TRAIN

The train is essential to getting around Tokyo. Check out how to buy tickets, and learn about convenient tickets for traveling within Tokyo.

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Where and how to buy tickets / Fare systems

Where to buy tickets

Train tickets can be purchased at ticket machines installed near the gates at each station. All machines have an English display menu, and an increasing number also have Chinese and Korean display options. Tickets for a one-way fare of over 1,620 yen and expensive tickets such as for reserved seating and limited express services are also sold at Midori no Madoguchi ticket offices and View Plaza travel service centers, which accept credit cards and also offer tickets for domestic flights, ships, long-distance buses, and art museums.

How to buy tickets

"Ticket machines"

Those who do not understand Japanese can easily buy tickets with touch-screen ticket machines, which have an English display option. While most of the machines accept 1,000-yen notes, some machines also accept bills in larger denominations, including 5,000- and 10,000-yen notes, so purchasers do not need to change notes in advance. No coins smaller than 10 yen are accepted at ticket machines.

JR Ticket Machines

Ticket machines for reserved seating

  1. Ticket machines are installed opposite or beside wickets. First, confirm the fare to your destination on the fare table or the route chart on the walls above the machines.
  2. Put the stated fare into the machine and press the appropriate button. If using a touch-screen machine, you can first press the fare to your destination and then insert the money. (You can put up to six coins at the same time into a touch-screen machine, but you should insert bills one by one. As some machines do not accept wrinkled bills, please make sure that you have bills in good condition)
  3. Take your change and ticket, and head to the ticket gates.

"Ticket Office" or "View Plaza"

When you buy tickets for the Shinkansen bullet trains or long-distance buses, first go to an open counter for service. If you are buying tickets for sleeping cars, a limited express or reserved-seats, you will need to fill out forms in advance. If you don't know how to buy tickets, you can tell the staff your destination and which route you will take to go there. They will help you from there.

Automatic Ticket Gates

  1. Most train stations in Tokyo use automatic ticket gates. If the back of your ticket has a black or brown magnetic surface, insert the ticket in the slit on the right hand side of the gate you are going through. Once through the gate, your ticket will come out of the slit on the other side. Pull out and keep the ticket. Since you will need the ticket again when you reach your destination, take care not to bend or soil it.
  2. When leaving the station at your destination, the gate will collect your ticket. Note that the fare you have paid covers a certain area. If you insert the ticket at a station outside that area, the gate will sound an alarm, prevent you from going through, and return your ticket. In this case, take the ticket, pay the balance at a fare adjustment machine by the gates, and go through the gates with the fare-adjusted ticket. You may also pay the balance and go through a manned gate at the end of the automatic gates.

Fare systems

Apart from ordinary one-way tickets, there are tickets for limited express services and for sleeping cars. However, very few private railways or subway lines in Tokyo offer limited express services or sleeping cars (one exception is the Odakyu Romance Car, which requires a limited express ticket). Of the many railway services in Tokyo including private railways, Toei subways, and the Tokyo Metro, this section focuses on the fare system for JR lines, which are used most frequently.

JR fare table

Metro fare table

Limited express tickets

A limited express ticket is necessary to take a limited express train operated by JR, including the Shinkansen bullet trains. Passenger tickets are purchased separately from limited express tickets. Limited express ticket prices change seasonally: 200 yen is added to the regular charges during the busy periods at year-end and the summer and spring travel seasons, while fares are 200 yen less during inactive periods. Shinkansen bullet trains have three types of seats: unreserved seats, reserved seats and Green Car seats (an explanation is given below). Unreserved seats require a passenger ticket and a limited express ticket. Reserved seats require you to pay a seat designation charge (520 yen) in addition to a passenger ticket and a limited express ticket. During busy seasons, it is common for cars of unreserved seats to be standing room only.

Green Car Ticket

Seats in two cars of some trains are wider and more comfortable than those in regular cars. These are called Green Cars. Since all Green Car seats are reserved, you must buy a Green Car Ticket in addition to a passenger ticket before getting on the train. Green Car Tickets can be bought at "Ticket Offices" as well as a few other places.

Coupon tickets

Coupon tickets are useful for commuting to and from fixed places or traveling within a certain area that requires the same fare. Each packet contains 11 tickets for the price of 10. Coupon tickets may be purchased at ticket machines and Midori no Madoguchi ticket offices.

Children's Fares

Children’s fares for ages 11 and younger are half those of adults for passenger tickets, limited express services, and reserved seating. However, Green Cars do not offer a children’s discount. Children’s tickets may be purchased in the same way as for adults, either at a ticket machine (press the Child button) or a Midori no Madoguchi ticket office. 

Children aged 1 to 5 are treated as “infants,” and children under the age of 1 as “babies.” As a rule, both can board the train for free, with the following exceptions.

  1. When there are more than two infants for each paying adult or child (the third infant onward requires a children’s ticket).
  2. When an infant or child alone uses reserved seating, a Green Car seat, or a sleeping car seat, if the infant or child is seated on the parent’s lap, there is no need to pay a fare.
  3. When an infant is traveling alone.

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Reservations/Timetable

How to make reservations

Reservations are made for reserved seating. When making ticket reservations, passenger tickets may be purchased at the same time. Reservations can be made up to one month before the day you plan to travel. To make a reservation, you will need to complete a form at a Midori no Madoguchi ticket office or View Plaza travel service center. Enter the date you plan to travel, the name and number of your preferred train, and your destination, and submit the form at the counter. Note that tickets sold at ticket machines are for unreserved seating only and do not require reservations. If your travel date changes, apply for a refund at a Midori no Madoguchi ticket office as soon as possible, as tickets for trains that have already departed are not refunded.

Timetable

Since trains in Tokyo, including the JR Yamanote Line, the JR Keihintohoku Line, the JR Chuo Line, the various subways and private railways in the 23 wards, run frequently, you will rarely have to wait more than five or ten minutes for a train. Waits are longer in the early morning and late at night when the number of trains decreases. If you would like a timetable for a specific station, you can get it from a station attendant at the ticket gates of the station. Nationwide timetables are available for sale at bookstores.

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The information given is as of June 2016. Contents are subject to change without notice. For details, visit the operator’s website or contact the operator.

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