How to: Tokyo Subway
The Tokyo subway system can be very convoluted and a scary thing for a foreigner to face. There are no written rules on the walls on how one should do anything regarding trains and it is not too foreigner friendly. This article I have written for you today may be something you already know, but I have sectioned the post into 2 categories: IC cards and how to use trains in Japan
IC cards in Japan
So IC cards are essentially a debit card that you can use at convenience stores, buses, trains, and much more, they are equivalent to the American Metrocard. You can charge these cards at every station with cash and use them at your desired locations. These cards are largely managed by 2 companies which is the result of the 2 types of cards Suica and Passmo. There are many small differences between the companies and you can read all about it if you would like, but I would like to state to you the differences between the two cards are quite minimal (literally a difference of a couple of yen on certain fares). I would suggest getting whichever one you find easier.
You can apply for these cards both online and in person at stations through the respective machines, on those machines you can change the language to English, and with that, if you select a blank card you will be able to receive your new passmo/Suica card for about 500 yen.
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How to use trains in Japan
The number of trains and lines every station has and then all lines having different types of trains, can make commuting in Japan very stressful. One way I recommend relieving this stress is by downloading apps to help support you through your travels. If you don’t mind using google translate or have a decent understanding of Kanji I recommend using NAVITIME. Although the app is entirely in Japanese, in the 3 years I have used it I have never had any issues with it in the travels I have gone around Tokyo, Kanagawa, and Chiba.
The second app that I have not used as much but have heard good reviews about is the same name but a different icon, created by Japan Travel. These two apps will be more than enough to conquer the rails of Japan and confidently travel across the land.
Tips for the Japanese transit
- Always check the time of arrival and departure of trains
- Train lines are usually colored, don’t be scared to just follow the colors.
- Track numbers are usually listed on the app, make sure to use it and use the one for departure and not the arrival.
Things to note is that both applications will tell you the fare and time it will take to commute the distance. The latter is important to note since Japanese trains are very rarely late, and if they are late you will know since the tracks will show the time that the train should have arrived. If those times are behind you will know that there is a delay on that line. Some train stations are very large and scary to navigate through but do not worry since there should be many colored signs littered across the station that should help navigate you to the correct line. When I first arrived in Japan I only used the colors stated on the applications and made my way to the line just by knowing the color of the line I was supposed to be on.
Another important note is that every line has a to and fro, so be careful not to be going in the wrong direction. This is something that you may do a lot when you first start using lines in Japan and are unable to read the kanji. A good way to prevent this is by using the track number listed on the application and going to the corresponding tracks.
Lastly, trains are not 24 hours, plan accordingly. Trains do not run from 12-5 AM, so if you plan to have a late-night drinking session until 1 AM be prepared to be out the whole night since taxis will be up charged during these hours making it an expensive ride home.
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