Tokyo by Subway – Part 1

Tokyo by Subway - a Guide for your Business and Leisure Trip

Part 1: Planning your trip

Welcome to the “Tokyo by Subway’s Series”. Today we will talk a little bit about the subway transportation system and how to plan your Tokyo Metro trip.

In Tokyo you will be able to find three different railway systems:

– Subway system with 9 ‘Tokyo Metro Lines’ and 4 ‘Toei Lines’;
– JR Yamamote Line (a circular line connecting Tokyo’s major stations and areas); and
– Privately operated railways.

When visiting my business partners in Tokyo, I primarily use the ‘Tokyo Metro’ system. But you’ll see that sometimes ‘Toei Lines’ and ‘JR Line’ will offer a practical route to your destination that could save you some time.

Main Railway Systems available in Tokyo
Main Railway Systems available in Tokyo


‘Tokyo Metro Lines’ and ‘Toei Lines’ have their stations identified by line color, line symbol, and station number. That makes it easier for you to find your way. The JR Line’s stations are identified by their names only.
Station Identification - showing Line Symbol, Line Colour and Station Number

Station Identification – showing Line Symbol, Line Color and Station Number


Many stations offer the option of connecting to other lines or even other systems. Let’s take a look at the main system map.

Subway System Map - Courtesy of Tokyo Metro
Subway System Map – Courtesy of Tokyo Metro

If you look for ‘Otemachi Station’ on the map above you’ll note that in that particular station you can connect to 5 different lines. Cool, right!? Take a look at some additional examples circled in the map below.

Lines Interconnection - An example of stations with options to transfer to other lines.
Lines Interconnection – An example of stations with options to transfer to other lines.

One thing that you have to be careful about is that although some stations offer a connection option to other lines, they can sometimes have a different name for each different line. Take a look at the ‘Tokyo Metro’ example below.

Tameike-sanno and Kokkai-gijidomae Stations – example of two stations with different names connecting different lines.
Tameike-sanno and Kokkai-gijidomae Stations – example of two stations with different names connecting different lines.

When planning your visits to a client for the first time, it’s fine to ask your business partner for information. Usually I’ll follow the steps presented below.

First, I try to find out if my client will ask for an appointment. I will include the option of dates and times. When replying to your inquiry, some companies will include a map with their location and instructions on how to get to their office. That will save you a lot of time. Other companies will simply reply with their availability. In that case, you have a few options:

– Ask for additional instructions on how to reach their office (easiest way);
– Check their website for their location map;
– Do a little research and try to impress them with your skills (ta-da!).

I particularly like the last one, as it shows your client that you are putting some extra effort to the case. Googlemaps can be helpful here, although it might not work all the time. Sometimes the location you find on Googlemaps isn’t the most accurate one, as it depends on how their address is recognized by Google’s system.

Once I find out where the company is, I look for the closest subway station. Then, I save the map as an image and send it back to my client, asking if the location I was able to find is correct. I will also ask for confirmation on the name of the closest station and which exit number I should take (we will talk about the importance of the exit number in the last post of this series).

If you want, you can even search for the clients address before contacting them to check their availability for the meeting. If that is the case, you can include your findings about their location when you send the email with an appointment request.

Once you have the confirmation of your visit, you’re ready to plan your trip from the hotel: look for the line (or lines) serving the station closer to their office, and which line (lines) connect with the one serving the station where your hotel is. When necessary, I take a note with the following: name of the station where I have to connect, lines I will use and name of the station where I have to get off. It’s also recommended that you travel with the subway map. You can print the official map (click here for the PDF version). You can easily find maps at the airport, hotels, tourism information offices, and subway stations.


Now, let’s go for a practical example and plan a trip using the map. Let us pretend you’re in Tokyo and your hotel is in the Akasaka area, close to ‘Akasaka Station’. You need to get to ‘Ishigaya Station’. How to get there? ‘Akasaka Station’ gives you access to the ‘Chiyoda Line’. You can see in the map that ‘Chiyoda Line’ is represented by the color green and the letter ‘C’. The station number for Akasaka is ‘06’. This station is then identified by ‘C 06’. The easiest and fastest way to ‘Ishigaya’ would be: take the train to ‘Kokkai-Gijidomae Station’ (station ‘C 07’) and transfer to ‘Namboku Line’ (emerald line) to get to ‘Ichigaya Station’ (station ‘N 09’).


If you are using ‘Tokyo Metro’, you can also plan your trip through a tool available online: Tokyo Metro Transfer Planner & Fare Calculation. However, this tool doesn’t include ‘Toei Lines’ and ‘JR Line’.

Hope you have enjoyed this post. Next Tuesday we will talk about the process of buying your ticket. Thanks for reading and see you then!

Related Post:

– Doing Business in Tokyo by Subway
– Tokyo by Subway – Part 1
– Tokyo by Subway – Part 2
– Tokyo by Subway – Part 3
– Tokyo by Subway – Part 4

2 thoughts on “Tokyo by Subway – Part 1

  1. This is a great post for anyone visiting, or planning and extended stay in Tokyo. I visited Japan once when I was 15 and only spent a day in Tokyo but I remember how hectic the train station was! It’s on my wishlist to return to the city one day. Fingers crossed!

    1. Hi, Raj. Thanks for visiting! Hoping that you will be able to stay longer next time and enjoy more of the city. And I would love to hear from you about your experience. I was amazed by how well distributed the lines and stations are. It gives us a lot of freedom to move around.

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