How much can we use Japan Rail Pass in downtown Tokyo?

Yamanote line is the busiest train service in Japan.
Yamanote line is the busiest train service in Japan.

I wrote the post about Tokyo subway long time ago. I mentioned that Subway is the best for sightseeing in Tokyo. But some of you travel in Japan for 7 days that include Tokyo. You still can use Japan Rail Pass 7 days pass to explore in Tokyo. So I would like to explain more about Japan Railways local trains in Tokyo. And also I will tell you which popular spot you cannot access by Japan Railway.

*The information in this article is current at the time of writing.

Overview Japan Railways local lines in downtown Tokyo

First of all, let’s make sure how many lines Japan Railway have in downtown Tokyo. Please see the map below. I show you Japan Railways’ lines that you need to take in Tokyo. I don’t show you all stations and lines. I show you only major lines and stations.


View How much can we use Japan Rail Pass in downtown Tokyo? in a larger map

Chuo line has orange color (left) and Keihin Tohoku line has sky blue color (right).

They have five lines in Tokyo. All five lines are very busy commute line. Weekdays’ timetable is different from the weekend. But it is not much different. The traveller cannot notice that. The trains are operated every 3-5 minutes in peak hours and 5 to 10 minutes in non peak hours. Usually the train is started to operate around 6:00am and the last one is around 0:30am. So you don’t need to check the timetable. You can take the train anytime.

And each lines have different line color. This color is shown on the platform and train. This coloring let the passenger find the right train easier. The summary of these lines are the following:

Yamanote line (line color Yellow Green)

It is a loop line and connecting most of major downtown cores, like Tokyo, Yurakucho (Ginza), Shinagawa, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ikebukuro and Ueno. This is the busiest line in Japan. The train comes every 2.5 minutes in peak hours and every 4 minutes even in daytime. Most of sightseeing spots are located inside or along Yamanote line. You may take this train many times. Even if you use a subway one day pass, you may take Yamanote line.

Sobu line has Yellow color.

Chuo-Sobu line (line color Yellow)

This line connects Chiba with Mitaka via Shinjuku. The trains go through downtown Tokyo east and west. There are Ryogoku (the nearest station to “Kokugikan” Sumo tournament arena), Akaihabara, and Tokyo dome along this line. If you go to Chiba, don’t take this train. Take Yokosuka-Sobu Rapid train. This is way faster than Sobu line train.

Chuo line Rapid (line color Orange)

This line connects Tokyo with Takao via Shinjuku and Hachoiji. The train comes every 2.5 minutes in peak hours and every 4 minutes in non peak hours. It is as busy as Yamanote line. This train goes on same route between Tokyo and Kanda as Yamanote line and between Ochanomizu and Mitaka as Sobu line. But Chuo line train is operated as rapid service. It stop at only Kanda, Ochanomizu, Yotsuyabetween Tokyo and Shinjuku except early morning and late night.

Keihin Tohoku line (line color Sky Blue)

This line goes from Omiya (Saitama) to Ofuna (near Kamakura) via Yokohama. The train runs every 5-10 minutes. This line runs with Yamanote line between Tabata station and Shinagawa. But this lines’ train skip several station in daytime on this section. The trains stop at Ueno, Aihabara, Tokyo, Hamamatsucho and Tamachi. If you travel on this section, Keihin Tohoku line is faster than Yamanote line. Be careful that the trains do not stop at Yurakucho and Shinbashi.
This train take you to Yokohama. But this is not good idea to take this train to outside of downtown Tokyo. This train is not fast train service. You should better take Yokosuka-Sobu Rapid train or Tokaido Rapid train. These rapid trains a sort of commute trans. You don’t need to pay any express surcharge. You can take with a basic fare only. Please see the details at Rapid train service network in Greater Tokyo.
Most of trains goes on Negishi line from Yokohama to Ofuna. There are several popular spots in Yokohama waterfront area, such as Minato Mirai, China town, Yamashita park. You may take this train from Yokohama to the west.

This line goes along Tokyo bay area.

Keiyo line (line color Wine Red)

This line connects Tokyo with Soga (Chiba). Tokyo Disney Land and Tokyo Disney Sea are located at Maihama station on Keiyo line. Tokyo station of this line is located at basement 4th floor. It is very deep underground. You need to spend at least 20 minutes to change the train to Keiyo line train from other trains, like Shinkansen, Yamanote line, Narita Express, Chuo line.

Tsukiji Fish Market

Which spots you cannot go by Japan Railway trains?

Please see the map above again. I put most of popular spots in Tokyo on the map. They are shown by the icon of camera, shrine and shopping bag. As I mentioned to you, most of spots are located along Yamanote line, like Akihabara, Shibuya, Harajuku, Shinjuku and Ueno park. Imperial Palace is a bit away from Tokyo station. But it is still within walking distance (appx 10-15 mintes from Tokyo station). Tokyo Tower can be accessed from Hamamatsucho station on Yamanote line and Keihin Tohoku line. It is 15 minutes walk away. But these following spots are not accessible from Japan Railways’ stations:

