Japan is a country that advances in transportation systems. They are seen as iconic in this field because of how efficiently they design and create their many transport modes. In the heart of Tokyo, you can find a transport system that actualizes this notion of Japan as a country having one of the best transportation systems in the world. This system is the Tokyo subway.
Details about the Tokyo Subway System
The first trace of what is now the Tokyo Subway was in the year of 1915. Back then, it was solely used as a railway for the post office and it has gone a very long way from what it was for then to what it is now. After more than a 100 years of development, it is now one of the used and idolized train systems in the world.
This rapid transit system is made up of two parts. The first part being the Tokyo Metro and the second being the Toei Subway. The Tokyo Metro was formerly known as the Teito Rapid Transit Authority until it was privatized in the year of 2004. The Toei Subway, on the other hand, is an agency run by the Tokyo Metropolitan Bureau of Transportation. These two subway operations have been tried and tested, providing service to more than 200 stations in Japan.
The Tokyo Subway is made up of 13 lines which are the Ginza, Marunouchi, Hibiya, Tozai, Chiyoda, Yurakucho, Hanzomon, Namboku, Fukutoshin, Asakusa, Mita, Shinjuku, and Oedo lines. The stations that fall under the supervision of the Tokyo Metro are the stations of Ginza, Marunouchi, Hibiya, Tozai, Chiyoda, Yurakucho, Hanzomon, Namboku, and Fukutoshin. All other lines fall under the Toei Subway.
There are also extensions to some of these lines that have yet to be formally acknowledged as stations but are still operating as a part of the transport system. Examples of such extensions are the Tokyo Waterfront Area Rapid Transit, Toyo Rapid Railway Line, and the Yamanote Line, which isn’t necessarily a subway line but it does lead to a commuter loop and is owned by JR East.
The Guide for Tokyo Subway: The Map, Pass, and Card
Using the subway can really minimize your travel time because it gets you from point A to point B without going through any traffic. This is especially true in Japan because their subway also connects to the other transportation systems, one way of the other. All you would need is a map of the network and you would be ready to adventure anywhere you would like in the Greater Tokyo area and beyond that.
The Tokyo Subway has its own website where you can get and download the map of the network and a guide with attractions that can be reached via the subway. It should also be noted that these guides come in 5 different languages to make it easier for foreigners to understand. Aside from getting this information online, you also have to option to get all the information you need from the subway stations. There are stalls to be found in every station that caters to these needs of inquiry. There are also a number of hotels that are located near stations so looking for accommodations that give you access to the subway network should be relatively easy. Stations like the Tokyo Station and the Shimbashi Station are examples of stations that you can get to directly from the airports of Narita and Haneda and vice versa.
As stated earlier, there are 13 lines in the Tokyo Subway system. The service they provide though goes beyond these 13 lines because these lines are actually connected to other lines that make the range of this transit system reach up to the suburbs. For example, the Hibiya line is connected to lines like the Tobu Skytree Line, Tobu Nikko Line, Tobu-Dobutsu-Koen, and the Minami. Another example would be the Shinjuku Line that is connected to the Keio New Line and Keio Sagamihara Line.
Focusing on the main 13 lines, there is more than one way to ride these trains. There are 3 actually, and they are tickets, passes, and cards. The tickets are your regular and usual way of getting access to the train. You can get these and ticket vending machines at every station. As it is for all train systems, the ticket fare or price varies depending on the distances to be traveled by the riders. A person can spend between 170 to 310 yen for a ticket, again, depending on the distance of their origin and destination.
The passes, on the other hand, work like a membership of some sort. You essentially chose if you want a pass that is valid for one, three, or six months and you also chose a package that has specific lines and stations you have access to through the pass. These passes are available at all stations except for the Nakano and Nishi-Funabashi stations. If you wish to have access to a line or station that isn’t covered by the pass you bought, you need only pay an additional fee to do so.
