamamatsucho station.
  • Costs about 470 yen to travel from Haneda Airport’s international terminal to Hamamatsucho station.

Tokyo Monorail

Airport Limousine Buses

  • There are a lot of long-distance buses going to different places in and around Tokyo.
  • Main bus companies are Airport Limousine Bus, and Keikyu Bus.
  • Prices range depending on where you go.
  • Ticket offices or sellers should be easy to find around where you board buses, but if you’re unsure, ask someone at the airport, there are a lot of information desks.

Using the train

If you’re not flying, trains are the most convenient ways of getting in and around Tokyo.

The main train company in Japan is Japan Railways (JR), and the Tokyo area is covered by JR East

If you’re visiting Japan, JR have an amazingly good ticket deal for tourists.  It’s called the JR Pass and gives you unlimited rides on all JR East train lines, click here for details.

But there are a huge number of subway lines in Tokyo as well so you don’t always have to use JR.

Bullet trains

  • Fastest way of getting to other cities within Japan.
  • Operated by JR (Japan Railways)
  • Most stations are located in the middle of the city, making it easy to go out and sightsee
  • One of the most used routes is Tokyo – Nagoya – Kyoto – Osaka.  This is the Tokaido line bullet train and trains will generally be leaving the platform every 10 minutes.

Some train tips

  • If you’re going to be in Tokyo for a few days, get a Suica card or Pasmo card.  These are electronic tickets that you can buy at train stations (I bought mine from a ticket machine at my local JR station), charge money onto them and use as train tickets.  They’re incredibly convenient because you can use them on every train line and bus in Tokyo.
  • All train platforms have station names in Japanese and English.  Information displays inside trains also come out in English.  A lot of the announcements for the next train station and information about what train lines connect to the next train station are spoken in Japanese and English.
  • The JR’s Yamanote line (code colour lime green) does a giant loop around Tokyo city.
  • Peak traffic times on the trains in Tokyo tend to be around 8:30 – 9am, 6 – 7pm ish, and around midnight when people are dashing around to catch the last trains.
  • While Tokyo station is where the bullet train leaves, I wouldn’t exactly call the area around the station the heart of Tokyo.  It’s surrounded by a lot of businesses.  The main station in Tokyo would be Shinjuku station.
  • DO NOT say you’ll meet someone at Tokyo station, it has the most complicated layout on several levels with exits everywhere.
  • Turn your mobile on silent and don’t talk on it inside the train.  Talking on mobiles in trains has been banned in Japan for a number of years.  While you won’t get arrested for doing it, people around you will give you dirty looks.  Texting and reading is fine, everyone does that.
  • The women-only carriages really mean women only (i.e. no boyfriends or husbands).  These carriages usually operate at peak traffic hours to try and keep perverts away from women in crowded trains.

Other tips

  • Mostly all signs in Tokyo are displayed in both Japanese and English.  You’ll be alright.
  • Taxis are everywhere at any time.  Don’t open the back doors with your hand because the taxi driver will pop it open for you.  In general, you don’t need to tip drivers in Japan but they do appreciate it if you do.
  • Bikes rule in Japan.  You don’t need a helmet to ride a bicycle and they can ride on paths and roads.  This does, however, make life a little difficult for walking people like me and car drivers because you’re forever on the lookout for a bike that’ll just jump out in front of you.
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Categories: Travel
  1. joan
    17:44 JST January 10, 2011 at 5:44 PM

    ohhh. i remember the narita airport 😀
    there’s where my plane stopped over when i went to california 🙂

    • joan
      18:09 JST January 10, 2011 at 6:09 PM

      oh, and i’m curious about this:

      “Turn your mobile on silent and don’t talk on it inside the train. Talking on mobiles in trains has been banned in Japan for a number of years. While you won’t get arrested for doing it, people around you will give you dirty looks. Texting and reading is fine, everyone does that.”

      • 00:53 JST January 11, 2011 at 12:53 AM

        @joan:

        What about it?

      • joan
        17:38 JST January 11, 2011 at 5:38 PM

        why is it banned?

      • 23:21 JST January 11, 2011 at 11:21 PM

        @joan:
        Oh, I see!
        Lol.
        I think just because it’s a distraction? Just like they ask you to switch off mobile phones in the movies.

        To take things one step further, they ask you to switch of you phone if you’re nearby the priority seats for the elderly/injured/people-with-young-children.
        That, I think, is a health precaution, just in case there are people with pacemakers.

    • 00:53 JST January 11, 2011 at 12:53 AM

      @joan:

      So jealous! I want to go to california!!!
      I could really do with the good weather right now, it’s so cold in Tokyo.

      Momo xoxo

      • joan
        17:41 JST January 11, 2011 at 5:41 PM

        i hope you can go! california is nice 🙂
        really? it’s still cold in Tokyo? i can imagine how cold it could get D:

      • 23:22 JST January 11, 2011 at 11:22 PM

        @joan:

        I hope so too! Missed going there last year… 😦

        It’s really cold in Tokyo! Not really the temperature, which was about 6C today (okay, that’s quite chilly I guess) but it’s the cold wind (>w<)

  2. Natalie
    00:07 JST January 11, 2011 at 12:07 AM

    Thank you for this article. It’s quite informative. It would be interesting to get some other useful tips about Tokyo.

    • 00:52 JST January 11, 2011 at 12:52 AM

      @Natalie:

      Thanks!
      I’ve got a whole list of things, but just need to get around to doing them 🙂

      It’ll just take…some…time…because regular news and life and work comes in every day as well (T_T)

      Momo xoxo

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