Public transport in Tokyo was very efficient and convenient – we found it very easy to travel on the JR trains, except for the evening rush hour around 6pm. At this time you do not “get” on, but rather “get packed” into the train cars. We only made the mistake once, apart from that we always got a seat and travelled very comfortably around town.
The aboveground train system is run mostly by JR East. The center of the system is the Yamanote Line, which loops around the city and links to all the major stations. The Chuo Line cuts across the Yamanote “loop”. Here is a link to the JR East website.
There are 13 subway lines including 9 Tokyo Metro lines and 4 Toei Subway lines. For ease of use, each station is coded with a letter and number. You will find these on platform signs and route maps, and there was a lot of English signage, so we did not get lost. Here are the links to the Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway websites.
To buy a ticket, just use one of the ticket machines. There is always a “switch to English” button on the screen. If you are not sure of the fare, buy the cheapest one, and then pay the difference at the fare adjustment machine located near the turnstiles at your final destination. Or to make it easier, buy a prepaid fare card which you can use on trains, subways and buses in Tokyo and Yokohama.
There are two prepaid cards to choose from, you can use both cards mutually on JR and private lines without any procedures.
To purchase one of these cards, you will need to locate a ticket machine at a train/subway station with the PASMO or Suica logo shown. You can charge your card from the amount of 1,000 Yen. A refundable 500 Yen deposit is required.
Both of these cards are also accepted at shops, restaurants, some convenience stores and vending machines where the PASMO or Suica logos are shown, which can make purchases “on the go” faster and easier.
There are a number of different passes for trains and subways to choose from, from monthly tickets to tourist passes, but we found that for a long weekend a PASMO pass was all that we needed.