Tokyo Transportation Tips 02: Tokyo JR(Japanese Railway)

We previously introduced the different ways to get around Tokyo in Tokyo Transportation Tips 01: The Overview. In the next article in the series, we’ll take a closer look at the features of each type of train, the stops, fares, transfers, and other tidbits of information.
In this article, we will introduce some of the most used JR lines in Tokyo. If you are planning a trip to Japan in the future, you can refer to this article when arranging attractions and accommodation.

JR, or Japan Railways, is the largest railroad group in Japan. Shinkansen, as we know it, is part of the JR Group. However, the JR Group, which was originally state-owned, was privatized in 1987 due to poor management, and became the current JR Group. Currently, there are six companies: JR Hokkaido, JR East, JR West, JR Tokai, JR Shikoku, and JR Kyushu, as well as JR Freight, which is not often seen as a national rail freight company. The JR lines in Tokyo that we are going to introduce today all belong to JR East.

JR Yamanote Line

The JR Yamanote Line is the only loop in Tokyo and is relevant to almost everyone’s travels in Tokyo. Here’s a map of the Yamanote Line.

Yamanote Line Route Map|ジョルダン

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There are many famous stations on the Yamanote Line, such as Ueno, Akihabara and Tokyo in the east, and Shinjuku, Ikebukuro and Shibuya in the west. If you are more of a shopper, then the Yamanote Line is the only way to get to the bigger shopping areas in Tokyo.

When you take a ride by the Yamanote Line, you will see two directions of traffic: “outer(外回り,soto-mawari)” and “inner(內回り,uchi-mawari)”.

The “outer” is clockwise, i.e. Ikebukuro → Nippori → Ueno → Akihabara → Tokyo → Shinagawa → Shibuya → Shinjuku → Ikebukuro, while the “inner” is the other way around.

If you can’t tell whether the train you will take is the “outer” or the “inner”, then look at the route map given out by the station, which also indicates the direction of the Yamanote Line at this station.

In addition, although there are 30 stations on the Yamanote Line, there are no limited express, express, or regular trains. The train stops at all stations.

The first station on the Yamanote Line with kana(a kind of Japanese word) is the “Takanawa GateWay” station, which just opened in 2020.

JR Keihin Tohoku-Negishi Line

The JR Keihin Tohoku-Negishi Line is a north-south JR line running from Saitama Prefecture in the north to Kanagawa Prefecture in the south, known as the Keihin Tohoku Line for short. The first station after entering Tokyo is Akabane Station, and then it runs parallel to the Yamanote Line from Tanabata Station to Shinagawa Station. The following is a map of the Keihin-Tohoku Line.

Kyohama-Tohoku Line Route Chart|ジョルダン

If you are going from Tokyo to Kanagawa (e.g. Yokohama) or Saitama (e.g. Omiya, Nishikawaguchi), consider taking this train.

However, unlike the parallel Yamanote Line, there is a difference between the Local and Rapid trains.

All trains are Rapid trains during the daily peak period (between 10:30 a.m. and 15:30 p.m.) and do not stop at Nishi-Nippori Station, Nippori Station, Uguisudani Station, Okachimachi Station, and Yurakucho Station in the parallel zone of the Yamanote Line.

If you want to transfer to the Keihin-Tohoku Line from these stations, consider taking the Yamanote Line to a nearby station where you can transfer first.

JR Saikyo Line

Both the JR Saikyo Line and the Keihin-Tohoku Line run through Tokyo’s 23 wards, except that the Keihin-Tohoku Line is on the east side and the Saikyo Line is on the west side. From Ikebukuro Station to Osaki Station, the Saikyo Line runs parallel to the Yamanote Line on the west side.
The following is a map of the JR Saikyo Line.

JR Saikyo Line Route Map|ジョルダン

The JR Saikyo Line runs south of Osaki Station and connects to the Rinkai Line (the Rinkai Line is a private railroad, not a JR line) to the south. In other words, if you are on the “Rinkai Line Direct”, you can take it all the way to Shinkiba Station in the Edo district without changing trains.

If you want to get to Odaiba quickly from Ikebukuro or Shinjuku, you can consider taking this line.

