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.

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.

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

  1. Hi Takeshi.

    My family and I are traveling to Japan in February. We will be in Tokyo for the first two days, then head on for two days in Kyoto, before taking a flight from Kansai and spend three days in Sapporo. On our last day we will be heading back to Tokyo on a shinkansen to catch our flight home from Haneda Airport. Will JR Pass be very useful to us during our stay in Japan?

  2. Hi! Hope you can help me with this.

    I’m staying in Japan for 10 days on April 2018. 3 days in tokyo then 3rd day we will travel to Kyoto. Spend 2 days there then 1 day in Osaka. Same day I will travel to Nagoya where I will meet my cousin and from then on she will drive me anywhere until my flight again in Tokyo.

    Do you think it is smart to buy the 7 day pass or no?

    1. Hi Tricia,

      JR pass may not work. Because 7 days pass value is almost equal to round trip fare by Shinkansen between Tokyo and Osaka. But you will not go back to Tokyo. It’s not enough to use JR pass.

      Please see the link below to find Tokyo to Osaka one way trip itinerary.
      https://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/7days/basic-itinerary-of-tokyo-kyoto-and-osaka-in-7-days.html

      And then you will add single fare or Platt kodama for Osaka to Nagoya.
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/platt-kodama-one-way-deal-among-tokyo-nagoya-kyoto-and-shin-osaka-by-shinkansen.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  3. Hey, very interesting post! My question is rather simple. My friends and I will be spending 10 days in Japan next April 2018. During the first 7 days we will be traveling around so we thought about getting a JR Pass for 7 days (Green pass since it’s high season). On the 8th day we will take the Sinkansen Nozomi from Kyoto to Tokyo. We do understand this ride is not included in the JR Pass, not only because a 7 day pass will have already expired by then, but because it’s never included in such pass; hence we will pay for it separately. After that, we will be spending the last 3 days of our trip only in Tokyo.

    My question is, since we are thinking of getting a 7 day pass, will we need trains out of the subway network during those 3 days? Meaning, would it be worth getting a 14 day pass just so we can use local trains withing Tokyo during the last 3 days of our trip or is it more sensitive to get the 7 day pass and then just use the subway while in Tokyo?

    Thanks in advance!

  4. Hi Takeshi,

    My family and I will be travelling to Japan in Nov for 2 weeks. Arrive at Narita airport, spending first 3 nights in Tokyo Ginza area then head off to Kawaguchiko for 3 nights, followed by Osaka for 4 nights (will probably be making day trips to Kyoto and Nara during my stay in Osaka) and head back to Tokyo for the remaining 4 nights before flying back home from Haneda airport. Kindly advise best travelling options.

    Thanks,
    Viv

      1. Hi Takeshi,

        Does it mean that when I activate my JR pass at Mishima, it is heading to Osaka and we can experience the Shinkansen(bullet train) ride?

        Thanks,
        Viv

        1. Hi Viv,

          You may start using JR pass at Mishima. But you can exchange JR pass when you are in Tokyo. You can exchange it in advance. When you exchange the pass, you will choose the date when you want to start using. So you don’t need to do it at Mishima.

          Once you exchange the pass, you can book a seat. If you will book a seat when you exchange the pass, you just hop on Shinkansen at Mishima. It’s much easier. Please see the link below to find JR pass exchange stations:
          http://www.japanrailpass.net/en/exchange.html

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

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