Transportation in Tokyo
Tokyo’s mass transit system is one of the most advanced and efficient in the world and consists of an extensive rail network, 13 subway lines, buses and several monorails operated by various private companies and by Metro Network (TRTA) (Internet: www.tokyometro.jp/e/ index.html) is operated.
Tokyo Tourist Information (Tel: (03) 32 01 33 31 or (03) 52 21 90 84) provides more detailed information, including timetables for all train providers.
The complexity of the rail network and the incredible size of some stations can be daunting. However, public transport is very safe, even at night, and employees of the transport company or passers-by usually offer confused foreigners without further help.
In addition, more efficient labeling has made traveling on the subway much easier, not only for tourists: instead of Japanese names, the lines are now provided with letters and the stations with numbers. Despite the numerous trains running at short intervals between 5 a.m. and midnight / 1 a.m., these are uncomfortably crowded during peak hours (7.30 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.).
Tickets are available from ticket machines in the train stations. There are coupons for discounted multiple journeys.
The Tokyo Combination Ticket (Tokyo Free Kippu) is a travel pass that entitles you to unlimited use of all JP trains, subways and buses in the city for a day or two.
The Suica Card is available for the JP trains in Tokyo. This can also be purchased in connection with the N’EX ticket for the airport night express.
The One-Day Open Ticket is valid for eight of the 13 subway lines.
The Toei and Tokyo Metro One Day Pass is also available.
The Holiday Pass, which is valid on weekends and public holidays, covers a larger area around Tokyo, including Yokohama.
There are numerous taxis in Tokyo that can be waved down the street or rented from a taxi rank. Taxis can also be ordered in advance by telephone, including from Tokyo-Musen (tel: (03) 33 30 21 11) or Cheka-Musen (tel: (03) 35 73 37 51).
The fees vary somewhat depending on the taxi company, but are consistently high with a basic price for the first two kilometers and a fee for every 274 m. A surcharge of 30% is required after 11 p.m.
Tipping is not common and is sometimes considered an insult.
A red light means that the taxi is free, a green one that it is occupied.
Taxi drivers are very professional, but rarely speak English, so you should have your destination written in Japanese characters or be able to show it on a Japanese road map. During rush hours, you are faster by train.
From around 1 a.m. after train services have ceased, it is rare to find a free taxi.
What is unusual about Japanese taxis is that the rear doors are operated automatically by the driver – so you should not try to open or close them yourself.
Tokyo Jumbo Hire offers taxi tours of 4 hours or more. Reservations at Tel: (0120) 81 85 52 (toll free within Japan).
Driving in the city
Tokyo’s public transport system is excellent, so driving a car in the city is not recommended because the traffic is very high and it is difficult to find your way around, especially since streets rarely have names. Parking is also expensive and parking is difficult to find.
The largest car rental company with 150 agencies in the Tokyo area is Nippon Rent-A-Car (Tel: (03) 34 68 71 11).
Other rental car companies represented in Tokyo include
Avis (Tel: (03) 53 97 89 15),
Hertz (Tel: (03) 54 01 76 51), and
Dollar Rent-A-Car (Tel: (01 20) 11 78 01).
Standard insurance is usually included in the rental price. Both the national and international driver’s licenses are required and drivers must have had their driver’s license for at least one year.
The minimum age is between 19 and 26 years, depending on the type of wagon, but usually 21 years.
SCS (Tel: (03) 38 27 54 32), rents out scooters.
Bicycles can often be hired from the train stations in the suburbs, but the train stations in the city center do not offer this service.