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Subways of Tokyo March 23, 2010

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Tokyo.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Subways of Tokyo” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-kX

Riding a train in Tokyo can be a very challenging thing.  The first thing to do is understand the basics on how it works.  To do this, you need to look at a map.  Follow this link and you will get an idea on the basics of getting around in Tokyo:  http://www.tokyometro.jp/global/en/service/pdf/routemap_en.pdf . From this map, you need to understand a few things.  First, look for the black and white line that generally runs in an oval shape in the middle of the map.  It can be difficult to notice as it’s not meant to stand out.  This is the Yamanote line.  It’s a general boundary between central Tokyo and residential Tokyo.  From here, you will have to look at the legend at the bottom right.  The four lines on the left, “A-I-S-E” are for the Toei Lines, and the ones on the right are for the Tokyo Metro Lines.  This is very important.  Both Toei and Tokyo Metro operate subways within Tokyo, but they are not the same company.  Going from one company to another requires a transfer, although you will receive a discount for the second leg of your journey.  This can make a simple cheap trip into an expensive one.  I highly recommend getting a “Welcome to Tokyo” Handy Map from Yes! Tokyo.  These are large, scale, maps that show you relative distances between different subway stations.  This can help you save money by walking up to 300 metres to the next station, rather than transferring.

Typically, going from A to B is fairly simple.  You can easily use only one company and reach your destination.  The only problem is that it requires a little planning.  The private railway companies, excluding Japan Railways, created their own travel website that will help you get from A to B using any of the lines in Tokyo.  Of course, they are biased towards their own lines, but you can easily choose price, speed, or transfers as how to sort the options.  The link is provided below.  Depending on your hotel, if you have internet, it’s a good idea to use that website to plan how to get to various places in Tokyo and how to get back.  While it isn’t necessary, it can help you solve many problems.  There are a few places in major touristy stations where you can find terminals with the same program in place.  If you are completely lost, go up to any ticket gate, point on the map, and ask the station staff.  Locals can help too, but they tend to be very shy and freeze up when spoken to in English.

The next step is to actually buy a ticket.  For this, you need to know how to use the machine itself.  In most major stations, they have touch screen panels and button panels.  The touch screen panels are the easiest as you can select “English” and work your way through it.  The basics are, find the fare, select the amount, and put your money in.  Some of the machines, especially the push button ones require you to put your money into the machine first, before you can select the fare.  If you want to buy two or three tickets at a time, there is a button, usually on the left, next to the screen.  The pictures are very simple and easy to figure out.  If you made a mistake, you can either go to another ticket machine, or press the red cancel button.  If you are still completely lost, usually there is a small white tab covering the help button.  Press this button if you need help.  Do be aware that help can come from within the walls!  In the past, I had accidentally pressed the button, and a small panel in the wall next to the machine just opened up.  I nearly jumped back 3 metres.  It was terrifying, but funny at the same time.  You may want to push it just for fun either way!

Once you do have your ticket, you can go straight into the gate.  Be sure to keep it until you exit.  When you exit the system, the gate will just keep your ticket.  If you didn’t purchase enough, don’t worry, there are always machines at every gate where you can add more money to the ticket, or you can head straight to the attendant who will tell you, or rather show you, how much you have to pay to get out.  Do be aware that if you leave too quickly, the paddles, which are around thigh height, will close and you might take a tumble.  This has happened to me many times.  If you are transferring between companies, you might have to physically leave the station and re-enter a few hundred metres away.  This takes a little extra care.  Be sure to look for the “orange” gates.  These will let you exit and enter at the next company’s entrance.  Again, don’t forget your tickets, or you’ll have to buy a new one.

Finally, be aware of joined lines.  Many of the subway lines connect to commuter lines.  If you aren’t careful, you can end up traveling from one end of Tokyo, to the other, and out into the suburbs.  Only a handful of lines actually do this, but when they do, it can be very confusing, in terms of costs.  If you fall asleep on the train itself, you could end up over an hour away from your destination.  Thankfully, to return, without exiting the system, is free.  If you are worried, and want the simplest method of travel, the Yamanote line is probably the best bet.  It may not be the quickest mode of transportation, but it is by far the easiest.  Coupled with the Chuo line, traveling between places can be cheaper than the subway.  Plan wisely and you can save a lot of money.  If you plan poorly, just enjoy the ride and call it an adventure.

Subways of Tokyo was my initial thoughts about the train system in Tokyo.  To read more about trains, continue to Trains in Tokyo – Redux.

Information:

Tokyo Metro:  http://www.tokyometro.jp/global/en/
Toei:  http://www.kotsu.metro.tokyo.jp/english/subway_op.html
Tokyo Metro’s Guide to the Subway:  http://www.tokyometro.jp/global/en/service/using.html
Toei’s Guide to buying tickets:  http://www.kotsu.metro.tokyo.jp/english/subway_buy.html
Tokyo Transfer Guide:  http://www.tokyo-subway.net/english/
Tokyo Subway Map:  http://www.kotsu.metro.tokyo.jp/english/images/pdf/rosen_e.pdf

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

Tsukiji December 15, 2009

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Tokyo, Travel.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Tsukiji” complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/s2liAm-tsukiji

Tsukiji is one of the most well known places in Tokyo, if not Japan.  There is only one thing to do while in Tsukiji, visit the Tsukiji Fish Market.  In reality, when you head there, you can’t really do anything else.  The area itself is very small and there isn’t much else to do but look around.  If you venture in on your own, you can expect to spend at most, one hour walking around.  It’s unlikely that you will want to spend an entire day, and unless you are a chef or restaurant owner.

