people walking toward their trains and subways inside a train stationin Japan

Step-by-Step Guide on How to Use Train and Subway in Tokyo Japan

Is you Tokyo, Japan trip coming up? Are you confused and intimidated by the plethora of info out there that you need to look into, in order to figure out how to use Tokyo’s trains and subways to get around Tokyo? This can be a confusing and daunting task, especially for first-time visitors.

However, with a little bit of preparation and knowledge, you can easily and smoothly get around the city. Below, I will be sharing a super simple, step-by-step guide for using Tokyo’s trains and subway in a stress-free manner. One that anyone (yes, that’s including YOU!) could pick up and successfully use in your trip. So let’s jump in!

Step 1 : Rent a pocket WiFi

Any seasoned traveler to Japan know that a pocket WiFi is an essential part of his/her trip, especially for those who rely on Google Maps or other navigation apps to get around. A reliable pocket WiFi is the best investment you could ever have for your Tokyo and Japan adventuring. One which allows you to stay connected and navigate the streets and public transport with ease, while maintaining peace of mind.

a black color pockte WiFi from JapanWireless and list of benefits of having one for your Tokyo Japan travel

Here are some tips to help you with renting a pocket wifi :

Research different rental options : There are many companies that offer pocket WiFi rental services in Japan, so it’s a good idea to do your research and compare usage terms, prices and packages. Look for companies that offer unlimited data, good coverage, reliable and English-speaking customer service, and meet your travel needs.

Reserve in advance : Pocket wifi rentals are popular among tourists, so it’s best to reserve your device in advance (1 to 2 weeks before your trip) to ensure availability. You can reserve online or through a travel agent, and your device can usually be picked up at the airport or delivered to your hotel.

Understand the rental terms and conditions : Make sure to read the rental terms and conditions carefully, including any fees, data limits, or penalties for lost or damaged devices. Also, be aware of the return policy and any fees for late returns.

Step 2 : Purchase an IC Card (Suica or Pasmo Card)

Before you even set foot in Tokyo, it’s a good idea to purchase a Suica or Pasmo card. These are rechargeable smart transit cards (called IC cards) that can be used on trains, subways, buses, and even at convenience stores and vending machines.

Having a Suica or Pasmo card will make your transportation experience much simpler and smoother. All you need to do is tap the card on the IC card reader at the gate to automatically pay your fares. No worry about carrying cash and ducking in and out of the ticket vending machines or ticket counters to buy individual tickets every time you ride.

Pasmo smart transit IC card with silver background and pink train icon and thw word Pasmo on it

You can purchase a Suica or Pasmo card at any major train and metro station in Tokyo, including Narita and Haneda airports. Simply look for the Suica or Pasmo vending machines, or any ticket vending machine with a “IC Card” label on it, select “Purchase a New Card”, and follow the instructions to purchase your card.

You’ll need to pay a small initial deposit for the card, which you can get back when you return the card at the end of your trip.

If you want to know more about Pasmo or Suica cards’ benefits, how to use them, and get all of your questions answered, read my “Stress-Free Tokyo Travel with IC Cards : Everything You Need to Know” post here.

Step 3: Use Google Maps

Google Maps is your best friend when it comes to using Tokyo’s trains and subways, and the same applies for the rest of Japan. Simply input your destination, and Google Maps will give you the best route options, including train and subway lines, transfer stations, and even walking directions.

Here are some tips for using Google Maps to plan your routes:

1 – Input Your Destination : Open Google Maps and input your destination. You can do this by searching for the desired destination name or address, or by selecting it on the map.

2 – Select Public Transit : Once you’ve input your destination, select the “Directions” icon at the top of the screen. Then select the public transit option (a small train icon) at the top of the screen.

3 – Review Your Route Options : Google Maps will show you several different route options, including train and subway lines, number of transfer stations, and total walking time in minutes. It will also provide information on the estimated travel time and any fares required.

