Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Navigating Tokyo 101 - Trains!

Lo and behold! Okay, I know it's too small to be seen here...but it's so complex!!! Once you arrive in Japan, there will be free train route maps around the subway.

One interesting part of traveling in Tokyo is their train system. Go here for full view. Do print this if you don't have an updated map. This is a good map for the fact that you can see the color coded route.

During my recent travel, I only opt for the old fashioned way - I bought tickets for single destination. You can also use their prepaid pass card such as PASMO or Suica. It works like Touch 'n Go (for Malaysian) or EZlink (for Singaporean). You can even use PASMO to buy vending food machine.

I brought these small books along with me; Discovery's Tokyo Smart Guide and Berlitz's Japanese Phrase Book & Dictionary.

Discovery's Tokyo Smart Guide
Pros: Small and listed quite a few major hotspots around Japan
Cons: Doesn't have a full listing of Tokyo train system, but good enough. For this, you need to get a train map which is similar to the map above with JR line (National line) and the subway line.

Berlitz's Japanese Phrase Book
Pros: Small and semi-glossy paper printing (with color). I'm quite particular on the texture :D
Cons: Some of the phrases are a bit too long.

Tips for non Japanese travelers on Train

1. Learn a bit of Japanese. Important simple phrases to learn and to use while traveling. You can just memorize underline + bold ones:
  • Ikura desuka [i-koo-rah-des-ka]: How much? (You can just say 'Ikura' for short but its a bit impolite. Most phrases will end with either desuka or dekimaska)
  • Shibuya (or any location) doko desuka [Shibuya doh-ko-des-ka]: Where is Shibuya?
  • Eego ga dekimasuka [ae-go gah-dekimaska] : If you can't speak Japanese and want to ask whether they speak English, this is the phrase. Most of them will answer...sukoshi (a little).
  • Memorize 1-10 in Japanese. Good for train numbers. 1, 2, 3 (ich, ni, san) is good for ordering food. Hehe.
2. Almost ALL train station in Tokyo has a booth. During my first 2-3 days travel, I ALWAYS consult them on the train fees before paying for it. So, ask away, but prepare for the lost in translation moments if you can't speak Japanese...AT ALL

3. Look up and be aware for the color code and train number of every train line. Eg.: Keiyo line is thin stripe line.

4. GOOGLE MAPS is your friend. Before going out the hotel, refer to this so you know how long and how much each destination will cost you.

5. If you bought wrong tickets or decided to change destination, most stops has fare adjustment machine. It will adjust your actual fare and return/request for more money. Use it :)
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