The JR Yamanote line: Getting around Tokyo

La línea Yamanote junto a la estación de Ueno (Tokio)

Yamanote line is probably the most popular and convenient way for getting around Tokyo. Japan Rail Pass holders can take advantage of the line for free. Taking any train on the Yamanote line is fully included in the JR Pass.

Furthermore, this is the only line that connects all of Tokyo’s most famous central stations such as Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ikebukuro, Ueno and Tokyo Station.  The line is 34,5 km (21,44 miles) long. Read on for our complete guide about it.

Yamanote line schedule

Taking the JR metro and making a full circle on the line will take you approximately 1 hour. The first Yamanote train begins its service at 4:30 am, and the last one passes at 01:20 am. This is with the exception of the 31st of December and the 1st of January. For more detailed information on the Yamanote line’s timetables, check out Hyperdia.

During rush hours a train passes each 2,5 minutes. The standard waiting time for a train on the Yamanote line (off peak hours) is every 3,5 to 4 minutes. The one thing you need to remember about all Japanese trains, buses, trams and metro lines is that all of them are extremely punctual. Some of the biggest delays last no more than 5 minutes and if such a thing happens, you will hear a sincere apology on the speakers.

 

The Metropolitan JR lines

There are five Tokyo railway lines that travelers can use with their JR Pass:

  1. Yamanote line – The circular (loop) line that connects all metro lines. It also connects Tokyo’s major city centers.
  2. Chuo line – This is a rapid metro service that crosses the Yamanote line. It connects Tokyo station with Shinjuku station.
  3. Keihin-Tohoku line – It runs parallel to the Yamanote line on the eastern side of it and stops at Ueno, Tokyo, and Shinagawa stations.
  4. Sobu line – It runs across the Yamanote line, similar to the Chuo line. However, it is the slower one of the two.
  5. Saikyo line – It runs parallel to the Yamanote line on the western side of the circle.

Besides, the Tokaido Shinkansen trains stop at Tokyo, Ueno, and Shinagawa stations.

Yamanote line map

Yamanote line map
Map of the Yamanote and metropolitan JR lines

Yamanote line stations

Shinjuku

Shinjuku is maybe the world’s busiest train station, with over 2 million passengers going in and out on a daily basis, and connecting with the Narita Express to Narita Airport, among other lines. Apart from a station, Shinjuku is also the name of an important  business and shopping center. Make sure to visit the observatories on the 45th floor of each of the twin towers of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office for some great views of the city.

The Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is a quiet and serene garden. Perfect for leisure walks away from the city noise, this garden is the home of a countless number of small and authentic Japanese bars. And if you still can’t get enough, visit Kagurazaka – a great neighborhood with a lot of restaurants, offering delicious food at reasonable prices.

Shinjuku station at night - Tokyo
Photo by kevinpoh @Flickr – Shinjuku station at night, Tokyo

Yoyogi

The Yoyogi station is situated between the north entrance of the Meiji Shrine, part of the Yoyogi Park and the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. The garden is quite famous in Japan because of the animated movie “The garden of words”, based on these same gardens. The Yoyogi station is located in very close proximity to the Shinjuku station.

yoyogi-park-tokyo-japan
Photo by Marc Mosco @Flickr – Yoyogi Park, Tokyo

Harajuku

The Harajuku station exit will guide you straight to the south part of the Yoyogi park as well as to one of the most famous streets in Tokyo – Takeshita. This is the trendy shopping street for many young Japanese. The Omotesando Hills is a large shopping center where you can find many local Japanese brands. Another popular option for such shopping is Oriental Bazaar.

Harajuku Station in Tokyo
Photo by David Offf @Flickr – Harajuku station, Tokyo

 

Shibuya

First and foremost, the Shibuya station is famous for the busiest intersection in the world – the Shibuya crossing. Apart from this, the area is one of the largest shopping centers as well as one of the most active business centers.

The commercial center called Shibuya 109 is the place to see all the recent fashion Japanese trends. Make sure not to skip the Center Gai street. Apart from countless restaurants and shops, this is the place where the fashion sense of the area comes from. If you wish for a different experience, visit the Bunkamura cultural center. You will be welcomed by a variety of exhibitions, as well as two different cinema houses and, of course, a number of places to grab a bite.

