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GoWithGuideFind your perfect tour guide at GoWithGuide. Relax and cherish unforgettable tours with loved ones. Create personalized tours for a truly memorable trip!

Everything You Need to Know about Tokyo Subway


by GoWithGuide travel specialist:Fidelia A.

Last updated : May 04, 20225 min read


Let’s make one thing very clear here; Tokyo’s public transport system could be very, very complicated.


Just when you thought you’ve mastered the JR train system, you found yourself at lost when dealing with the Subway map. The names of the stations are more often than not similar, and it doesn’t help the fact that sometimes you need to deal with both (the JR trains and the subway) systems in order to reach your destination.


No worries!


After reading this article, I can assure you that you would at least get the basic grasp of Tokyo’s underground subway system. You would be able to navigate your way through Tokyo’s subway system like a pro!

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How does it work?

Before we started, I want to make sure that you know the difference between JR trains, private railways, and the subway trains.


JR trains refer to railways and trains that are owned by the government. The most well-known JR train in Tokyo is probably the JR Yamanote line, which circles Tokyo’s downtown area. If you have a JR Pass, you can use that in here.


Private railways are railways and trains that are owned by private companies. They usually intersect with JR lines, but some also built their lines in places where JR has not reached yet. You can not use your JR pass here.


Subway or the Metro refers to the train that runs (mostly) underground. In Tokyo, it is owned by the Tokyo Metro and the Toei Subway company. You can not use your JR pass here.


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Mastering the Subway system in Tokyo

Now that you’ve understood the differences between JR trains and subways, let’s get to the big question.


How do I navigate my way through Tokyo’s subway system?


Subways could be more efficient than the JR trains. It covers a lot more spaces than the JR lines, which cover distances rather than areas. Subways could be a better alternative for you to reach all the best spots in Tokyo.


Let me tell you something: the subway system is not as difficult as you might’ve initially thought.


As I mentioned before, all the subway lines are color-coded, and each has their abbreviation to help visitors remembers them easily. For example, the Marunouchi line symbol is a red “M” sign inside a red circle.


Here’s another tip:

If you have problems remembering the name of your stop, then you don’t need to.


You only need to remember the number of your stop. For example, Ikebukuro station is the 25th stop in the Marunouchi line. That means the sign for Ikebukuro in the Marunouchi line is M25, all colored in red.


It might be difficult for you to read all these information that I am telling you without seeing Tokyo metro map. I’ve searched online and I found this guidebook that includes Tokyo’s train and metro map. Not only that, the guidebook also includes a recommendation list for your Tokyo sightseeing trips. 

Don’t worry, you can download it for free!


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Alternative ways to get around Tokyo

If you think you are still not sure that you can get around Tokyo well enough, here’s a better alternative for you:


Hire a private tour guide!


They will get you to your favorite destination spots, without any problems! Here’s a list of things that a private guide can help you with:

  • They will help you find your way around Tokyo
  • Make your itinerary plan for you
  • No more language problems
  • Many, many more reasons here for you to hire a private guide! 

Considering on hiring a private tour guide? I recommend you to book one from GoWithGuide. They have the best selection of guides that will help make your Tokyo holiday a memorable journey.


Getting around Japan

Once you’ve mastered the train and subway system in Tokyo, I am sure you’ll be able to get your way through most places in Japan. However, if you still need help in getting a shinkansen to get to your next destination, you can click this link to find out how to ride shinkansen in Japan.


Since you’ve read this article, I hope that you’ve understood Tokyo’s metro system, how to get around Tokyo with it and a better understanding of how Tokyo’s public transportation system work. I wish you best of luck in finding your way around Tokyo!

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Yasuro C.

4.80 / 5
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Hello, my name is Yasuro (Mr). I was born and brought up in Kansai, graduated from a univ in Kobe city, after moved into Kanto, 30 years in Tokyo, 2.5 years in Nagoya city, 7.5 years abroad (KL & S'pore) as a rep of a construction company and I got the National Guide Certificate in 2011. My hobbies are making Haiku poems, singing various songs (voice-training for 18 years), playing the folk-guitar, trekking in mountains like Takao and Okutama in the West of Tokyo, visiting museums like in Ueno Park and travelling around Japan to make Haiku poems. Thank you for your attention.                                                                                                                                 

Yokohama Tour Guide - Haruo T.

Haruo T.

4.90 / 5
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I live in Yokohama, Kanagawa prefecture. I have a license to teach in high schools and was admitted to the degree of Master of Arts in Teaching English as a Second Language in the University of Birmingham. Until 2015 I had been teaching English at public high schools in Kanagawa for 37 years. During that time, I had some experience of guiding students from overseas through sister-school relationship around Tokyo and Kanagawa. Therefore, I had good command of English with the TOEIC score of 935. As for a tour guide experience I earned the certificate of National Government Licensed Guide-Interpreter in English and since then I have guided tourists to the popular sites around Tokyo, Yokohama, Kamakura and Yokosuka. My guiding focuses on introducing not only Japanese historical and cultural backgrounds but also giving tourists some tips to travel Japan only by themselves, such as how to use trains and subways, find good restaurants, reserve tickets, buy survenier, and speak basic Japanese. In addition, my tour includes opportunities to experience Japanese culture like Zen meditation, ninja performance, visiting anime's location sites based on tourists' request. Besides, by means of my hobbies of writing English Haiku and Waka (traditional Japanese poems) and performing Rakugo (traditional Japanese funny story telling) in English, I can surely entertain tourists during the tour. My moto as a tour guide is let the tourists have a once-in-a-lifetime experience in Japan with my profound, intelligible and interestiog guiding.                                                                                                                                 

Tokyo Tour Guide - Grant A.

Grant A.

5.00 / 5
(14 reviews)

My name is Grant I lived more than 10 years in Japan. I graduated University and translation school in Tokyo. I am fluent in Japanese. I have a degree in Asian studies and have expert-level knowledge of Japanese culture and history. I have memorized the JR rail system across all of Japan, I use the same train timetable calculators as the station staff, and I have experience using bullet train passes that are exclusive to foreign visitors. I can optimally navigate the Tokyo underground and maximize value from a Tokyo metro pass and also understand Tokyo above ground which will allow for seamless transitions between different metro stations and landmarks with minimal backtracking. *There will be a price revision at the end of June* My tour fee is Half-Day Tour: 30,000yen for 1-5hours Full-Day Tour: 50,000yen for 5-12hours The time transiting to and from your hotel for pick up or drop off within Tokyo 23wards does not count towards the time. I am also able to guide historical sites and cities such as Kyoto, Kanazawa, Nikko, and Kamakura on request if you pay my rail fare. If your group is not a tour company and you simply ask me kindly for a 10,000yen discount and I will reduce the price of your tour until the end of June.                                                                                                                                 

Kanagawa Tour Guide - Kaneo U.

Kaneo U.

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I’m so excited to have a chance to show you around my favorite spots in Kanagawa prefecture. I was born in Kanagawa. I spent my whole school life, including university, here in Kanagawa. I worked as a high school English teacher here for 40 years. I love Kanagawa so much. We have many interesting tourist spots, like Hakone, Kamakura, Enoshima and Yokohama. I got my tour guide license in English in 2009. I am still an English teacher. To give an interesting and impressive lesson to young high school students, I’ve learnt and gathered many kinds of information. I also have a license to teach social studies, so I have a wide range of knowledge about Japanese culture and history. I’m sure to provide you an interesting tour.                                                                                                                                 

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