Tokyo station guide. How to change the trains, Shinkansen, Narita Express and other local trains.

Looking to track#9 and 10 (Tokaido Rapid trains) from track#20 for Tohoku Shinkansen at Tokyo Station (C) JP Rail

Tokyo station is the biggest station in Japan. And most of you use this station to get on Shinkansen, Narita Express or Tokyo local trains. But this station is very complicated because it is too big and too many platforms.

In this post, I would like to explain about this station and how to change the train in Tokyo station.


All lines on conventional lines have a line color, such as orange color for Chuo line. (C) JP Rail

First of all, please see Tokyo station map on JR East website.

Tokyo station is composed of three parts, ground floor, underground (Sobu line/Rapid, Narita Express) and another underground (Keiyo line/local train to Maihama, TDL). I think this is the biggest reason why Tokyo station is so complicated. There are 20 tracks at the ground floor. Another 4 tracks each at both underground floor.

Ticket gate/Exit

There are more than 10 exits (ticket gate). These exits are divided broadly into two sides, Yaesu and Marunouchi. The exits looking toward the east (lower side on the map) are called “Yaesu (八重洲)”. The exits looking toward the west (upper on the map) are called “Marunouchi (丸の内)”. Each sides have North exit, Central exit, South exit and some more exits. When you exit/enter, just make sure Marunouchi (west) or Yaesu (east). You don’e need to be nervous about North, Central and South. You can move easily after you exit.

At Yaesu side, there are many exits.

For all trains — Yaesu South, Yaesu Central, Yaesu North
For Tokaido/Sanyo Shinkansen (to Nagoya, Kyoto, Shin-Osaka, Hiroshima, Hakata) — Yaes South, Yaesu North Central, Yaesu North, Nihonbashi
For Tohoku, Joetsu, Nagano, Akita, Yamagata Shikansen (to Sendai, Shin-Aomori, Niigata, Nagano, Akita, Yamagata) — Nihonbashi

Tokaido/Sanyo Shinkansen is shown by blue and Tohoku and other four Shinkansens are shown by Green.

When you get on Shinkansen, you need to go through Shinkansen ticket gate or transfer gate. If you get on Tokaido/Sanyo Shikansen from Tokyo station Yaesu side, you can use Shinaksen ticket gate at Yaesu south exit, Yaesu central north exit or Nihonbashi exit (north side of Yaesu north exit). These three exits are only for Tokaido/Sanyo Shinkansen passengers. Be careful! You cannot get on Tohoku, Joetsu, Nagano, Akita and Yamagata Shinkansen from these exits. These Shinaksens are completely different from Tokaido/Sanyo Shinkansen. Only Nihonbashi exit can be used for all Shikansen lines. Otherwise enter Tokyo station from South, Central or North and go through Shinkasen transfer gate. But Tokaido/Sanyo Shinkansen is completely different line from Tohoku, Joetsu, Nagano, Akita and Yamagata Shinkansen. Shinkansen transfer gate is different. There are lots of sign. But please make sure before go through. Tokaido/Sanyo Shikansen

At Marunouchi side, it is very simple. Six exits, South, Central and North at both ground and underground. There is no Shinkansen ticket gates. So if you get on Tokaido/Sanyo Shinkansen from Tokyo station Marunouchi side, you can go through any exits and enter Tokyo station anyway. After you enter Tokyo station, you need to go through one more ticket gate, Shinkansen transfer gate.

If you transfer from any conventional line trains, just go through Shinkansen transfer gate. You don’t need to exit the station.

And also there are one more exits at underground, Keiyo underground Yaesu exit near Keiyo line tracks.

Tracks and platforms

There are 20 tracks / 10 platforms on ground floor and 4 tracks / 2 platforms each at both underground.

Ground floor

You can get on Local commute train, Rapid service and limited express trains on conventional lines at track #1-10.

Track# Name of line Destination
1,2 ■Chuo line Shinjuku, Hachioji, Takao
3 Keihin Tohoku line Akihabara, Ueno, Omiya
4 ■Yamanote line Akihabara, Ueno, Ikebukuro
5 ■Yamanote line Yurakucho, Shinbashi, Hamamatsucho, Shinagawa, Shibuya
6 ■Keihin Tohoku line Hamamatsucho, Shinagawa, Yokohama, Ofuna
7,8 ■Ueno Tokyo line Ueno, Utsunomiya, Takasaki, Omiya, Mito
Limited Express Hitachi, Tokiwa
9,10 Tokaido line Shinagawa, Yokohama, Odawara, Atami, Izukyu-Shimoda, Shuzenji
Limited Express Sunrise Seto / Surise Izumo, Limited Express Super View Odoriko / Odoriko, Rapid Moonlight Nagara, Other rapid trains
*Some trains depart from track #7, #8.