The fish market itself is located fairly close to the station.  If taking the Tokyo Metro subways, the Hibiya line’s Tsukiji Station is the closest.  However, it isn’t the closest station to the market.  For that, head on the Toei Oedo line and get off at Tsukijishijo Station, which literally means, Tsukiji Fish Market Station.  From there, follow the signs and you’ll be right outside the fish market.  Finding your way in is one of the most difficult things to do.  It looks like a large mess of trucks going in and out of the market.  There is no specific passenger entrance and everything looks chaotic.  Take your chances and just walk in from any entrance.  There are various places around the market itself to take photos, but do remember that flash photography is frowned upon inside the market.  If you are looking for a guided tour, there are various people who offer tours, but by and far the best looking one is by Naoto Nakamura (link below) who takes you on a two hour tour of the fish market starting at 4am.  This is great on the first day of your trip, especially if you are jet lagged.  You’ll be able to visit the various auctions and also see many of the middlemen selling their foods. Do note that due to many tourists abusing their privileges, the market was closed at the end of 2008, till early 2009 to tourists.  While this was localized to only the auctions, it was still sad to hear about this.  It is now completely open to the public, aside from restricted areas, and you can freely watch the auctions.  See the information in the links below for more information.

As mentioned, the entire fish market feels chaotic.  You MUST be careful.  There are a lot of sites with information on what to wear and how to be prepared.  It is necessary to read them, but the basic run down is this:  wear shoes you don’t care about, and no high heels or sandals; don’t dress too stylishly; no flash photography, especially in the auction areas; and look out for any and all moving vehicles.  While the market is open to the public, everyone should be reminded that the market itself is still a place of business.

Many of the men on the dollies are racing to get the fish from one end of the market to another, or even outside the market.  If you step in front of them, they will not stop.  It’s important that you don’t block the street, and finding out where the street is can be a challenge in and of itself.  Some areas are clearly marked, but others aren’t.  Thankfully, most of the dollies and trucks are gas powered, so it’s easy to hear them, however, even in the middle men market area, the trucks can appear out of nowhere.

Inside the market, there are several shops selling sushi, sashimi, donburi, and various kitchen tools.  It can be easy to miss, but it’s nice to just walk around a little.  The shops tend to be slightly overpriced, and busy.  If you go on the weekend, there could be a long line-up.  I would recommend waiting until you leave to eat any sushi.  Just outside the north side of Tsukiji Market is a small shopping area with various sushi restaurants.  This area itself is reasonable and you can get a lot of good food that’s on par with other shops inside the market.  If you looking to buy sushi and take it home, or to your hotel for a late morning breakfast, the middlemen inside are more than happy to sell a large amount of fish to you.  Do note that the days after the holidays can be the best to get the freshest fish, and the days before the holidays can be the cheapest as they have to sell everything.  Buying fish should be done after 6am, especially if the auction is held until around 6am.  Usually, I found arriving around 8am is a good time.  You can check out all the food, although a lot has already been sold, and you can still get a good breakfast after all the regular workers have eaten and headed to work.

In the last several years, there has been talk of moving the Tsukiji Fish Market from its current location to a location closer to Odaiba.  There have been lots of vocal people protesting against this.  While it’s true that a move will likely destroy the history and atmosphere of the current Fish Market, it feels almost inevitable due to the government wanting a more controlled setting for the fish market itself.  Moving it would allow things to be modernized and flow smoothly.  Plus, the current plot of land is worth a lot more as residential and commercial buildings than as a fish market, regardless of being a tourist attraction.  I myself am indifferent, but as a tourist, I would want it to stay in the current location.  As a worker inside the fish market, I would probably want it to stay as well.  In fact, the move has been delayed indefinitely as the future site is contaminated with various toxic materials.  For those who were worried about missing this fish market in the near future, don’t worry too much.  It will be several years yet before they move.

Tsukiji Information:

Tsukiji Fish Market (Official Site – English):  http://www.tsukiji-market.or.jp/tukiji_e.htm
Tsukiji Fish Market (Official Site – Japanese):  http://www.tsukiji-market.or.jp/index.html
Tsukiji Fish Market (Japan Guide):  http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3021.html
Tsukiji Fish Market (Wikipedia):  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsukiji_fish_market
Tsukiji Fish Market Tours (By Naoto Nakamura):  http://homepage3.nifty.com/tokyoworks/TsukijiTour/TsukijiTourEng.htm
Tsukiji (Wikipedia):  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsukiji
Tsukiji (Wikitravel):  http://wikitravel.org/en/Tokyo/Tsukiji

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

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