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Tokyo Metro 101

Taking the train is the best way to get to know the city. As they say, if you want the full experience, do it like the locals do.

Tokyo’s metro system is not that friendly, though, even when everything seems to be written in Roman characters to not scare tourists. Here are our tips on how to weave through the Tokyo metro like a pro:

1) Download the Tokyo Metro Map in English. You can’t just wing it, like you could have in Frankfurt or Barcelona.

2) Get used to following signs, looking up as you find your way to wherever you have to be.

3) Get Wi-Fi access. Google Maps is precise in giving directions, surprisingly. The app can even compute for your fare. You could also activate your GPS function, if you prefer that Siri handhold you through finding that hidden café or restaurant.

4) Buy a Suica or PASMO. Using a smart card (works like London’s Oyster and Hong Kong’s Octopus) does away with the bother of finding out which ticket value to buy. Besides, buying the wrong ticket value can be cumbersome – either you get side-railed to fare adjustment after the boxing bag-like ticket counter doors slap onto your tired thighs, or you get ripped off of tens of yen, which could have bought you a cute can of Boss coffee from your neighborhood vending machine. Side tip: You could also use a pre-loaded card to pay for bullet train, taxi and bus fares, buy from vending machines, and pay at supermarkets and department stores.

5) If lost, don’t hesitate to ask a local for directions. But, don’t jump the gun, honey. Be polite enough to ask “Eego ga hanashimasu ka?” first.

We know it’s tempting to just hail a cab, sit back, and relax in their divinely white interiors. Just leave that as an option for when you’re desperate to move, but your feet are already begging you to take it easy. You’d be glad you did with all the stories you get to tell of getting lost, and finding your way.

Jillian @ Passport Out

Jillian is the Editorial Director of Passport Out.

8 Comments
  1. Oliver Brown

    March 19, 2016 11:26 pm

    my goal in life is to collect all smart cards. I shall get that suica when I visit!

    • Passport Out - Editor

      March 20, 2016 5:11 pm

      Don’t forget PASMO! Both brands have really cute mascots.

  2. Janice Soong

    March 20, 2016 10:11 pm

    Oh God, i can still remember my first tokyo commuting exp! Crazy times

    • Passport Out - Editor

      March 20, 2016 11:10 pm

      Crazy, indeed! It’s kind of fun getting lost and finding boutiques and restaurants in train stations, though!

  3. 渡辺美幸

    March 20, 2016 10:17 pm

    I live in Tokyo 5 years and get lost still (ノ﹏ヽ)

    • Passport Out - Editor

      March 20, 2016 11:28 pm

      The big stations and their numerous exits do get confusing at times. Especially true when there are too many people!

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