Physical Address

304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124

Taking the Subway in Tokyo – Tips & Tricks

Yesterday I covered the basics of taking the subway in Tokyo. As promised today I will provide you with some tips & tricks to make it a bit easier.

I use the Tokyo Transfer Guide almost every time I plan a trip but it has it’s limitations if you decide to take any detours. For that reason I always carry a copy of the English Route Map from Tokyo Metro with me. (Both of these resources are so handy that I have added them to the blogroll).

Prepaid Subway Card

If you are planning on traveling on the subway a lot during your stay in Tokyo I would highly recommend that you get a Suica or Pasmo Card. Both cards require a deposit of Y500 of which all but Y210 is returned to you when you turn the card back in.

These cards are similar in that they are prepaid cards that allow you to bypass the ticket vending machine and head straight for the fare gates. No more trying to decipher the fare maps! Just swipe your card across the reader at the fair gates upon entry and exit and the correct fare will be deducted from the balance on the card.

You can purchase and top up your Suica or Pasmo Card at ticket vending machines bearing the correct logo. Most of these machines have an English button which provides guidance in English. The minimum value that you can purchase is Y1,000 ($10 USD).

The Suica and Pasmo cards can also be used on buses that display the cards logo and can even be used to purchase merchandise at participating vendors. The advantage to the Suica card is that it can also be used on JR train lines and is not limited to central Tokyo and the subway.

One-Day Open Ticket

If the purchase of a Suica or Pasmo Card is not warranted in your situation then you should consider the One-Day Open Ticket. At a cost of Y710 (around $7 USD) this is an inexpensive option if you will be using the system a lot on any given day. The tickets can be purchased in advance (at pass offices) or on the day of travel at the normal ticket vending machines.

Minimum Fare

Another way to simplify the ticket purchasing process is to buy a ticket at the minimum value offered by the machine and adjust the fare at your destination. Fare adjustment machines are located near the exits of all stations and they are easy to use. Just insert your ticket into the machine and it will tell you the incremental fare. Insert your Yen and pick up the printed ticket and insert it into the fare gate as you exit. This takes a bit longer but, again, you avoid the hassle of trying to decipher the maps.

Determining Your Transfer Point(s)

Often times when you take the subway you will need to transfer at least once or twice en-route to your destination. First, locate your staring and ending points on the route map and then follow the colored lines on the map until they intersect. This is your transfer point(s). Take time to review the different options as you may be able to reduce your travel time by elimination transfers.

Even though it may appear shorter to transfer trains more than once that isn’t always the case. Each time you transfer you will need to find the correct platform and wait for another train. It is often faster to go a few extra stops to the next transfer point rather than changing trains an extra time.

Transferring from the subway to one of the JR Train lines may also require you to exit the station and buy a new ticket. So wherever possible try to stay on Tokyo Metro.

Photo Credit: Personal Collection