The Tokyo subway system is a great network of underground trains that offer easy access to major tourist spots and attractions, from Sensoji Temple in Asakusa and Tokyo Tower to the iconic scramble crossing in Shibuya. More than 280 stations spread all over Tokyo and some prefectures such as Chiba, Saitama, and Kanagawa, to name a few.
Let’s see how the Tokyo subway system works, so you will know all the details on how to use it when traveling to Japan.
Tokyo Subway Map
You can find the Tokyo Metro route map in English in PDF format that you can download to keep on your phone, so you can check it even if you don’t have WIFI or a local sim card.
Tokyo Subway Operators
Tokyo’s subway network consists of two leading companies: Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway. The first one is privately owned, while the second is run by the Tokyo Metropolitan Bureau of Transportation, an agency of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.
Tokyo Metro is the largest operator, with nine lines and 195km of tracks between 179 stations; an average of 7.6 million passengers ride this network daily. In contrast, Toei operates 106 stations connected by four lines used by 2.82 million people daily. Altogether, they carry, on average, over 8 million passengers daily.
How and where to get Tokyo Subway Tickets
To use the Japanese subway, you need first to get a transport ticket; here are the options you have:
- the classic metro tickets
- the pass (primarily used by tourists)
- the prepaid IC cards (PASMO or Suica card)
Choose the best option depending on your needs and the length of your stay.
Buying a Tokyo Subway Ticket
Buying a ticket at a subway station is very easy; you need to use the automatic terminal at the station:
- Choose English as a language (first button on the top right of the screen)
- Choose “ticket”
- Choose the ticket cost in case you know it already, or use the search function to find the arrival station’s name or number.
- Tokyo Metro ticket cost: 170¥, 200¥, 240¥, 280¥, 310¥;
- Toei ticket cost: 180¥, 220¥, 270¥, 320¥, 370¥;
Buying a Tokyo subway daily pass (1 day up to 3 days)
If you are a tourist in Tokyo and plan to move a lot in the city, then getting a subway pass might be the most convenient and cost-effective option. You can also save time by getting such a pass as you don’t need to queue at vending machines to get a ticket whenever you want to go somewhere.
Here are where you can get a Toky subway pass:
- At Tokyo Metro’s subway station automatic terminals
- At Toei Metro’s subway station automatic terminals
- At the airport, at both Haneda and Narita airport
- And also at several hotels and branches of large electronic stores such as Bic Camera
|Tokyo Metro 24 hours Ticket||600 yen (child 300 yen)||Unlimited travel across Tokyo Metro’s subway network for 24 hours.|
|One Day Ticket for Tokyo Metro & Toei Subway||900 yen (child 450 yen)||Unlimited travel across both of Tokyo’s major subway networks for one whole day.|
|Tokyo Combination Ticket||1,600 yen (child 800 yen)||Unlimited travel on Tokyo Metro, Toei Subway, Toei Streetcar, Toei bus, Nippori-Toneri Liner and all JR lines within the Tokyo metropolitan area for one day.|
|Tokyo Metro PASMO One Day Ticket||600 yen (child 300 yen)||Unlimited travel for all Tokyo Metro lines from the first to the last train of the day.|
|Common One Day Ticket for Tokyo Metro & Toei Subway||900 yen (child 450 yen)||Valid for one day from the first train to the last train of the day for all lines of Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway.|
|The Greater Tokyo Pass||7,200 yen (child 3,600 yen)||Unlimited travel over 3 days including all train and train lines, including all Tokyo Metro lines and some bus lines.|
Getting and using a prepaid IC card (Suica and Pasmo)
The Suica and Pasmo are IC cards that allow you to use the Yamanote line and the metro network in Tokyo, among others. These cards are practical since you can take any lines operated by different companies with the same IC card without worrying about which operator manages the line you need to take to get to your destination.
There are two main IC cards in Tokyo: Suica and Pasmo. The only differences are who sells them and the design. They can be purchased for a 500-yen refundable deposit from ticket machines at any station. You can also charge them additional funds—Touch-in and touch out at the ticket barriers for the smoothest travel experience. You can also use your IC card to pay at other places, such as vending machines and convenience stores.