There are 4 tracks / 2 platforms for Tohoku, Joetsu, Nagano, Akita and Yamagata Shinkansen and another 6 tracks / 3 platforms for Tokaido/Sanyo Shinkansen.

Track# Name of line Destination
14-19 Tokaido Shinkansen Nagoya, Kyoto, Shin-Osaka, Hiroshima, Hakata
20-23 Tohoku, Joetsu, Hokuriku (Nagano), Akita, Yamagata Shinkansen Sendai, Shin-Aomori, Akita, Yamagata, Niigata, Nagano

There is a lot of tracks. But it is not complicated to transfer the trains on ground floor. I think 10 minutes is enough to transfer any trains on ground floor.

Underground Sobu (地下総武) – Narita Express, Rapid Airport Narita

At Marunouchi Underground Central Exit (C) JP Rail
There are 4 tracks / 2 platforms that are located at deep underground, basement fifth floor. If you take the trains to/from Narita airport, you will use these underground tracks.

Track# Name of line Destination
1,2 ■Yokosuka line Rapid train to Yokohama, Ofuna, Yokosuka, Narita Express from Narita airport to Shinagawa, Yokohama, Shinjuku, Shibuya, Ikebukuro, Omiya,Limited Express Shiosai/Ayame from Choshi, Kashima-Jingu
3,4 ■Sobu line Rapid Airport Narita to Chiba, Narita airport, Narita Express from Shinagawa, Yokohama, Shinjuku, Shibuya, Ikebukuro, Omiya to Narita airport, Limited Express Shiosai/Ayame to Choshi, Kashima-Jingu
At Marunouchi Central Exit. Don’t exit here. Take the way to right and follow the sign Marunouchi Underground Central Exit. (C) JP Rail

These underground platforms can be accessed beside Marunouchi central exit. There are many signs that say “Narita Express” or “Sobu line” or “Yokosuka line”. When you transfer to other trains from Narita Express or Airport Narita, you just take escalator or stairs to go up. But if you transfer to Narita Express or Airport Narita, you should remember to follow the sign that says Marunoucmi Central or Marunouchi Underground Central. You may be able to get there faster.

I recommend you to have 15 minutes to transfer between this underground platform and other platforms on ground floor. Especially Shinkansen’s platform is located at other side. However if you transfer from Narita Express or Airport Narita to Tokaido/Sanyo Shinkansen (to Nagoya, Kyoto, Shin-Osaka, Hiroshima or Hakata), you can transfer at Shinagawa. Shinagawa station is a big station too. But it is smaller than Tokyo station and all platforms are located at ground floor. It is much easier and faster to transfer. Please see the map of Shinagawa station at JR East website.

Underground Keiyo (地下京葉) – local train to Maihama, Soga, Matsudo

There are some moving sidewalk and escalators on the way to Keiyo line tracks because it is far. (C) JP Rail

There are 4 tracks / 2 platforms that are located at deep underground, basement fourth floor. If you take the trains to/from Maihama (the nearest station of Tokyo Disney Land), you will use these underground tracks.

Track# Name of line Destination
1,2 ■Keiyo line Local train to Shin-Kiba, Maihama, Soga, Matsudo, Limited Express Wakashio to Katsuura, Awakamogawa, Limited Express Sazanami to Tateyama
1-4 ■Keiyo line Local train to Shin-Kiba, Maihama, Soga, Matsudo
Signs are shown in both Japanese and English. (C) JP Rail

These underground platforms can be accessed beside Yaesu South exit. There are many signs that say “Keiyo line”. But this platform is very far. It is 600m away from Yaesu South. So I recommend you to have 15 minutes to transfer between this underground platform and other platforms on ground floor. Especially most of local lines, such as Chuo line, Yamanote line and Keihin-Tohoku line, are located at other side. Please remember to go to Yaesu South and find the way to Keiyo line tracks.

