Tokyo’s Railway Network – Navigate Around It Easily

One of the most daunting thing when traveling around Tokyo is Tokyo’s Railway Network. Looking at the map alone would send your shivers. It so complicated compared to Taiwan or Hong Kong’s Railway Network Map. But after experiencing how to use it for about three days now, we have found a lot of signs provided in the directions to help, therefore, making navigation easier.

To help you with your travels, we have noted a few tips on navigating around Tokyo’s Railway Network.

Tokyo's Railway Network Map
Tokyo’s Railway Network Map

Tip #1: Install & Use Google Maps to Navigate through the Tokyo Railway Network

Google Maps has been around for so many years now. It is very easy to get directions TO and FROM your current location. It provides you an itinerary by simply entering your destination and clicking/tapping directions and because of that, installing this app is on top of our list.

Google Maps provide very detailed information such as your time of departure, time of arrival, walking distance and total cost of travel. Above all these details, it provides you with very helpful list of trains and stops.

Here are a few screenshot of my Google Map Route options for going to Tokyo Skytree. Notice that you can choose different routes. You can see how long the travel would take, how many line transfers and how much it costs. In my screenshot, the first option costs JPY 311.

Tokyo's Railway Network as displayed in Google Maps' Directions
Notice the different routes, costs and number of transfers to different Tokyo Railway Network lines.

Selecting a route option brings you to the view of the map.

Tokyo's Railway Network as displayed in Google Maps' Directions
Notice the different line colors in the map. Those are different Tokyo Railway Network lines.

Open the details by tapping the To Tokyo Skytree below and tapping Details. This should bring you to the screen shown below which contain details of your travel itinerary. It even tells you where to exit to make your life even more easier.

Tokyo's Railway Network with detailed train and stops.
Very detailed itinerary with train and stops.

Tip #2: Take Note of the Letter, Number and Color of your Railway Line

If you know your railway line letter, number and color, you will never get lost. Tokyo’s Railway Network provides a lot of directions all over the place. You should be able to distinguish them through some of the images we provided.

Google Maps Line Letter, Number and Color Identifiers

Notice that Google Maps provide the necessary identifiers to make your travel easier. These identifiers can be found in signs and directions in all of Tokyo’s Railway Network stations.

Tokyo's Railway Network with detailed train and stops with annotation.

Here’s a picture of the Hibiya line. Notice H01 to H17 in the image and the gray color use for the line. I have added some annotations to point you to the right location.

Tokyo's Railway Network – Hibiya line with annotations

If you are wondering about the direction going H01 to H17 or backwards from H17 to H01, there are a lot of indicators as well.

Tokyo's Railway Network – Hibiya line with signs showing current location and next stop.
Tokyo Railway Network provides details about your current location and the next destination/stop.
Tokyo's Railway Network – Posts have platform details and direction as well.
Platform Number is displayed which is sometimes provided by Google Chrome depending on where you are going. NOTE: The direction here is read H-05 to H-01. Right to left. You are in Japan, my friend.
Tokyo's Railway Network bulletins as seen in Matsubara.
Rural areas also display where you are at and which direction you are going.

I repeat. The signs are all over the place –– take time to look at these indicators in Tokyo’s Railway Network signs and directions in your first visit in a railway station.

Tip #3: Ask the Train Personnel

In my few days of stay in Japan, I’ve come to know that people here are very polite and helpful. Every single person seem to be proud of what they are doing and put every effort into to it, therefore, don’t be afraid to ask the train personnel. They will be more than happy to help.

Tip #4: Learn Some Useful Japanese Words

There’s a big change of asking a person who doesn’t know how to speak English or know very little. In this case, a few Japanese words would help:

  • Sumimasen – means “Excuse me”. You can use this to talk to a train personnel or any person in the vicinity.
  • Eigo ga hanasemasu ka? – this means “Can you speak English?”. If they replied “Eigo ga hanasemasu” then you are in luck since they know how, otherwise, you’d be hearing “Eigo ga hanasemasen” which means “I cannot speak English”.
  • Doko – this means “Where”. You can use this word to ask “Where is…” while pointing to some picture, or map or anything that may identify your destination. You can also use “Doko desu ka?”.
  • Arigato – means “Thank you”, and is a very common phrase so you probably already knew. Telling this to the person who lend their help would be nice. It’s better if you can use the full form, “Arigatou Gozaimasu” or it’s more formal form “Domo Arigatou Gozaimasu”.

Tip #5: Listen to the Train Announcements

Tokyo’s Railway Network trains announce the current station and the next stop before leaving and before arriving. They are both announced in Japanese and in English. The announcement is very clear.

Tip #6: Plan Your Destinations Ahead of Time

I can never stress this enough. Be prepared. Review your destination via Google Maps the day before you travel. Period.


I hope this guide helps make navigating through the Tokyo Railway Network less daunting for you. Have fun!

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