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How to Use Trains in Tokyo


Riding a train or subway in a city like Tokyo can be a bit overwhelming a little confusing. But don’t worry, you’ll get used to it quickly. This article contains information and Japanese words and phrases that should help you get around Tokyo easier.

If you are planning to use a train in Japan, you should definitely get a copy of train map. You can download one here. Tokyo train lines basically consist of two groups. The Tokyo Metro which consists of the subway lines (地下鉄, Chikatetsu) and JR lines which usually run above the ground. If you are staying in Tokyo for a while, I highly recommend that you get a returnable prepaid fare card (SUICA or PASMO) which is available at most of stations with 500yen deposit. This makes traveling using the train much easier because you don’t need to figure out the right ticket to purchase. Wherever you go, the fare will be automatically withdrawn from your card at the entrance gate and exit gate(改札、Kaisatu) of each station.

If you have a IPhone or any other mobile devices, you can also download an application for transfer (乗り換え、Norikae).  It will usually tell you a couple of the fastest and cheapest options to get to where you want to go. All you have to do is enter the starting and ending stations. Even Japanese people use their cellphones on daily basis to check train times and find the best routes.

When you transfer from one train to another there will be a number of signs with colors.  Each line has its own color, so find your line’s color and follow the signs.

For those who never used train or subway, these are the things you need to do. 😉

1. Buy a ticket to the station you want to go to, or charge your PASMO or SUICA. 切符を買うか、カードをチャージする。

2. Find where the entrance to the line you want to use is. 改札を見つける。

3. Put your ticket in the electronic gate or scan your charged PASMO or SUICA on it, then go through the gate. 改札を通る。

4. Go to the platform. Make sure you are at the right one because there are usually trains go different directions. 何番線かを確かめる。

5. Get on the train.電車に乗る。

6. Get off the train at your station. If you need to transfer, go to the different platform.  電車を降り、乗り換える。

7. Go through the gate to get out of the line. 改札を出る。

8. Once you are there, find the exit that’s desirably close to where you want to go to. 出口を見つける。

There are usually several exits for each station, especially for a big one like 東京駅(Tokyo eki)、新宿駅(Shinjyuku eki)、or 池袋駅(Ikebukuro eki). If you are meeting someone at a station, make sure which exit or gate you going. If you are lost, find a station attendant(駅員さん、ekiinsan)and ask for help.

Here are some useful Japanese phrases you can use at a station.

  • ○○駅に行きたいのですが、行き方を教えて下さい。(○○eki ni ikitainodesuga, ikikata wo oshietekudasai.) I would like to go to ○○station. Will you tell me how to get there?
  • どこで乗り換えたらいいですか?(Doko de norikaetara iidesuka?) Where should I transfer?
  • 何線に乗ればいいですか?(Nanisen ni noreba iidesuka?) Which line should I take?
  • 何番線に行けばいいですか?(Nanbansen ni ikeba iidesuka?) Which platform should I go to?
  • ○○に行きたいのですが、一番近い出口はどこですか?(○○ni ikitainodesuga, ichiban chikai deguchi wa dokodesuka?) I would like to go to ○○. Please tell me the closest exit.
  • ○○はどこですか?(○○ha dokodesuka?) Where is ○○?

Japanese Words

電車(でんしゃ, Densha) – train

駅(えき, Eki) – station

地下鉄(ちかてつ, Chikatetsu) – subway

JR線(ジェーアールせん, JR sen) – JR Line

改札(かいさつ, Kaisatsu) – an entrance or exit gate

出口(でぐち, Deguchi) – an exit

乗り換え(のりかえ, Norikae) – to transfer line

切符(きっぷ, Kippu) – fare ticket

駅員,駅員さん(えきいん, Ekiin/えきいんさん, Ekiin san) – a train station attendant

ホーム(ほーむ, Hoomu) – platform

快速(かいそく, Kaisoku) – rapid train

準急(じゅんきゅう, Jyunkyuu) – sub rapid train

各駅停車(かくえきていしゃ, Kakueki teisha) – train that stops every station

○○線(○○せん, ○○sen) – line of train

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