If you transfer from Sobu line, such as Narita Express or Rapid Airport Narita, it takes at least 20 minutes. If you can find Underground south exit at Underground Sobu, exit Tokyo station and go through Marunouchi Jiyu Tsuro (丸の内自由通路). This way is a bit faster than going through Tokyo station. Anyway it is very far. I can’t believe it is in same station.

Exchange office at Yaesu North. (C) JP Rail

Japan Rail Pass exchange office

There are two places where you can do. Both places are located at Yaesu side. First one is located by Yaesu North exit. This office is just for foreign travellers. The other one is located beside Yaesu Central Exit. It is in JR Central (Tokai) ticket center. Both office is open from 7:30 to 20:30. I think exchange office at Yaesu North is more familiar with overseas travellers.

338 thoughts on “Tokyo station guide. How to change the trains, Shinkansen, Narita Express and other local trains.”

  1. Hi Takeshi

    Thanks for your urgent advice.
    I am Travelling with my older mom from Tokyo to Kyoto on 17.8.17 & am concerned about the crowded trains/ train pushers.

    I have a few options but need advice regarding best way to avoid crowds.

    1. Take yamanote from Shinjuku hotel at 6.30 am to shinagawa, then bullet about 10 to 1030 am

    2. Take yamanote to shinagawa at 9am, then bullet about 11am (buy reserved bullet on 14.8.17).

    3. Take rapid Chuo line from Shinjuku to Tokyo station about 9 am, then buy lunch & take bullet at 11.30 to 12(as I am concerned about getting lost as station is very big

    4. Take chuo line at 6.30 am to Tokyo instead of 9 am.
    Of all these, which will avoid crowds, both peak & non peak ,but specially train pushers problem as Mom is older.

    How do I Ensure the ticket I buy for chuo line is for the rapid & not the yellow chuo line & do I have to change train in the middle from Shinjuku to Tokyo?

    How do I transfer from chuo line to Kyoto bullet at Tokyo?
    Do I tap out of turnstile after exiting train and then walk Long distance to Kyoto bullet gate & tap in to enter ? (Is it at transfer gate?)

    Do I have to buy a ticket for chuo line, and then a basic and limited express ticket for bullet? If the basic ticket covers both the chuo rapid & the bullet basic ticket , is there a chance it will get swallowed & I don’t have the basic bullet ticket to insert at the bullet gate?

    Thanks much.


    1. Hi Rebecca,

      If you take a train at 6:30, it’s very very quiet. After 9:00, it’s not quiet but acceptable. You can take either Yamanote line or Chuo line. It doesn’t matter but Shinagawa is easier to change trains.
      In your thought, you will have two hours in Tokyo or Shinagawa. It’s way too much. If you just change trains, 30 minutes is fine even if you worry about losing ways. There are lots of signage and you will not lose your way. You can add 30 minutes if you want to buy something.

      It’s Obon season. Even if you take train at 7:00 am, it’s still okay. It will not be super crowded in this period.

      You can use same ticket from Shinjuku to Kyoto. But you have to choose the route, via Shinagawa or Tokyo when you purchase and book your ticket. You can slot your ticket at the machine gate. If you worry about it, just show your ticket to station officer. They will make sure you can slot your ticket or not.


      Takeshi /

  2. Hello Takeshi
    Can you tell me where I can find shinkansen (especially Hikari) schedule from Tokyo station – Kyoto station? Thanks

  3. hello Takeshi,
    thanks for your information, then i would like to know how if i arrive at tokyo station by narita express and then i want to transfer to yamanote line? what direction should i take?

    many thanks before

    1. Hi Tiwi,

      You just go up to the ground floor. And then take a direction to Yaesu side. You can find the signage of Yamanote line quickly.
      Anyway there are lots of signage and you can find the direction easily.


      Takeshi /

    2. Unless you are heading North (counter clockwise – naka mawari) on the Yamanote line, you may find it easier to change trains at Shinagawa, or Shinjuku stations. At these stations all trains are on the same ground level. At Tokyo station the Narita Express is at basement level 5.

  4. Hi takeshi we will be traveling from Shibuya, Tokyo to Namba, Osaka. It there a Shinkansen that will stop directly at Namba Station? Do you have recommendations on how to travel with luggages with us? Thank you!