4 – Customize Your Route : If you want to customize your route, you can do so by selecting the “…” icon at the top right of the screen, and choose “Options”. Here you can choose whether to prioritize walking, minimize transfers, or avoid certain modes of transportation.

5 – Additional Perk with Using Google Maps : Once you get off your train or subway, Google Maps also shows you the closest Exit to get to your destination the fastest, so make sure to utilize this tip for an easier experience. It can also shows you step-by-step walking directions from your current location all the way to your destination. Awesome, right?

Overall, using Google Maps is a great way to plan your routes and ensure that you don’t get lost or waste time while finding your way by train or subway or walking. By following the steps outlined above, you should be able to navigate Tokyo with ease and confidence.

Step 4: Follow the Signs

Once you are at the train or subway station and about to head to your ride, look for signs that indicate the direction of your desired train or subway line. Most signs are in both Japanese and English, so you should be able to navigate easily.

Many stations are quite large and have multiple levels, so knowing which path and exit to take can save you a lot of time and stress. Following the signs in Tokyo’s train and subway stations is crucial for finding your way around and reaching your destination.

Here are some additional tips for following the signs:

1 – Look for Station Maps : Most train and subway stations have maps posted at various points throughout the station. These maps show the layout of the station, including the location of different train and subway lines, transfer points, and exits. Take a moment to study the map before setting off to your destination.

2 – Follow the Arrows : Once you have studied the station map, look for signs that indicate the direction of your desired train or subway line. These signs usually have arrows that point you in the right direction. Follow the arrows until you reach the platform for your train or subway line.

3 – Pay Attention to Color-Coding : Many train and metro lines in Tokyo are color-coded. Pay attention to the name and color of the train or metro line you need to take and look for signs that match that color. This can help you quickly identify the correct train or subway line.

4 – Follow Station Exit Signs : Once you’ve arrived at your destination station, look for signs that indicate the exit you need to take. Many stations have multiple exits, so it’s important to know which one to take in order to reach your destination. If you’re not sure which exit to take, ask a station attendant or consult your smartphone for directions. If you use Google Maps to navigate, it will tell you the best exit to take for your destination.

Remember to take your time, stay calm, and ask for help if you need it.

Step-by-Step Example on Finding Your Subway Line and Use It to Get to Your Destination

To help you visualize the process of using Google Maps and navigating the station, here’s a easy-to-understand example of going from Tokyo Metro Station to Shinjuku Metro Station. From scratch.

1 – First, assume you are standing in Tokyo metro station, and you want to get to Shinjuku metro station to explore the bustling shops and eateries around the Shinjuku metro station. After entering “Shinjuku metro station” as your destination into Google Maps, this is what Google Maps will show you :

Google Maps screen showing directions on how to get from Tokyo metro station to Shinjuku metro station, with subway line name, number of stops, time traveled, and fare cost

We see that according to Google Maps, Tokyo station is labeled “M17” and Shinjuku station is “M8”. What that means is that on the Marunouchi metro line, Tokyo station is the 17th stop on its daily route, and Shinjuku is the 8th stop.

2 – With that in mind, we are now ready to start! From the ticket gate at Tokyo Metro Station, follow the signs that lead you to the Marunouchi Line (color-coded in red). Look for the signs that have a red circle with an “M” in the middle, and follow them.

3 – Once you reach the Marunouchi Line platform: As we want to go from M17 to M08 (from a higher number to a lower number), look for the train that is heading towards “Ogikubo” (M01) or “Honancho” (M03) stations. These two stations are located along the same line as Shinjuku Station (M08), and taking a train towards either station will get you closer to Shinjuku.

4 – Board the train and take a seat or hold on to one of the straps or handles inside the train. The train ride from Tokyo Metro Station to Shinjuku Metro Station usually takes around 18 minutes.

