Public transit. Many people use it everyday to get to work, school, or the grocery store. While most major cities have subway service, not all of these systems are built equally or on the same scale. Major cities like Toronto, Ontario, Canada, which has a population of over five million people, features a subway system that has 69 active stations. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Tokyo, Japan has their own network which dwarfs Toronto’s TTC service.
For North American’s visiting Tokyo, they will most certainly be overwhelmed by the sheer scale of their network. In order to comprehend it all, I spoke with JustFly. An online travel agency, JustFly reviews the conditions of many major cities to help prepare their customers for their vacations. I asked them for a quick primer on the Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway.
First, a history lesson. Tokyo’s first underground railway opened in 1915. Used as a means of delivering mail, this line was not used for civilian transport. The first public transit line was opened about a decade later, in 1927, by the Tokyo Underground Railway Company. The line itself was just two kilometers long, but was described as “the first underground railway in the Orient.” A second line was opened in 1938 by the Tokyo Rapid Transit Railway company. An extension came the next year, extending the Tokyo Rapid Transit line.
In the 1940’s, war came to Japan. This led to the merging off the two companies, leading to the creation of the Teito Rapid Transit Authority. Since World War II, many more lines have opened, expanding the network to include 13 lines and 285 stations spanning over 300 kilometres of underground rapid transit lines. In terms of daily ridership, JustFly says over 8.7 million people ride the subway in Tokyo daily.
In regards to how tourists can come to grips with using this expansive subway, the first thing you want to do is print out or get a map of the network. It is a massive network, so understanding where you are and where you want to go is very important according to JustFly.
In terms of paying for your fares, the best solution, if you plan on using the subway a lot on your trip, is to buy a Pasmo card. These cards are available at either Narita or Haneda Airports, and allowing you to essentially bank money for use on the Metro. In addition to paying for the Subway, you are able to use your Pasmo to pay for many different things around the city of Tokyo.