Quick things to know for Japanese subways

Tokyo and the largest cities in Japan can be quite intimidating, even for a veteran traveler. The same can be said about their train and subway systems that snake their way under the concrete jungles. Here are some quick tips that will help you navigate the different lines and make you almost fit in like a local along the way.

Learn the numbers and colors – In Tokyo, the subway and train lines have designated colors and numbers that are associated with their respective stations. If you know where you are headed and know which line you will be taking, it makes it a lot easier when trying to navigate the endless lines in the underground. Using Google, you will be able to figure out which lines you need to use and then by using the colors and numbers, you will be able to make your way fairly easy in the cities. 

Get a Pasmo/Suica card – Again in Tokyo, it is almost critical for you to get either a Pasmo or Suica card. These rechargeable IC cards are a lifesaver as they can be used on nearly every subway and local line in Tokyo and can be recharged at any station as well. These make getting from gate to gate a lot easier and saves time vs. trying to buy solo tickets. They can also be used to make purchases at the small kiosks in the stations as well, so they are useful for a tourist or a local.

Follow the flow – People move in a pattern when walking through the subway stations. When you are walking, stay to your left, whether it’s the stairs, hallways, or the escalator. You will stick to the left unless you are in a hurry, which if that is the case, you will use the right hand side to move past the slower traffic on the left. This is not a law and it’s not posted around, it’s just something that everyone does, so follow the flow and you will fit right in with the locals. You will be amazed how everyone just does it.

Get out of the way – When a train is arriving, stand to the sides of the gating as you wait to get on board. This will allow the people on the train to get off quickly and then enough time and space for you to get onboard. Plus it’s just rude to block a person’s path, so simply stand to the side and wait your turn. Again, you will see everyone doing this, so follow along and let people get off the train before you try to hop onboard.

Don’t panic – The subways are big, busy, and have so many twists and turns, so you may feel overwhelmed. The biggest thing to remember is not to panic. Miss a train, don’t panic. Get lost, don’t panic! Just figure out where you are headed and find your way. Ask for help, use Google, etc. there are plenty of ways to find out where you are headed without worrying too much. There are plenty of trains so if you miss one, another will be a few minutes away.


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