Shibuya Center Gai Street
Photo by Joi Ito @Flickr – Center Gai Street, Tokyo

Meguro

In this quiet and residential area, the Meguro canal gains popularity every spring when the cherry trees growing on the river side start blossoming. Furthermore, from this station you can easily reach the Institute for Nature Study and the Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum.

Tokyo Station

This is the central as well as a terminal station for all Shinkansen bullet trains. It is located in Marunouchi, which is one of Japan’s most prestigious business centers. Visit Kitchen Street, situated within the building, for a variety of national Japanese restaurants. The Imperial Palace East Garden is a great option for a relaxing walk in nature. Do not miss out of the beautiful night lights of Tokyo station after sunset.

Imperial Palace East Garden, Tokyo
Photo by Guilhem Vellut @Flickr – Imperial Palace East Garden, Tokyo 

Akihabara

This is one of the largest Tokyo Metro stations, which has direct connections with the following lines:

  • Keihin-Tohoku Line for Ueno; Omiya
  • Yamanote Line Inner Tracks for Ueno; Ikebukuro
  • Yamanote Line Outer Tracks for Tokyo; Shinagawa
  • Keihin-Tohoku Line for Tokyo; Yokohama
  • Chuo Line, Sobu Line for Ochanomizu; Shinjuku
  • Chuo Line, Sobu Line for Funabashi; Chiba

Furthermore, Akihabara station is one of the biggest central districts in Tokyo, famous for it numerous electronic shops in the famous “Electric city”. Akky, Yamada Denki, and Sofmap are just a few of countless shops, forming part of this uprising global electronics, geek mecca and trade center.

Ueno

All Shinkansen trains that go to the north of Japan stop at this station. The Ueno Royal Museum and Ueno Park are located in very close proximity to the station. The park offers access to several beautiful little shrines within its territory. The Ueno Zoo and the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum are also part of the giant park.

Panda in Ueno Zoo, Tokyo
Photo by Esprit Ja Ja @Flickr – Ueno Zoo, Tokyo

Full list of stations

Following is a list of all the Yamanote line stations, counter-clockwise:

  • North side: Nippori – Nishi-Nippori – Tabata – Komagome – Sugamo – Otsuka – Ikebukuro – Mejiro
  • West side: Takadanobaba – Shin-Okubo – Shinjuku – Yoyogi – Harajuku – Shibuya – Ebisu – Meguro – Gotanda
  • South side: Osaki – Shinagawa – Tamachi – Hamamatsucho – Shimbashi – Yurakucho
  • East side: Tokyo – Kanda – Akihabara – Okachimachi – Ueno – Uguisudani

Connections with other lines

Finally, here is the list of all important connections to other lines which you can raid for free with the JR Pass:

  • Chuo line: Tokyo Station – Shinjuku – Yoyogi
  • Sobu line: Akihabara -Shinjuku – Yoyogi
  • Narita Express (to Narita Airport): Tokyo Station – Hamamatsucho – Shinagawa – Shibuya – Shinyuku – Ikebukuro
  • Tokyo Monorail (to Haneda Airport): Hamamatsucho Station
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2 thoughts on “The JR Yamanote line: Getting around Tokyo”

  1. We are flying in to Haneda airport then going to Kyoto. We get to the airport at 445pm on August 11th. Will there be a built train that we can take to get to Kyoto that evening? We are then going back to Tokyo the morning of the 13th staying at APA Hotel – Higashishinjuku Kabukicho Higashi which is in the Shinjuku Ward district. What trains would we take? Also we want to go to several areas around Tokyo such as Tsukiji Fish Market, the Imperial Palace Area, Shinjuku and Akihabara. Can you suggest lines to get to the different areas? Will we need to pay for transportation outside of the Rail pass?

  2. Hi Wendy Stout!

    In this article you are reading you have all the stations in Tokyo that can be reached with the Japan Rail Pass. Additionally you might want to read our article about how to get around Tokyo with the JR Pass, which will give you some additional details. Please note that if you want to travel besides these lines you will be required to pay additional tickets so we recommend you to plan your trip in advance so that you know what to expect. To go from Kyoto to Tokyo you need to go to the Kyoto Station and take tge Shinkansen Hikari, that will take you straight to either Tokyo Station or Shinagawa Station in central Tokyo.

    Have a nice trip!

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