Tokyo is a big, sprawling city that seems to have no end. Even from a top an observation deck, the concrete jungle seems to meet the horizon. So how on earth do you get around the city? Well, here are a few options to consider before exploring this insane city.
The first is the easiest and cheapest way to get around Tokyo is to walk. It seems simple, but if you are staying in Shinjuku, Shibuya, or any of the popular wards, there are going to be a lot of shrines, temples, and other big ticket items to see that will be accessible by foot. Check where you want to go and if it is within a 20 minute walk, I would say walk it out. You will get to see a lot of the city, discover stores and restaurants you would never find on a Google search, and get a chance to take it all in. Japan has great sidewalks and tons of crosswalks that people listen and obey (99% of the time). However, keep in mind there are lot of hills to climb (mountainous country) and if something is over 20 minutes away, you could be in for a work out and might end up sore the next day. But
Next are taxis, since Uber and ride shares are still fairly rare in Tokyo (at least in early 2021). Taxis are clean and are very similar to American taxis. Wave your hand and if they have a red light on, that mean’s it will stop (green means it is full and will not stop). However, here is more advice if you are taking a cab. Most taxi drivers do not speak English, so be prepared to know Japanese or have an address written down they can understand. And taxis can be pricey, so if you aren’t careful, you could spend over 2000 Yen for a 15 minute drive (if not more). And again, most cabs don’t accept credit cards (some do) so have cash on you so you can pay for a cab ride.
And finally and the easiest way to get around Tokyo are the trains and subways. When you see a Japanese rail map, it looks daunting, but it really isn’t. First, everything is color coded with line names. For example, if you are in Roppongi, you might take the Oedo line (which is colored purple), you will be entering the E 23 station. Again, everything is color coded and numbered. All you have to do is read the maps for your line, figure out where you are going, and count the stations. If you are going to station E 21, just count stops and you will be there.
Buy a Pasmo or Suica card that can be reloaded in the stations, swipe, and make your way on the subways. It is the easiest way to get around the city and everyone in Tokyo uses it because the trains are efficient and always on time. Even if you take the wrong line, you can easily get back or find the right one by studying the map, using apps, or just by asking the staff in the subway stations. Google maps are pretty good at match station names and making sure you know where to get off or if you need to transfer to another line.
You can use buses the same way, using route numbers and with the Pasmo/Suica cards, paying the fee is pretty simple (as long as the routes allow the IC cards to work, just make sure to know your routes and which buses you will be taking). And a quick tip, you can buy the IC cards ahead of time, recharge them at the stations, or just buy them at the little computers before getting to the train platforms.
These are just a few ways to get around the Tokyo area. Subways are your best bet, walking is fun (if it is within a reasonable distance), and be careful with cabs because they can be pricey.