Detours with locals.
Travel tips you can trust.

Visiting Tokyo? Here’s how to ride the train like a local.

If you’re traveling to Tokyo and want to navigate the city like a local, consider riding Tokyo’s train system. The author of By The Way’s Tokyo City Guide, Yukari Sakamoto, says Tokyo’s public transportation can take you from major tourist sites to the mountains, beaches and local neighborhoods with shops that have been around for hundreds of years.

Sakamoto showed us how to get from Narita International Airport to Tokyo Station. Sakamoto suggests that if you are riding the train for the first time in Japan, it’s important to be considerate of the people around you. Don’t talk loudly, don’t take up too much space, and if you are traveling with a backpack during rush hour, it is polite to put the backpack in front of you so as not to disturb the people behind you.

Here are some other things to keep in mind:

1. Consider shipping your suitcase


(Keith Bedford for The Washington Post)

Traveling with luggage in Tokyo can be challenging. Baggage delivery services are available to ship your suitcases directly to your hotel. This is an overnight delivery service, so be sure to keep your toiletries handy.

2. Get cash before you leave the airport


(Keith Bedford for The Washington Post)

Not a lot of shops take credit cards, so it’s a good idea to exchange your money in the airport so that you can arrive into the city with Japanese yen.

3. Grab a snack before leaving the airport


(Keith Bedford for The Washington Post)

Japanese convenience stores are open 24 hours a day. You can pick up snacks in the airport for your one-hour ride into the city.

4. Purchase a Suica card


(Keith Bedford for The Washington Post)

Before leaving the airport, buy a Suica card. A Suica card is a prepaid card you can use to ride the local trains and buses in Tokyo. A Suica card can also be used at convenience stores.

5. Determine which trains will get you into the city


(Keith Bedford for The Washington Post)

There are many ways to get into the city from Narita International Airport. The Narita Express has trains to Tokyo with reserved seats that leave every 30 minutes. You can purchase your ticket at a kiosk in the airport, and there’s an English button for assistance.

6. Keep your tickets handy


(Keith Bedford for The Washington Post)

You will have two tickets for the Narita Express. Be sure to pick them up on the other side when you insert them into the turnstile to enter the boarding area. You will also need your tickets to exit the train area once you arrive in Tokyo.

7. Read your train ticket


(Keith Bedford for The Washington Post)

Your train car number will be listed on your ticket. Follow the signs on the platform to board and take your seat.

8. Make sure eating is allowed on the train you’re on


(Keith Bedford for The Washington Post)

You cannot eat on the local trains in the city. However, if there is a tray to pull down on the local express trains, then eating on board is allowed.

9. Transfer to the local trains at Tokyo Station


(Keith Bedford for The Washington Post)

Once you arrive at Tokyo Station, use your Narita Express ticket to exit the turnstile, then look for the local trains. They will take you around the city. Use your Suica card to ride.

10. Board the local train


(Keith Bedford for The Washington Post)

Examine the ground of the platform to see where to stand to board the local trains. Keep your ears open for the overhead signal that alerts you when a train is approaching.

Read more:

A local’s guide to Tokyo

Visiting Washington, D.C.? Here are 5 tips for riding the Metro like a local.

How airplane food goes from the kitchen to your flight