Basics of Trains in Tokyo - tickets, gates, fare systems


The Pricing System and the Price Map

Unlike subways of like New York, London, Paris, Moscow, etc., ticket prices in Tokyo are proportional to the distance of travel. So, when you have found a ticket machine, just look above, and you will probably find a big panel of route map, which shows the price to every station on the route map. Major stations of Tokyo have an English version of this price map, but if not, ask staff for the price.
For example:
All prices above are for JR trains, as of December 2017.
By using an IC Card (SUICA or PASMO - not a credit card), you can omit checking the price. It works like this: When you enter the gate of the starting station, the minimum fare will be deducted from your card, and when you exit from the station where you have arrived, the remaining balance is deducted from you IC card. With that card, you don't even have to decide your destination before you ride - just hop on a train, and get off at anywhere you want. The right amount will be autoatically deducted. When you want to check the balance, just insert your IC card in a ticket machine at any station, and the balance will be displayed on the screen.

Train Station

Train stations of Tokyo are usually at the center of the district. (Actually I cannot recall of any exceptions right now.)
You can access platforms only by goning through the gate with your ticket. When you arrive, your paper ticket is collected at the exit gate. IC cards or tickets such as one day ticket, etc. will not be collected on exit.
When you transfer to a train or metro of of another company, basically you need to go through an extra gate between them, or go through the exit gate of a company and enter through the gate of the other company.
But some train companies have mutual agreements and abolished the gates between them. In most of such cases trains jaust run through to the rails of another company. For example:

Interoperating Train Companies

Platforms and Tracks

These phrases may be useful:

Kono densha wa nanban homu desuka? (What is the track number for this train?)
Ichi-ban-sen wa doko desuka? (Where is the track number one?)

Ichi = one, ban = No., sen = track
1 = ichi, 2 = ni, 3 = san, 4 = yon, 5 = go, 6 = roku, 7 = nana, 8 = hachi, 9 = kyu, 10 = ju
11 = juuichi, 12 = juuni, 13 =juusan, 14 = juuyon, 15 = juugo, 16 = juuroku, 17 = juunana, 18 = juuhachi

In Japanese language, the words 'platform' and 'track' are often misused. If someone talks about 'platform number two', she/he is probably talking about 'track number two'. Anyway, you'll get used to it soon.

Train/Subway Station Gates

Train Operators in Tokyo

Ticket Fares Tips


Tokyo Transport Guide