Access to the metro platforms
To get to the subway platform, you have two options depending on if you have a metro ticket or a prepaid card:
- Place the ticket at the ticket gate, then collect it at the end
- Place your prepaid card on the NFC reader; it’s also now possible to integrate your IC card into your smartwatch (Apple watch or other); if you do so, you will need to place your watch on the NFC reader instead of your card.
Tokyo Subway lines
Here is the list of the different lines of the Tokyo subway network for each subway operator:
Tokyo Metro Lines
Hibiya Line – 日比谷線 (Silver)
The Hibiya Line is great for travelers as it connects most of Tokyo’s most popular districts known for shopping, dining, and nightlife. These include Nakameguro, Ebisu, Roppongi, Ginza and Akihabara.
Ginza Line – 銀座線 (Orange)
This line runs from Shibuya and connects popular sightseeing areas such as Ueno and Asakusa to the famous shopping districts Omotesando and Aoyama. The Ginza Line is the oldest subway line in Asia. It is more than a transportation route but offers an insight into Tokyo’s traditional and modern sides. Travelers can enjoy an afternoon of shopping in Omotesando, scour through the bookshops in Kanda or enjoy a view of Japan’s capital at Toranomon.
Marunouchi Line – 丸ノ内 + Marunouchi Line Branch Line – 丸ノ内線分岐線 (Red)
The Marunouchi Line connects Ogikubo Station and circulates the city up to Ikebukuro Station. This line has a history stretching back to when it was first built after World War II. Travelers take warning: this line connects some of the most crowded stations in central Tokyo and is a famous line for Japanese office workers. Jump on this line to reach popular spots such as Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, Tokyo Dome, the home stadium of Tokyo’s professional baseball team, and the Yomiuri Giants.
Tōzai Line – 東西線 (Sky Blue)
The Tozai Line connects Nakano Station to the Nishi-Funabashi Station.
Namboku Line – 南北線 (Emerald)
Compared to the other lines, the Namboku (or Nanboku) Line is a relatively new one featuring 19 stations. The line starts from Meguro in the southwest and cuts through the city before ending in Akabane-Iwabuchi in the north=west.
Yūrakuchō Line – 有楽町線 (Gold)
The Yurakucho line runs from Wakoshi in Saitama Prefecture to Shin-Kiba Station in Koto, Tokyo. This line is handy for making connections across the Tokyo Metro network as it links up with major stations from Ikebukuro, Nagatacho, and Ginza-Itchome. Travelers can take the Yurakucho Line to Kojimachi, a business district near the Imperial Palace with many high-dining options.
Chiyoda Line – 千代田線 (Green)
The Chiyoda Line connects Yoyogi-Uehara to Kita-Ayase. This green line was initially created to relieve the packed trains, especially during the morning rush hour, coming from the Ginza and Hibiya lines. Although this line runs through the city’s center, it also runs through some of central Tokyo’s most overlooked areas, such as Meiji Jingu Gardens and Shrine, where you can often see traditional Japanese weddings on weekends. The Chiyoda Line is also located near Akasaka Palace, an estate that serves distinguished guests from abroad, and Kyu-Iwasaki-tei Garden, the former estate of the Iwasaki clan that founded Mitsubishi.
Hanzōmon Line – 半蔵門線 (Purple)
The Hanzomon Line features 14 stations across Tokyo and Saitama. The line starts from Shibuya, cuts across the city center, and ends in Oshiage. The Hanzomon Line provides easy access to various popular spots such as the ninja-themed restaurant, Ninja Akasaka near Nagatacho station, and the picturesque Jingu Gaien Gingko Avenue by Aoyama-Itchome station. Bookworms will love the endless row of book stores lining Yasukuni-dori by Jimbocho station.
Fukutoshin Line – 副都心線 (Brown)
Tokyo’s newest subway line, the Fukutoshin Line, is also its deepest, averaging 27 meters below the surface. From Wakoshi station in Saitama Prefecture and ending in Ikeburo Station, this line shares a handful of stations with the Yurakucho Line.