  5. hi takeshi
    arriving haneda at 1:30 pm, i understand i have to change my jr voucher that i will buy in the USA to a jr pass in the airport. i have to take the shinkansen immediately to kyoto as soon as i can. what is the fastest way for me to get from haneda to tokyo station. because i arrive the same afternoon as i will take the tokaido shinkansen does it mean i cannot reserve seats but will i still be able to take the train to kyoto ? do i just line up for the next available train? thank you

    1. Hi minnie,

      As you said, you have to exchange your JR pass at Haneda.

      You can book your seat to Kyoto on Shinkansen when you exchange JR pass.

      And then, you have two choices.
      1. Haneda (Monorail) Hamamatsusho (JR Yamanote line) Tokyo (Shinkansen) Kyoto
      2. Haneda (Keihin Kyuko) Shinagawa (Shinkansen) Kyoto

      Option 1 is covered by JR pass fully. Option 2 is faster and easier but you have to pay 410 yen to take Keihin Kyuko. Keihin Kyuko is non JR and not covered by JR pass. Please see the link below to find the info about Shinagawa station.


      Takeshi /

  6. For anybody thinking of using the Narita Express (and who wants to save money!), you can now use the Access Narita bus service, which starts at Ginza Station (very easy to find the bust stop), then stops at Tokyo Station before going by highway to Narita. They run every 15 minutes and cost only Y1,000 each way (1/3 of the cost of the Narita Express!!), and you pay on the bus, no need to book in advance. They also have very late night and very early morning buses which are more expensive.

    Full details here in English:

    I often have outward flights from Narita and returns to Haneda, so I’ve only ever used the outbound buses.

  7. Hello Takeshi!

    We plan to take Narita Express next Wednesday from Narita Airport to Ikebukoro but I have some questions. Our plane arrives 6:05 in the morning.

    1. Does JR still have the round trip fare of 4,000 yen?

    2. If yes, where do we buy the ticket that early? Or do you suggest we book online? Can I get the link?

    3. Is this counted as round trip – Narita Airport to Ikebukoro then going back Shibuya to Narita Airport.

    4. Which timetable should I use between the two? Is there a more updated one? These two have different schedule. I wonder which is correct. or

    Thank you.

    1. Hi Jude,

      Actually all info can be found in the link below:

      You can use this ticket to/from any JR stations in downtown Tokyo and surrounding area, like, Narita-Ikebukuro, Shibuya-Tokyo.

      These are most updated timetable.


      Takeshi /

  8. Hi Takeshi san,

    I will be travelling from Maihama Station to Shinjuku Station.
    From Maihama to Tokyo, will be using Keiyo line.
    From Tokyo to Shinjuku, will be using Chuo line.

    It seems to be quite a distance to walk from Keiyo line to Chuo line. Which direction should I go once I exit the platform at Keiyo line? I will be bringing 2 children and tagging luggage along. The Tokyo station is so big and crowded, I’m worried that we may go the wrong direction especially since the distance is quite far away from these 2 lines.

    Appreciate your advice. Thank you


  9. Narita Express 52 Tokyo Station Arrival 21:48
    Hikari 539 Tokyo Station Departure 22:00
    Is there enough time for transfer?
    Can I but the Hikari ticket at Narita Airport?
    Thank you

    1. Hi Bambi,

      It’s not impossible but it’s a bit tight. You must understand the direction in Tokyo station.
      You can purchase Hikari ticket at Narita airport. You don’t have a time to do it in Tokyo station. So you should get it before you leave Narita.

      By the way, do you have enough time in Narita airport. If you miss Narita Express, you cannot catch Hikari. This is the last Hikari. This train connection seems to be a bit risky.


      Takeshi /

      1. Thank you for your reply.

        Yes I understand I should buy the Hikari ticket at Narita Airport – Thank you .
        Maybe I should change trains at Shinagawa station?
        I arrive Narita at 19:10 so I may be able to catch an earlier Narita Express (?)

        Also if I buy a return Narita Express Ticket do I need to specify the exact train for the return when buying?
        Thank you

        1. Hi Banbi,

          You can change trains at Shinagawa. It’s much easier because Shinagawa station is smaller than Tokyo. I think you can catch earlier Narita Express and Hikari as long as your flight arrive on time.

          If you want to reserve Narita Express to Narita, you have to decide which train you will take. You cannot book without this.


          Takeshi /

          1. Hello Takeshi 様

            Thank you for your reply.
            One last question:
            May 15 Narita Express towards Tokyo
            May 29 Narita Expres towards Narita
            is this counted as 14 days for the discounted rate return ticket?
            Thank you

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