If you cannot decide which pass to get, you also have to option of getting the Tokyo Metro All-line Pass. This, of course, grants access to all the lines in the system. Having this ability does not come free as the prices for this particular ticket is quite steep. For a pass that stays valid for 1 month, the price would be at 17300 yen. For a pass that stays valid for 3 months, the price would increase to 49,310 yen. Lastly, for a pass that is valid for 6 months, it would cost you 93,420 yen. This would be an ideal option if you are to stay in Tokyo for a long time and if that stay would include traveling to the many parts of Tokyo. If that isn’t the case, getting the pass with limited lines would be the best option for you and your budget.
The final way to get access to the subway is buying a card they called the PASMO Card or the IC Card. This card is a lot like the octopus card in Hong Kong. It is a preloaded card that grants access to all lines and stations with just a swipe of that card. The prices for the trips are also discounted when this card is used as the ticket. On an average, the regular ticket prices lessen by 5 yen when you use the IC card.
Aside from serving as the ticket to the trains, this amazing card can also be used to pay for items bought in stores that have the PASMO card readers. Usually, 7/11 stores or convenience stores accept this mode of payment. If that wasn’t enough to show you how useful this card it, it would excite you to find out that this card can also be used to pay bus fares. Bus fares are tricky for tourists because it is rare that the tourist has exact change. Since the excess payment for bus fares are not given to the passengers, the use of the PASMO card can save you a lot of money.
Choosing any of the other options aside from the regular ticket saves you a lot of time because if your trip would include a transfer from a Tokyo Metro line to a Toei Subway line, you would have to line up again to get another ticket to do so. Again, that would depend on the nature of your stay because if you won’t be staying in Tokyo for at least a month, getting any of the pass packages would be a waste. If your trip is short or has an indefinite time span, it would be better to just get the IC card because you would just have to reload it in the event of an extension on your part. If plans hasten and you need to head out earlier than scheduled, the use of the IC card would also be better as there is a refund process you can avail for with regards to the initial payment of 500 yen for the card itself and a possible refund for the remaining points in the said card.
Useful Information about the Tokyo Subway: The Hours, Rush Hour, and Pushers
The operating hours of the Tokyo Subway are just like any other railway in Japan. It starts at 5 AM and stays operating until the hours of a little past midnight. To be safe, make sure to ride the train you need to get on by 12 midnight to ensure that you will not reach closing time.
Just like the other transits in Japan, trains in this subway system leave for their destinations punctually. In the hours outside the rush hours of the Tokyo Subway, trains come and go every 10 minutes. During the rush hours, on the other hand, the interval of trips quicken as the trains come and go every 3 minutes. The rush hours for the Tokyo Subway are known to be from 7:30 AM to 9:30 AM and from 5:30 PM to 7:30 PM. The volume of commuters is heavy during these hours because this is the time when the people try to go to and get home from work.
Using the subways on weekends is another thing because the volume of travelers then is much less than when there is work for people. With this being said, it is highly advisable to schedule activities during the weekend to avoid the commuting traffic brought about by the rush hour and the volume of riders in general.
There are times during rush hour when the staff of the subway helps people get in the trains safely before it departs. There used to be a specific job that provides this service and that job was known to be a “Subway Pusher”. Nowadays, there isn’t a specific position that renders this service but when needed, the staff of the subway does it for the customers. They are now known as subway arrangers and as their title suggests, they help the riders get organized so that the space inside in train is maximized. Do not worry, these pushers do not hurt you. They merely make sure that you don’t lose an arm or a leg trying to squeeze yourself into a very cramped train in hopes of not having to wait for another train just to ride.
It is obvious that the Tokyo Subway has advanced in many ways to provide the best service they can give to their riders. Riding and maneuvering through this subway system is easy even for foreigners and travelers because of how user-friendly their maps and information are. They have also made all information about their schedules, prices, etc. through many mediums like via the internet or apps that you can get on your smartphones. Choosing to travel using this mode is both an experience and a favor you can do for yourself if you wish to save time. Just make sure to plan ahead to get the best deal you can get with your money.