Asakusa Line – 浅草線 (Pink)
This line serves part of Easter and southern Tokyo, with 20 stations running from Tokyo Skytree in Sumida Ward to Nishi-Magome. The Asakusa Line connects with other train lines that will take you to Narita or Haneda Airport. The rose-colored line is perfect for visiting popular tourist spots like the colorful and historical Asakusa district, going shopping in Ginza’s chic department stores, and visiting the iconic Nihonbashi Bridge.
Mita Line – 三田線 (Blue)
The Mita Line features 27 stations starting from Meguro in the
southwest, running through central Tokyo, and ending at
Nishi-Takashimadaira in the northwest. As one of Tokyo’s busiest lines,
it was the first to have safety barriers installed at its stations.
Shinjuku Line – 新宿線 (Lime green)
The Shinjuku Line runs eastward from Shinjuku Station to Motoyawata Station in Chiba Prefecture, home of Tokyo Disneyland. One key destination this line runs through is Kudanshita Station, where Yasukuni Jinja, a controversial shrine memorializing Japanese killed in wars. Jimbocho Station is another major stop where book and art lovers can enjoy a day of wandering the second-hand book district and visit the various specialist shops that deal in ukiyo-e traditional woodblock prints, vintage film posters, and more.
Ōedo Line – 大江戸線 (Magenta)
Oedo means “Great Edo” Edo brings the former name for Tokyo. The Oedo lines form a loop around the city. This is the perfect line for travelers interested in checking out the world-famous Shinjuku crossing, going shopping in Roppongi, or want to climb Tokyo Tower.
JR Trains in Tokyo
In addition to the two subway systems described above, several train lines run through, around, and to/from Tokyo.
JR Yamanote Line
Yamanote is a train line in Tokyo operated by the Japan Railways East company. Circular in shape, it naturally delimits the center of the capital and serves 29 stations, including the major stations such as Shinjuku, Shibuya, Ueno, and Ikebukuro. It is one of the busiest train lines in the city and an essential subway line for visitors to get to the tourist spots.
JR Chuo Line
Chuo Line cuts across Tokyo from East to West; it can be helpful when moving from Shinjuku to Tokyo station, for instance.
Free wifi available in Tokyo Subway stations
You can access Free wifi hotspots in both Tokyo Metro and Toei train stations; here are their respective SSID:
- Tokyo Metro: Metro_Free_Wi-Fi
- Toei: Toei_Subway_Free_Wi-Fi
Schedule: When is the first and last Tokyo Metro train?
The first trains of the morning start at about 5:00. If you’re out late, remember that the last train home will probably be around 23:30 and 00:30 the next day, depending on the metro line and the departure and arrival station. Remember that subway services are a little less frequent during weekends and public holidays.
You can directly get the timetable on the subway operators’ website:
Useful apps to get on your phone
To make your Tokyo subway journey smoother, you can download the app called Tokyo Subway Navigation, also called Navitime, to have the Tokyo subway map always on your phone and navigate in the city with ease.
Google Maps is also very efficient and widely used in Japan.
Tips on using the subway in Tokyo
- Check in advance the number of the exit you will need to take to your destination quickly and easily. There is often a map in front of the ticket gates with all the exits marked. You can also sometimes know which exit is the closest to your destination when using Google Maps.
- Mind your manners. Eating and drinking on the trains are generally frowned upon, as is talking on your cellphone.
- Be conscious of your space. If you have a big backpack, turn it around, wear it on your front, or place it between your legs.
- Some lines feature women-only carriages to counter groping in the train cars by men. Look out for the pink sign on the platforms indicating these cars in both English and Japanese.
- Rush hour runs approximately between 7:30 am-9:30 am and 5:30 pm-7:30 pm. Avoid traveling during these peak rush hour times if you’re not a fan of crowds or have large luggage.
Often Asked Questions About Tokyo’s Subway System
There is no real difference between the subway and the metro in Tokyo. The subway service is divided into two companies, Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway, but they work roughly the same way.
Yes, Tokyo has a subway operated by two companies: Tokyo Subway and Toei.
Tokyo tickets cost between 170¥ to 430¥ depending on the line and how far you travel, so yes, the subway in Tokyo can be very expensive, especially if you come here as a tourist and you travel all around Tokyo and its suburbs.
Tokyo subway trains usually end at about midnight. It varies depending on the line and the station and might also be different on weekdays and weekends.