  • Asakusa
    The station that has very similar name, “Asakusabashi” is on Chuo-Sobu line. But this station is not located in Asakusa. You need to take Subway. Please see the details at the post, How to access to Asakusa.
  • Roppongi
    Roppongi is located in south part of downtown Tokyo. It is not accessible by Japan Railways. Take Tokyo Metro subway Marunouchi line from Tokyo station to Kasumigaseki and transfer to Hibiya line to Roppongi. The fare is around 160 yen and takes 15 minutes. If you access from Shinjuku, take Toei subway Oedo line to Roppongi. The fare is around 210 yen and take 10-15 minutes.
  • National Diet
    It is near Roppongi and not accessible by Japan Railways either.
  • Tsukiji Market
    You can walk from Shinbashi statin. But it is 20 minutes away. I recommend you to take Toei subway Oedo line. The market is located just above Oedo line Tuskiji Market station. You can take Oedo line from Shinjuku. The fare is around 260 yen and take 20 minutes. If you access from Tokyo station, take Yamanote line or Keihin Tohoku line to Hamamatsucho and transfer to Daimon station on Toei subway Oedo line. The fare is 170 yen for subway and take 20 mintues altogether.
  • Odaiba
    This waterfront is located in the island. It cannot be accessed by Japan Railway. You need to take Yurikamome (automated train service) at Shinbashi statoin on Yamanote line. The fare is 310 yen for Yurikamome and 15 minutes from Shinbashi.
  • Tokyo Sky Tree
    This is the newest spot in Tokyo. This highest tower in the world (not highest building) is located at east of Asakusa and cannot be accessed by Japan Railway. If you access from Tokyo station, take Tokyo Metro subway Hanzomon line at Otemachi station. Otemachi station is located at same place as Tokyo station. The fare is 190 yen and take 15 minutes.

Do we need to buy subway pass?

As you have seen, you may need to take subway even if you use Japan Rail Pass. The single fare is not expensive. But you can buy one day pass at 710 yen for Tokyo Metro and 1000 yen for both Tokyo Metro and Toei subway lines. There are two subway companies in Tokyo. So if you have a plan to visit several place that cannot be accessed by Japan Railway, I recommend you to buy
Subway pass. But Yurikamome to Odaiba is not included in Subway lines. You need to buy a single ticket anyway. Please see the details about subway pass at the post, Fast, economical and convenient for sightseeing in Tokyo. Learn about Tokyo Subways.

350 thoughts on “How much can we use Japan Rail Pass in downtown Tokyo?”

  1. Ohaiyo gozaimasu Takeshi-san,

    Good day to you.

    I am planing to visit japan for 2 weeks.
    I will arrive in Tokyo 8 April and stay till 11/4.
    Then proceed to Kyoto/Osaka/Kanazawa till 16/4 and back to Tokyo and stay till 22/4. I would like to seek your advise is” should i buy 7 days or 14 days JR pass”.

    Thank you very much and have a nice day sir.

    Minn TH

    1. Hi Minn TH,

      7 days pass is okay. Because when you are in Tokyo, subway pass or single ticket is okay for daily sightseeing in downtown Tokyo. Please see some more info about train system in Tokyo at the link below:
      http://jprail.com/destinations/kanto-area/tokyo-kanto-area/guide-to-take-trains-in-tokyo-how-to-choose-the-best-deal-and-the-best-route-by-train-to-get-the-major-spots.html
      http://www.tokyometro.jp/en/ticket/value/airport_bus/index.html
      http://www.tokyometro.jp/en/ticket/value/travel/index.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  2. Hi, im traveling to japan in 2 weeks. Is it worth it to purchase jr pass 7days? I’m staying my 2 first night in osaka , kyoto 1night then tokyo 4nights (which is mostly we are just gonna spend our 4days in tokyo itself) and how much will I add more if I wanna take the bullet train from kyoto to tokyo (2 hours and 20 minutes, the fastest way I think) thank you!

  3. Hi,

    Could I use the IC card in subways? I’m planning to get the palmo. I think I read from somewhere that I could use it on non-JR trains and buses.

    Thanks,
    Karen

  4. Ohaiyo gozaimasu Takeshi-san

    I just want to thank you for this well prepared and detailed website. Even thought I dream about Japan for years, still feel like I’m so ignorant about it when i start to preparate my first, amazing, dreamy Japan trip in September. I just want to be more equipped with this due i started to take Japanese course one month before. It will be my first overseas holiday, too. Just like you can see -i talk too much, more than enough, sorry- i’m exited and a little bit thrilled. I will spend my five days Korea and than head to Japan via ferry from Busan to Fukuoka. I don’t see any itinerary like this, and started to think “am i doing wrong? Should I go to Tokyo first right after Fukuoka and than wander around Tokyo – Kyoto – Kobe etc”

    I want to see Hiroshima and so many things about Japan. I just have 21 full days to spend there. I know even months won’t be enough, but do you suggest me to go Tokyo first and spend more time in big sities, or do i need to enjoy a well and round shinkansen trip from fukuoka to Tokyo -with my Jrail pass ticket, I don’t even know where can i exchance it in Fukuoka, damn-

    Can I buy three days Tokyo Metro ticket if i go Haneda Airport directly when i’m not airline passengers? And should i use it from the day one in Tokyo, or can i save it for another days for start to use?

    Sorry for this long post and for my limited English. I will apreciate all kind of reply of you.

    Thank you.
    Rabia, Turkey.

    1. Hi Rabia,

      It’s completely no problem if you start your trip in Fukuoka. If you intend to use JR Pass, you can exchange it at Hakata station, Fukuoka.
      http://www.japanrailpass.net/en/exchange.html

      If you have JR pass, you can access many places in Tokyo.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/tips-for-japan-rail-pass/best-way-efficient-how-much-can-we-use-japan-rail-pass-in-downtown-tokyo.html

      You have to make sure that you need to purchase subway pass or not before you buy.

      You will spend 21 days in Japan, so I recommend you to use 21 days JR Pass. I think you want to see many places in Japan. JR Pass gives you full access to most part of Japan.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

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