Subway travel Japan – Mastering Japan’s Subway Systems: Tips for Routing, Tickets and Travel

Subway travel Japan can be a breeze with the right guidance. In this guide, we’ll share tips for mastering Japan’s subway systems, from routing and ticketing to travel etiquette. Get ready to explore Japan’s bustling cities with ease and confidence!

Japan, known for its technological advancements and efficient public transportation, boasts some of the most intricate subway systems in the world. These systems, particularly in major cities like Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto, serve as the lifeblood of the country’s urban mobility. Understanding how to navigate these subway systems can significantly enhance your travel experience, allowing you to explore the sprawling cities with ease and convenience.

Understanding the Subway Systems in Major Cities

Tokyo Subway System

Tokyo, Japan’s bustling capital, is home to two main companies running metro lines: Tokyo Metro and the Toei Subway. With thirteen metro lines in total, the Tokyo Metro connects the city, making it easy for locals and tourists alike to get around.

Osaka Subway System

Osaka’s subway system is another extensive network that tourists often use. With nine different subway lines, travelers can easily reach major attractions like Tennoji Zoo and Osaka Castle.

Kyoto Subway System

Unlike Tokyo and Osaka, Kyoto has a relatively small subway system with only two lines: the Karasuma Line and the Tozai Line. Despite its size, it remains a useful means of transportation within the city.

Navigating Japan’s subway systems can be daunting at first, but with a few tips, you can master it in no time.

Differentiating Between Various Subway Lines

Each subway line in Tokyo is represented by a unique color and letter. For instance, the Tozai Line is represented by Sky Blue and the letter “T”. Familiarizing yourself with these symbols can help you navigate the subway system more efficiently.

Reading Metro Station Signs

Metro station signs are crucial for finding your way around. These signs, available in both Japanese and English, guide you to train lines and exits.

Transferring Between Lines

In some cases, you may need to transfer from one subway line to another. Be aware that transfers must be completed within 30 minutes, or a new ticket will be required.

Using Subway Apps for Navigation

Subway apps like Jorudan and Hyperdia can be incredibly helpful for navigating Japan’s metro networks. These apps provide route suggestions and travel times, making it easier for you to plan your journey.

Ticketing and Pricing

Understanding the ticketing system is crucial for a smooth subway experience.

Types of Tickets and Their Prices

Tokyo Metro offers tickets valid for 24, 48, or 72 hours, allowing unlimited travel on all Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway lines during the valid period. The prices for these tickets range from 800 yen to 1,500 yen for adults, depending on the duration.

Understanding the Ticket Machines

Ticket machines at subway stations can be switched to English for easier navigation. However, note that credit cards can only be used for purchasing passes, not other ticket types.

Using Prepaid Cards for Travel

Prepaid cards like Icoca, Suica, or Pasmo can be used for travel on the subway. These cards can be topped up in advance and swiped each time you enter and leave the system.

Subway Etiquette

Japanese society is known for its respect for order and etiquette, and this extends to the subway system.

Proper Behavior While Waiting and Boarding

When waiting for a train, line up off to the side of the doors. Once the train arrives, wait for passengers to disembark before boarding.

Minimizing Space Usage

Subways can get crowded, especially during peak hours. Try to minimize the amount of space you take up to accommodate other passengers.

Being Respectful to Other Passengers

Avoid eating, drinking, or talking loudly on the subway. Be mindful of other passengers, especially those traveling to and from work.

Travel Tips

Avoiding Rush Hours

Rush hours, typically from 7 AM to 9 AM and 5 PM to 7 PM, are the busiest times on the subway. Avoid traveling during these times if possible.

Utilizing Shinkansen Bullet Trains for Long-Distance Travel

For long-distance travel, consider using the Shinkansen bullet trains. These trains are designed for long-distance travel and are less likely to be crowded during rush hours.

Planning Routes and Itineraries Wisely

Plan your routes and itineraries wisely to avoid heavy commuter traffic. Use subway maps and apps to help plan your journey.


Mastering Japan’s subway systems can significantly enhance your travel experience, allowing you to explore the country’s sprawling cities with ease and convenience. With a little understanding of the subway systems, ticketing, and etiquette, you can navigate these systems like a pro. So, whether you’re visiting the historic temples in Kyoto, the bustling streets of Tokyo, or the vibrant nightlife in Osaka, Japan’s efficient subway systems are ready to take you there.


Navigating Japan’s subway systems can be a daunting task, especially for first-time visitors. This FAQ section aims to provide answers to some of the most common questions about subway travel in Japan, including tips for routing, purchasing tickets, and general travel advice. The goal is to make your subway travel experience in Japan as smooth and enjoyable as possible.

Q: How user-friendly are Japan’s subway systems for non-Japanese speakers?

A: Japan’s subway systems are increasingly accommodating to non-Japanese speakers. Major advancements have been made in providing multi-language support, making it much easier for tourists to get around. Ticket machines, station names, maps, and guides are often provided in multiple languages.

Q: How do I find the right subway line in Tokyo?

A: At each subway station, you’ll see a subway sign and the name of the subway station. Remember the station name, number, and line color of the subway line you want to ride. When you get to the station, confirm the way to the subway line with the overhead sign. Follow the arrow to go to the appropriate subway line.

Q: What are the ticket prices for the subway in Tokyo?

A: Ticket prices for the subway in Tokyo start at 170 yen with a paper ticket. However, if you’re spending any time in Tokyo, it’s wise to invest in a Pasmo or Suica rechargeable IC card to ease connections between the two systems, save on the wait for buying tickets, and save on fares[3].

Q: Are there any special subway passes for tourists?

A: Yes, Tokyo Metro and Toei offer a variety of discount tickets for tourists. These include 24-hour, 48-hour, and 72-hour tickets that are valid on all Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway lines. These tickets can be purchased from Tokyo Metro Pass Offices and Tourist Information at some subway stations.


A: THE TOKYO PASS is a smartphone app that offers unique experiences in Tokyo, such as unlimited entry to over 40 of Japan’s leading museums, parks, gardens, zoos, and aquariums, as well as unlimited rides on Tokyo subways within a validity period.

Q: What are the operating hours of the Tokyo subway system?

A: Trains in Tokyo generally run from 5am to around midnight. It’s always a good idea to confirm your route using a travel app or online.

Q: Are there any tips for navigating the Tokyo Metro?

A: Yes, it’s important to know that there are two different companies operating the subway lines in Tokyo. If you plan to purchase a ticket from a station ticket machine, you can change the language to English. Also, credit cards can only be used for purchasing passes and not other ticket types.

Q: Can I use a JR Pass on the Tokyo subway lines?

A: No, the Tokyo subway lines are not operated by Japan Rail (JR), so you cannot use a JR Pass. You will need to purchase a separate ticket or pass for the subway.

We hope this FAQ section has provided valuable information for your subway travel in Japan. For more detailed information, consider downloading travel apps like THE TOKYO PASS or Japan Travel – Route, Map, Guide (Navitime). These apps provide comprehensive information on routes, times, fares, and even popular attractions in the city. Enjoy your journey and explore Japan’s vibrant cities with ease and confidence!

Leave a comment