Also, starting in late November 2019, the JR Saikyo Line and the Soutetsu Line start to provide direct transfers, allowing direct access to Yokohama.

JR Chuo Line (Rapid) & JR Chuo-Sobu Line (Local)

JR Chuo Line (Rapid) & JR Chuo-Sobu Line (Local) & JR Sobu Line (Rapid) Route map

JR Chuo Line (Rapid)

JR Chuo Line (Rapid) departs from Tokyo Station and runs parallel to the Yamanote Line till Kanda Station, and then runs to the west, basically crossing the Yamanote Line. If you want to go from Tokyo Station to Shinjuku Station, you can either take the Yamanote Line and go around, or you can use this line to get there quickly.

Below is a map of the JR Chuo Line (Rapid).

JR Chuo Line (Rapid) Route Chart|ジョルダン

JR Chuo-Sobu Line (Local)

The JR Chuo-Sobu Line (Local) is actually two lines, the Chuo Main Line and the Sobu Main Line, which combine the Chuo Line and the Sobu Line with Ochanomizu Station as a combining point. This line starts from Chiba Station in Chiba Prefecture and ends at Mitaka Station in Tokyo.

Sobu Line: From Chiba Station to Ochanomizu Station.

Chuo Line: From Ochanomizu Station to Mitaka Station.

In addition, the suffix “(Local)” in the name of this line indicates that this line is not an express train or Rapid train. It stops at every station.

The JR Chuo Line (Rapid) runs from Tokyo Station to Mitaka Station, overlapping with the JR Chuo-Sobu Line (Local) from Ochanomizu Station to Mitaka Station, while the JR Sobu Line (Rapid), codenamed JO, which runs from Tokyo Station to Chiba Station and overlaps with the JR Chuo-Sobu Line (Local) from Kinkyukicho Station to Chiba Station.

Below is the route map for the JR Chuo-Sobu Line (Local).

JR Chuo-Sobu Line(Local) Roadmap

JR Joban Line (Rapid)

JR Joban Line (Rapid) is a train that runs between Ueno Station in Tokyo and Toride Station in Chiba Prefecture. Here is a map of the line (the green part on the left).

JR Joban Line (Rapid) Route Map|Route Guide Book

The Joban Line is the same as the Chuo Line and the Sobu Line, which are mentioned above, and even has separate routes depending on the type of trains. The station numbers are also different between the Joban Line (Rapid) and the Joban Line (Local), which runs on a different line.

JR Keiyo Line

If you live in Tokyo and want to go to Disneyland, the JR Keiyo Line is the one you’ll take. It connects Tokyo Station with Soe Station in Chiba Prefecture, and here is the route map.

JR Keiyo Line Route Map|ジョルダン

To get to Disneyland, you can get off at Maihama Station and follow the signs.

However, if you don’t live near Tokyo Station and will go to Tokyo Station for a transfer, make sure to allow about 20 minutes for the transfer (even half an hour for the first time).

Because the passageway to transfer from other lines to the JR Keiyo Line is particularly long and complicated at Tokyo Station, you may not be able to find your way there for the first time, and it will take you 10-15 minutes even if you are familiar with the transfer.

Ueno-Tokyo Line

The Ueno-Tokyo Line (JR Ueno Tokyo Raijin) is a railroad that connects Tokyo Station and Ueno Station, the main purpose of which is to enable direct connections between the Utsunomiya, Takasaki, and Joban lines, which start and end in Ueno, and the Tokaido Line, which starts and ends in Tokyo.

Ueno-Tokyo Line|Route Guide Book

Unlike the Yamanote Line and the Keihin-Tohoku Line, which also pass through Ueno-Tokyo Station, the Ueno-Tokyo Line does not stop at other stations between Ueno and Tokyo Stations at the beginning and end, and therefore does not have a special route map.

The Ueno-Tokyo Line is not so much the name of a train as it is the name of the railroad track that connects Ueno Station and Tokyo Station.

If you want to go to Shinagawa from stations such as Nippori and Ueno, you can either take the Yamanote Line or the Keihin-Tohoku Line, or you can take a train on the Ueno-Tokyo Line, which is a quicker way to get there.

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