How to tackle Tokyo – a guide to public transport

Tom and I always love traveling to Japan. Tokyo is one of our favourites. Whenever traveling to Tokyo, Narita (Tokyo’s bustling airport) is most probably your starting point. All major airlines offer direct connections. Unfortunately for us living in Vienna, Austrian Airlines terminated its direct connection to Narita end of 2016.

Coming from Europe you usually leave around lunch time, night closing in rather quickly, you then cross Russia and the North Sea over night and fly into Japan the next morning. Whenever possible try business class, which pampers you in lush luxury during the 11 hour flight. Or opt for a reasonable comfy seat in economy / premium economy, where you can stretch your legs or cuddle up.

hopping to the other side of the world

Once landed, you do want to get into the megapolis Tokyo. Narita is well outside its city limits, so you do have to find a suitable travel option to get to Tokyo. Tom and I  always take the KEISEI SKYLINER, which takes us to Ueno Station in 41 minutes and offers a good value for money. Tickets at 1,240 JPY (roughgly € 10) one way available online at or on site at Narita airport. You don’t have to book seats in advance, the Skyline trains usually have plenty of space.

From Ueno to Everywhere

Ueno Station is a good start for touring Tokyo. But check out what you want to do and which sights you’re going to visit before you travel. Should you start choosing your option the minute you’ve arrived in the city, it’s way too late. You sure will be overwhelmed by the bustle of the city.

Ueno Station is also a stop on the Akita Shinkansen, Joetsu Shinkansen, Tohoku Shinkansen, Nagano (Hokuriku) Shinkansen and Yamagata Shinkansen Lines as well as the Keihin-Tohoku Line to Omiya and Yokohama, the Takasaki Line to Takasaki in Gunma Prefecture, the Joban Line to Kashiwa and Mito, the Tohoku Main Line (Utsunomiya Line) to Urawa, Omiya and Kuroiso, the Ginza Subway Line, and Hibiya Subway Line both on the Tokyo metro.

Ueno Station and its surroundings

There’s an App for Everything – Even for the Tokyo Subway

It’s easy to get lost – so did Tom and myself the first time we went to Tokyo. Best way to keep a cool head is the superb Tokyo Subway APP which does work on both iOS and Android.

The App works offline, so you really don’t have to bother with any roaming charges. A big plus: 210 subway and train stations in Tokyo have free WIFI!


You really don’t need anything else than the app. It self explanatory and easy to use. Just type in the station you want to go to, pick your starting point and get the connection you need plus the average time your journey will take. Apps don’t come any better than this one.

Japan Dos and Don’ts – tipps for first time public transport users

  • First things first. DO NOT MAKE PHONE CALLS WHILE ON THE SUBWAY OR TRAIN! This is considered rude. So don’t you start doing it. And do turn on the quite mode. People also tend not to speak loudly when travelling on public transport, so as not to disturb fellow passengers.
  • Queuing: at busy times when waiting to board a train, Japanese form an orderly queue. Train station platforms will have markings showing where the carriage doors will pull up, and may have lines drawn on the platform to guide the direction of the queues.
  • Sniffles: It’s considered uncouth to blow your nose in public. You may also see people walking around wearing surgical-style masks. Japanese use these when they have cold or flu to help prevent passing on their ailment to others. (Tom and I followed that rule and put on our own masks – just in case. The folks on board the train loved it).

    Useful Links

  • Tokyo Metro:
  • Narita Airport:
  • Keisei Line:
  • East Japan Railway Company:
  • Shinkansen Bullet Train:

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