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This article is for Family Travelers to Tokyo, especially with small children with a stroller.
Tokyo’s Public Transportation is one of the best in the world – it’s clean, SUPER punctual, and it takes you anywhere you want.
Taking trains in Tokyo can be one of the most complicated challenge if you are not used to it.
I’m native Japanese person who had grown up in Tokyo,
now I have a small child – so I know this topic very well!
I am sharing some tips and advice here.
I hope this article will help Family Travelers coming to Tokyo. 😊
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1. Avoid Avoid Avoid rush hour
Pleeeeeeease from my bottom of my heart, avoid rush hours.
You probably have seen this kind of pictures, that station staff is pushing passengers in to a car. I think those was back in 80s…. but you still see it sometimes. People are so stressed, that nobody is willing to give you a hand.
People will give you an angry look if you have to get in to a super crowded car with a stroller. No space. ( that case you have to fold a stroller )RUSH HOURS IS LIKE A WAR in Tokyo.
If you have to travel during the rush hour, take a taxi instead, or a hired car. Or change the plan.
You don’t want to travel during the rush hour!!!!
Time you want to avoid
Weekdays 6:30~9AM and 5~8pm
Those are the times you want to stay away from trains.
When I stay in Tokyo with my son, I never, never, take trains during the rush hour.
I make plans after rush hours.
Avoid late evening trains
Surprisingly (?) Tokyo trains don’t run 24 hours. Its last train is usually around 12-1am and opens again around 5am. So trains get super crowded like rush hour when it’s towards the end of the schedule, people who are having drinks or meals are trying to catch last train to go home.
I don’t think you will be out there that late when traveling with kids, but just to let you know.
This picture was taken around 5pm on Weekend, when it wasn’t too crowded. yet.
2. Know Good Time to Travel
So if rush hours is bad – when is good time to travel?
You may wonder – and I’ve got your back 😁
This is Tokyo’s off-peak time hours.
Good time to travel
Weekdays during 10am – 3~4pm.
Weekends during 8am – 4pm.
Weekends are easier because not so many people go to work. You can actually find some seats to sit down 😉
One weekday afternoon. Look how peaceful and empty the train is 🙂
This pic was taken at Chuo-line, one of the most busy train lines in Tokyo.
But if you travel off peak, it is this nice and empty… we all want that…
3. Avoid Super Busy Station
Tokyo is a big city as you know. Public Transportation is the most efficient way to get around,
but this is why, they can be suuuuuper busy and crowded!
Top 3 busiest train stations in Tokyo:
- Shinjuku Station – 760,043 daily passangers
- Ikebukuro Station – 559,920 daily passangers
- Tokyo Station – 439,554 daily passangers
- Shibuya Station – 378,539 daily passangers
I know it’s difficult to avoid them because they are in center in Tokyo and a lot of tourists destinations around, but you will be overwhelming and almost guaranteed that you’d get lost…. so study very well about the train stations, only use them off-peak hours…
Watch out for Shinjuku Station especially. Even Japanese people get lost at Shinjuku station and it’s nickname is “Shinjuku Dungeon”, for its complication and size.
Study Shinjuku station very well if you have to use it! I’m Japanese, from Tokyo, but still I got lost there last time. Confusing example : See the pic above… in order to leave the station, I had to go through 2 different train platforms. Hard to explain… Don’t hesitate to ask for a help at Train Staff. They will help you with English.
4. Know Your Stations – Some have only stairs! Grr!
I want to apologize as a Tokyo native. 😣
Tokyo metro / train had opened about 130 years ago, (Yamanote Line, 1885).
Back then they weren’t thoughtful for handicapped or baby strollers.
Today most of the train stations are equipped with escalators and elevators, but there are some stations that are still stairs-only (as of 2018):
- Nakano station—- No elevators.
- Ochanomizu station —- No elevators, No escalators. But they are under construction and try to open in 2018 as accessible station. (yay!)
- Takao station—- No elevators.
If you have to use those statins and need a help, don’t hesitate to ask station staff. They will help you carry a stroller.
5. Try to use regular trains than Subways
Subway is a bit hard. Because of the limited space, it has been difficult to renovate subway stations to install elevators and slopes instead of stairs.
Also kids will enjoy views of outside more on regular trains. So, I recommend try to use regular ones than Subways.
Subways is usually a bit cheaper and it covers areas that regular trains don’t go,
but if you are a just a tourist it won’t make a huge difference, I don’t think.
6. Give a good enough time for traveling
You may be installed Train Map App and think you will be okay….but wrong!!!
Be sure to give enough time to go from A-B if you use trains.
If it’s the first time you take trains in Tokyo, high chance you will get lost or confused … 😅
Never hurry. If a train looks crowded, wait for another one. Give a good amount time to travel.
7. Don’t go alone
It’s not because it’d dangerous.
It’s because you will need an extra hand.
If you are a tourist, taking a stroller and want to go to A to B by trains…
Don’t go alone. Go with someone.
You will probably need en extra hand if you’re taking a train. There may be small steps, or you have too many bags to carry, I don’t know, something you wouldn’t expect and you will wish you had a partner who can assist you.
I’d try to minimize the amount of usage of trains in general. Pick spots that you definitely want to go, and stay near around that area.
But really, you are fine as long as you avoid rush hours.
Enjoy world’s most punctual, best transportation!
I hope my advice helps you!
Feel free to ask me questions with Tokyo Travel, if you have any!
You can read more Tokyo Related Topics here!