The city of Tokyo is home to 13 million people and the metropolitan area of Tokyo has a population of 38 million people. Those numbers are not typos and Tokyo has some other amazing stats. It’s hosts the most Fortune Global 500 Companies (51) and has been awarded the enviable title of the worlds safest city. So how do you get around in a place that everyone wants to be in? Easily. Catch a train.
Every site or centre in Tokyo is close to a station. Work out which station you are currently at and which station you need to get off at. Next, find out if you need the JR (Japan Rail) or Tokyo metro ( the subway). They intersect everywhere so you can get off one and on another at the same station. Now you need a ticket machine with a map above it in English. Look at the map and find the station you are at and the station you want. In between the two will be the cost of the fare (also note the name and colour of the line). Drop your money into the ticket machine and select the type of fare you want using the buttons with people on them (one adult, two adults, two adults with one child etc). Your child fares are half the price of the adult ones. The machine will give you tickets.
Take your ticket to the automatic gate and feed it the machine. The gate will open, birds will cheep (literally) and you get your ticket back! Hold into it. Now check the signage for the colour of the line you want and the matching name. The trains will also be colour coded to match the line. How good is that? Follow the signs and arrows to the platform and in some cases this can be a fair walk. More signs will be on the platforms and your train won’t be far away. When you’re on the train the scrolling sign above the door tells you the next station and the announcement (every third one is English) tells you the next station, the name of the line you are on and which side the platform is on. You can’t go wrong. Let’s face it, the worlds largest city needs an efficient rail system and it needs to cater for the lowest common denominator.
We used the train to come back to Shinjuku from Disneyland with no problems. The next day we used it from Shinjuku to Harajuku, Shibayu to Roppongi Hills, then to Akihabara and then back to Shinjuku, with some inter changes and without one mistake, and absolutely no Japanese. It’s also very cheap and so we wouldn’t recommend you try to buy an IC card because it must seems to take time to negotiate and didn’t seem to offer a worthwhile discount. And if I’m wrong about that, I can assure you that doing it our way was worth any extra cost; we had a great day and felt hugely proud of our efforts on the trains.