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Metro Guide in Tokyo - This is everything you need to know

February 02, 2019

Metro in Tokyo - 13 Lines, 285 stations

Metro, Subway or Tube if you're Londner is arguably the most important public transport for residents in big cities. It's the same here in Tokyo. 

Metro system in Tokyo is extremely large and complicated. It's difficult for Japanese people to use it if you're not from Tokyo. 

Metro in Tokyo

13 Lines, 285 stations. This is the total number of metro stations in Tokyo. No wonder you can go almost anywhere in Tokyo by metro. Surely, it's very convenient and accurate on time way to travel. 

In other words, the knowledge of the Tokyo metro is an essential thing to travel in Tokyo. 

This is the simplest and easiest guide for you to be savvy of Tokyo metro. 

Let's explore Tokyo by Metro!

Which Metro? Tokyo Metro or Toei Metro?

Tokyo has two metros, which means two different companies operate services. They are Tokyo Metro (private company) and Toei Metro (run by Tokyo government). Tokyo Metro has 9 lines and Toei Metro has 4 lines respectively. 

This is the logo of Tokyo Metro (left) and Toei Metro (right).

Tokyo Metro & Toei Metro Logo

Passengers used to use a (paper) ticket in pre-IC card era. Back then, there was a problem with tickets as Tokyo Metro and Toei Metro issued different tickets.

Now it's extremely rare to see someone uses a paper ticket. Almost everyone uses either IC card or their mobile as a ticket. 

So, you don't need to worry about the differences between the two companies today. You may not even able to notice it. But, just for the record (to be savvy), there're 2 companies. 

But the ticket - Get PASMO

First, find the station. Now you know the logo, right? (above). Look carefully and find the logo on the street.

Tokyo Metro Station

 Then, go to the ticket vending machines and buy 'PASMO'. What is it?

Pasmo is an IC card used for transport (like Oyster card in London). With this card, you can go anywhere in Tokyo. PASMO can be used for buses and other trains (operated by JR) as well. In addition, it's valid not only in the Tokyo area but all over Japan which is amazing.

So, get this card is the first step to master Tokyo metro.

On the card, it reads Train-mo, Bus-mo, Pasmo (means not only train but a bus in Japanese)

PASMO - Tokyo Metro

Find this iconic pink ticket vending machine (below). Normally, there's the blue and pink one. And you can buy a new PASMO from the pink machine. 

Choose language and buy a new PASMO. (you can choose personalised & blank PASMO. For most travellers, blank PASMO is ok) Then, you choose how much you want to top-up. Please note that there's a deposit amount of 500 yen. Of course, this is refundable when you return PASMO card. 

So, if you charge 1,000 yen, you can only use 500 yen. Normally, the metro fare (one time) is between 200 - 250 yen when you travel in the Tokyo metro area. I think 2,000 yen top up should be enough to start with.

How to buy PASMO in Tokyo Metro 

 If you're sure that you will take the metro more than 5 times a day. How about a 1 -day pass (900 yen). You can buy that ticket from this machine as well. 

Get on Metro

Now you've got PASMO and it's fully charged. Then, let's go to platform. Trains in Tokyo (both metro and overground trains) have touch-in & touch-out entry gates basically. 

Tokyo Metro - entrance gate

So remember you use your PASMO when you're in and out. Unlike many European trains and metros, you will not see a ticket controller anywhere in a train or station as you always need a ticket to enter a platform anyway.

Touch here (see below) when you're in and out. You will hear the beep sound then the gate is open immediately (if the gate is closed). 

Tokyo Metro - entrance gate

Don't dare to pass through if the gate is open! High-tech sensor always spots you and you'll be blocked! Also, if your PASMO does NOT have enough money, you'll also be blocked and feel embarrassed! Please be careful.

Tokyo Metro - entry gate

   

How to Read Map?

I know Japanese station names are not so easy to remember for foreign tourists. But, don't worry. Tokyo Metro introduced station numbering system a few years ago and now it's so easy to find where to go.

This is the Tokyo Metro map. Can you remember all stations?

Tokyo Metro Map

Station numbering is very useful, so first remember station alphabet & number (and colour if possible). Each station has it. 

For example, take a look at this example below.

T means Tozai Line (line name)

Blue is Tozai Line's colour

01 - station number of Tozai line.

Tokyo Metro - station numbering

You will also be able to hear the announcement of station number in the train (in English), so you will never miss your destination!

Again, don't forget to touch out when you're out.

Always Start from/to Main Stations

Some metro stations in Tokyo are bigger than others. This means you're more likely to use such stations frequently. As mentioned earlier, basically it's easy to use metro in Tokyo if you check station numbering. Having said that, remembering some big terminal stations will help you a lot to travel much easier.

Here're some key stations with more than one metro lines in Tokyo. 

1. Otemachi - 5 Lines

This station is called Tokyo Station (JR), metro station name is different. 

Marunouchi Line, Tozai Line, Chiyoda Line, Hanzomon Line and Toei Mita Line

2. Ginza - 3 Lines

Ginza Line, Marunouchi Line and Hibiya Line

3. Shibuya - 3 Lines

Hanzomon Line, Ginza Line and Fuku Toshin Line

4. Shinjuku - 3 Lines

Marunouchi Line, Toei Shinjuku Line and Oedo Line

5. Ikebukuro

Marunouchi Line, Yurakucho Line and Fuku Toshin Line

Shopping with PASMO

So, now you're getting on and off Tokyo metro freely. But, wait. Your PASMO is actually more than that. This IC card is electric money so some places accept PASMO as a payment method. 

Let's take a look!

Vending Machines -

Probably you've heard of something about Japanese vending machines. It's crazy. They're selling hot & cold drinks in the same machine and literally everywhere. No doubt that these accept PASMO as they freaking convenient. 

If you see a card reader like this (below), you can use IC card like PASMO. Sometimes, you see Suica or other names. Don't worry, they're just different type of PASMO, try to use PASMO instead of cash!

Vending machine - use PASMO

 KIOSK & Convenience Store

PASMO can be used at convenience stores and Kiosk (small shop) in the station. Normally, convenience stores located inside the station all accept PASMO and all other IC card payment. 

KIOSK is a small convenience store in the station (normally on the platform).

KIOSK store in station in Tokyo

One of the most annoying problems in travel is you end up with collecting too many coins. You can avoid that by using PASMO.

This is where you touch your PASMO in a convenience store. No worries. Just show the card to staff, then they will show you how to do. 

PASMO payment at convenience stores in Japan

So, now you already know how to use the metro and PASMO.

Have a nice metro trip!

Thank you for reading.

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