understand japan

Navigating the Tokyo Metro

Navigating the Tokyo Metro
Now that's a busy map! Actually, understanding the Tokyo Metro map is easier than you'd expect, we tell you how to decipher it here...

Thanks to Brit Harry Beck, his simplified London Underground map has been adopted by countless countries around the world, Japan included, and made map-reading a whole lot easier. This map system works on a topological layout, colour coding for different lines and easy on the eye readability.

Understanding the pretty colours…

For those using a subway for the first time, let alone in a foreign country, the first few goes can be a little daunting. Reading the Tokyo subway map, or Tokyo Metro 東京メトロ as it’s known, is actually pretty simple if you remember a few rules:

  1. Each line is a different colour and letter
  2. Each station is consecutively number-coded

This allows even non-English speakers to be able to read the map without necessarily knowing the name of the station. For example Shinjuku on the red Marunouchi line is coded M-O8 with a red circle surrounding it.

What about disabled facilities for subway travel?

  • Train stops are announced in both Japanese and English
  • Ticket machines and station designs incorporate Braille
  • Many stations have elevators between platforms and ticket halls
  • Station officials will gladly assist you on and off trains, enquire at the ticket office for assistance

To make travelling on the subway even easier, purchase a PASMO or Suica card, which will enable you to ticketlessly travel around the city. Your Japan Rail Pass is accepted on the circular JR Yamanote Line, but not the 13 subway lines which run off this.

photo Ben Garney

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