How to use JR Pass in downtown Tokyo. Try to maximize using JR Pass

yamanote line e235Tips for Japan Rail Pass
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Yamanote line is the busiest train service in Japan.
Yamanote line is the busiest train service in Japan.

JR Pass and other JR deals, such as JR East Pass Nagano Niigata, JR East Pass Tohoku, Tokyo Wide Pass, Hokuriku Arch Pass and JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass covers JR local trains in downtown Tokyo. But you may not be able to find which train JR lines is. You may not be able to find where you can get in downtown Tokyo by JR lines.

In this post, I focus on JR trains in downtown Tokyo and will tell you where you can get without any extra charge. You will find how much you can use JR Pass in Tokyo in this post.

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Explaination in the movie

I uploaded same content as this post in YouTube. You can watch it below if you like:

Overview Japan Railways local lines in downtown Tokyo

First of all, make sure how many lines JR has in downtown Tokyo. Please see the map below. I show you only JR lines that you need to take in Tokyo. This map does not show you all stations and lines. Only major lines and stations are shown in this map.

JR train network in downtown Tokyo (Click to view large)

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, Harajuku, Shinjuku, Ikebukuro, Ueno and Akihabara. This is the busiest line in Japan. The train comes every 2 to 3 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.

Chuo-Sobu line (line color Yellow)

Sobu line has Yellow color.

This line connects Chiba with Mitaka via Akihabara and 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. But if you go to Chiba, take Yokosuka-Sobu Rapid train. This is way faster than Sobu line train.

Chuo line Rapid (line color Orange)

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

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.

Keiyo line (line color Wine Red)

This line goes along Tokyo bay area.

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.

Which spots you cannot go by Japan Railway trains?

Please see the map above again. I put most of popular spots in Tokyo in the map. 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 have to take Subway. Please see the post below to find the detailed information:

Roppongi

Roppongi is located in south part of downtown Tokyo. It is not accessible by JR. Take Tokyo Metro Hibiya line from Yurakucho station to Roppongi. You also can take Hibiya line to Roppongi from Ebisu. The fare is around 200 yen and take 10-15 minutes.

National Diet

It is near Roppongi and not accessible by JR either.

Tsukiji Outer Market

You can walk from Shimbashi 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 250 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. Daimon and Hamamatsucho are same location. The fare is around 200 yen for subway and take 20 mintues altogether.

Odaiba

Some of JR Saikyo line train go through Rinkai line.

This waterfront is located in the manmade island. You cannot get there by JR. You have to take Yurikamome (automated train service) or Rinkai line. Please find the detailed information in the post below:

Should I purchase Tokyo subway pass?

As you have seen, you may have to take subway even if you use JR Pass. The single fare is not expensive. But you can buy 24 hours pass at 800 yen for Tokyo Metro and Toei subway lines.

Please find the information about Tokyo Subway Ticket in the link below:

You may find the information abou the trian network in Tokyo in the link below:

Hope you have a good trip in downtown Tokyo

Comments

  1. Andy says:

    Hi Takeshi,

    Thank you for your wonderful article! I’m going to travel to Japan for the very first time! I understand the transportation line is a little complicated and i believe you can help me with this!

    Tokyo (6 days) —> Kyoto (3 days) (I’m planning to take an overnight bus from Tokyo to Kyoto) —> Osaka (5 days)

    I’ m wondering if i should get the 7 days or 14 days JR pass. And if I’m getting 7 day JR pass, when should i activate it ?

    Looking forward for your reply! Thank you!

    Cheers,
    Andy

  2. Scott says:

    Hi Takeshi,

    Your site is so useful. I wonder if you could help me decide on whether to get a 7 or 14 day JR pass?

    4 nights Toky
    3nights Kyoto
    2nights Osaka
    2nights Hiroshima
    1 night Koya-San
    3 more nights Tokyo

    I’m not sure if I should get a 14 day pass to cover (almost) the whole trip, or to get a 7 day pass to just use outside of Tokyo.

    Many thanks in advance for any advice you can offer!

    Thanks
    Scott

  3. Banjo says:

    Hi Takeshi,

    My wife & I (with our 1yo baby) will arrive in KIX on October 13, spend 5 days in Kyoto, then take the shinkansen to Tokyo and leave on Oct 23.
    Is it worth buying a 7 day pass? Or should we simply book the individual trips (KIX – Kyoto, Kyoto – Tokyo) and get a subway pass?

    Thanks!

  4. Mia says:

    Hey Takeshi,

    Myself and my partner will be in Tokyo for 7 days, staying in Shinjuku. Just seeing what pass you would recommend for us? We haven’t mapped out where we might be going as we were just going to take it as it comes. But we will be doing the Mario carts, watching some sumo wrestling, exploring the night life (alley ways, EA shooting bar etc) Arcades and shopping. We fly out to niseko for 6 days. We then have another 2/3 days left and was hoping to go to Hukuba or mt. Fuji? Depending on how we feel. Hope you’re able to help!

    Cheers,
    Mia 🙂

  5. Kavannaugh says:

    Hi Takeshi,

    My friend and I are travelling to Japan in March and are planning on staying in Shibuya for 7 nights (and go to Disney, Shinjuku, Harajuku etc) and then train to Kyoto to stay for 4 nights before training to Narita for one night before our flight. Would you recommend getting the 14 day JR pass or just the 7 day pass and activate it on the day we go to Kyoto? We don’t know which option to go for!

  6. Fergus says:

    Hi Takeshi,

    Thank you so much for your informative article. I plan on visiting Japan in May with some friends and we’d love to have your point of view.
    We plan on staying in Japan for a month – 1 week in each of Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, and Okinawa.
    We are thinking of buying the JR-East Pass for 3 reasons: 1)According to your article it seems to provide a fair bit in terms of sightseeing in Tokyo (barring Roppongi & Tokyo SkyTree) and is very useful in spending day trips in the Greater Tokyo Area 2) None of the JR passes will allow us to use the Tokaido Shinkansen to reach Osaka and Kyoto and we don’t know how useful a JR-West Pass would be to get around either one of these 2 cities. 3) We would be spending our time only in Kanto and Kansai regions within mainland Japan which, in our humble opinion, seems to make the Japan-wide JR pass a futile investment.
    What do you think? Is our transit strategy wrong? Would it be better to buy a JR-East or a JR-West pass or even both (depending on how useful the JR-West would be in Kyoto and/or Osaka)? Do you believe a Japan-wide pass is simply a much better investment? How many days (7,14,21) would you spend on each chosen pass?

    Our ears are wide open.

    Thanks in advance for all your help,

    Fergus

  7. Aida says:

    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?

  8. Tricia Daskeo says:

    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?

  9. Marco says:

    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!

  10. Viv Lim says:

    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

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