5 – Once you arrive at Shinjuku Metro Station, follow the signs that guide you towards the East Exit as shown on Goodle Maps. The East Exit is the closest exit to the main commercial district of Shinjuku. Follow the signs that lead you to the East Exit, which is located on the ground level of the station. You will need to take an escalator or stairs down to reach the exit.

Once you reach the East Exit, you will see a large pedestrian street that is lined with shops, restaurants, and cafes. From there, you can easily navigate your way to the various attractions and landmarks in the area.

And that’s it! Follow Google Maps and this process for any ride, and you are good to go.

Step 5 : Follow Train and Subway Etiquette

Japan is known for its strict train and subway etiquette and being mindful to others, so it’s important to follow the rules to avoid causing any disruptions or offending other passengers. Some important etiquette tips to keep in mind include :

  • Stand on the left side of the escalator and leave the right side open for people who want to walk up or down the escalator.
  • Line up properly while waiting for trains or subways : When waiting in line to board a train or subway, make sure to stand behind the designated line or markers. Also, don’t try to cut in line or push your way through the crowd.
Queuing up waiting for the train to arrive at station
  • Avoid blocking the doors : When boarding or exiting a train or subway, make sure to stand to the side and allow others to pass through. Don’t stand in front of the doors or block the way for others.
  • Keep your voice down and avoid talking on the phone : In Japan, it is considered impolite to speak loudly on public transportation, especially on trains and subways where people are often commuting to and from work. If you need to make a phone call, it’s best to step off the train or subway and find a quiet area to talk.
  • Don’t eat or drink on the train or subway : It is considered rude to eat or drink on public transportation in Japan. Instead, you should wait until you arrive at your destination or find a designated eating area outside of the train or subway station.
  • Give up your seat for those in need : If you are sitting on a train or subway and you see someone who is elderly, pregnant, or disabled, it is polite to offer them your seat. This gesture is greatly appreciated in Japan and is seen as a sign of respect. It is also the law.
  • Don’t run to catch a train or subway : In Japan, it is considered impolite to run on public transportation. If you miss your train or subway, it’s best to wait for the next one rather than running to catch it.
  • Keep your belongings to yourself : Make sure to keep your belongings close to you and avoid taking up too much space on the train or subway. It is also important to avoid blocking the aisles or doors with your bags or luggage.

By following these simple rules of train and subway etiquette, you can show respect to the Japanese culture and make your travels a more enjoyable experience for everyone. If you’re ever unsure about what to do, just follow the lead of the locals and observe their behavior.

Step 6: Enjoy Your Ride!

Finally, sit back, relax, and enjoy your ride! Tokyo’s trains and subways are some of the most efficient and reliable in the world, and they offer a great way to explore the city.


Navigating Tokyo’s public transportation system doesn’t have to be stressful or overwhelming, especially with the tips and steps provided in this blog post. With a bit of planning and a positive attitude, you can confidently explore this amazing city and experience all that it has to offer! I hope that you found this blog post both informative and enjoyable to read.

Don’t forget to check out my other helpful blog posts on Tokyo Japan travel, where you can discover even more practical, simple, and time-saving insider tips to make your trip easy breezy and unforgettable!

If you have any questions, concerns, or just want to share your own travel stories, I’d love to hear from you! Please feel free to reach out to me at, and let’s chat. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog post, and happy travels in Tokyo!

Post You Might be Interested In

Interested in knowing more about the super awesome Pasmo and Suica IC cards mentioned above? Read my “Stress-Free Tokyo Travel with IC Cards : Everything You Need to Know” post here.

Wonder what other awesome tips you could get in order to navigate Tokyo and Japan in general smoothly and stress-free, with or without a JR Pass ? Read my “12 Ultimate Tips for Taking Tokyo’s Public Transport With Ease” post here.

Wonder what the JR Pass everyone talks about all the time is? More importantly, if getting a JR Pass would be a good idea and save you a lot of money on transportation costs? Get concise and practical answers here in my “Japan Rail Pass : Answers to All Your Questions, and Is It Worth Buying? post.

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