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Old 10-21-2016, 07:08 PM
 
Location: Born in L.A. - NYC is Second Home - Rustbelt is Home Base
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How hard is it for to get around Tokyo and Japan using the subway or trains if you speak no Japanese? I'd be based in Tokyo and wanted to get around the city as well as daytrips around Japan.
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Old 10-21-2016, 07:14 PM
 
Location: Eindhoven, Netherlands
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Never used trains there but the subway system since its so huge can be confusing but still doable if you study the map a lil bit.

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Old 10-21-2016, 08:40 PM
 
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Tokyo Station is a madhouse, but if you don't get overwhelmed easily, the subway is not that hard. The Shinkansen is not hard at all. Most of the people who work in ticket booths speak English. Be prepared for some culture shock if this is your first time there.
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Old 10-21-2016, 08:48 PM
 
Location: Lone Mountain Las Vegas NV
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Piece of cake. I would rate Tokyo about as difficult as Paris. You can find places where the language is a problem but you have to work at it.

My experience is old now...but if you got out into the rice paddies it was more interesting. Japanese written instructions can solve a lot of problems. Used to get to a lot of places with match book covers.

Back country however was very friendly. Always ready to help straighten out a lost gaijin...
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Old 10-22-2016, 12:41 PM
 
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Ridiculously simple if you have a cell phone and google maps. Buy a pass on the JR or Tokyo Metro or both. Works almost perfectly.

Did it in some of the most complicated stations in Tokyo, including paying cash for trips, and riding the bus and there was no more than 5 minutes of frustration.
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Old 10-23-2016, 04:25 PM
 
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I never had any issues in Japan even in the countryside let alone Tokyo. I'm not sure why people perpetuate this urban myth about it being difficult to navigate around Japan without English.
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Old 10-24-2016, 04:36 PM
 
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Not an issue with language at all. Just use phone and an app that has the subway/train map and it is very easy. One of the most useful line is the Yamanote Loop. The system is indeed huge and one might need to walk very far for a transfer and also exit/enter gates for the transfer if using different railway companies. However, not difficult to use at all and signages in Romaji (Latin alphabet transcriptions) are very well-placed. Once inside the trains/stations, I never had a need to ask someone else. Signs and maps are everywhere.
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Old 10-29-2016, 10:43 PM
 
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Just be aware that there are multiple train systems in Tokyo.

Japan Rail (JR): Depends on where you are going, more likely than not, you will be using JR system. This is not subway.

Tokyo Metro: Then there is subway system, which is a group of subway lines that form Tokyo Metro Subway system.

Independent train lines: And then there are many independent train line, which you should not have to deal with as tourist.

When you use printed or PDF maps, JR map and Metro maps are usually not shown on the same map. They are competing systems. So just be aware of that.

Overview: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2017.html

Japan Rail Tokyo train map: http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/info/map_a4ol.pdf

Tokyo Metro system: http://www.tokyometro.jp/en/ Someone already included map above.

When you use online maps, they will typically include all systems. Try not to select lowest cost, which has higher chance of independent lines getting included. And you should double check the maps routing that you are on JR or Metro. It's just a lot easier dealing with JR and Metro, than buying tickets or doing transfer on other train systems.

Last edited by jk88cal; 10-29-2016 at 10:50 PM.. Reason: Add Links
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Old 10-31-2016, 12:52 PM
 
Location: Atlanta
3,213 posts, read 3,205,319 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Return2FL View Post
Tokyo Station is a madhouse, but if you don't get overwhelmed easily, the subway is not that hard. The Shinkansen is not hard at all. Most of the people who work in ticket booths speak English. Be prepared for some culture shock if this is your first time there.
Agreed about this. This is the first city outside the US I went to that I literally felt like I wasn't sure how I would have gotten around without help. My brother was living there so I had my own tour guide. I didn't have any luck finding someone who spoke English in Tokyo station and ended up walking around there with my boss for 45 minutes before we found how to simply EXIT the place.
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Old 10-31-2016, 01:17 PM
 
Location: Honolulu
1,368 posts, read 551,250 times
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It can be easy and it can also be confusing.

I have some knowledge of Japanese and I can read all the signs. But couple of time I still made mistake.

It is because the trains are so frequent especially during the rush hours. For example, one platform can hold trains for different routes. And the trains come in 2-3 minutes interval. After the train departs, locals quickly line up on the platform for the coming train. There are so many platforms, up to two dozens, in large stations like Tokyo.

And there are many train and subway lines owned by private, i.e. Odakyu, that you have to buy separate tickets for the ride.
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