The JR Yamanote line: Getting around Tokyo

The Yamanote line next to Ueno station (Tokyo)

The JR 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.

At 34,5 km (21,44 miles) long, this is the only line that connects all of Tokyo’s most famous central stations, such as:

Read on for our complete guide about it.

Yamanote line schedule

The Yamanote line services start and end as follows:

  • First train: 4:30 am
  • Last train: 1:20 am

During rush hour, trains run every 2 and a half minutes.

The off-peak standard waiting time for a train on the Yamanote line is every 3.5 to 4 minutes.

On December 31 and January 1, times may differ. For more detailed information on the Yamanote line’s timetables, check out Japan Transit Planner.

Traveling all the way around the line full circle will take you approximately 1 hour.

All Japanese trains, buses, trams and metro lines are extremely punctual.

The longest delays tend to be no more than 5 minutes. If this happens, you’ll likely hear a sincere apology on the speakers.

The Metropolitan JR lines

There are five Tokyo railway lines that you can use with your 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 – Runs parallel to the Yamanote line on the eastern side of it and stops at Ueno, Tokyo, and Shinagawa stations.
  4. Sobu line – Runs across the Yamanote line, similar to the Chuo line. However, it is the slower one of the two.
  5. Saikyo line – Runs parallel to the Yamanote line on the western side of the circle.

You can connect from the metro to the Tokaido Shinkansen trains at Tokyo, Ueno, and Shinagawa stations.

Yamanote line map

Yamonote line, Tokyo
Map of the Yamanote and metropolitan JR lines

Yamanote line stations

The JR Yamanote line is a circular line that includes many stops throughout Tokyo. These include most of the city’s main train stations.

Here is a list of the main stations served by the Yamanote line:

  • Shinjuku Station
  • Yoyogi Station
  • Harajuku Station
  • Shibuya Station
  • Meguro Station
  • Shinagawa Station
  • Takanawa Gateway Station
  • Tokyo Station
  • Akihabara Station
  • Ueno Station

Shinjuku Station

Shinjuku Station is thought to be the world’s busiest train hub. Over 3 million passengers pass through the station every day.

At Shinjuku, you can transfer to the Narita Express to Narita Airport, as well as other lines.

Shinjuku is one of the biggest and most important shopping and entertainment districts. If you get off at this station, there are several places of interest nearby:

  • Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office — visit the observatories on the 45th floor of each of the twin towers for some great views of the city.
  • Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden — a serene park to escape the city noise.
  • Kagurazaka — a neighborhood with many quality restaurants

You can also visit Shin-Okubo, which is the next station counter-clockwise. This is the entrance to Tokyo’s very own Korean town, a vibrant area full of street food stalls, markets, karaoke, bars and restaurants reminiscent of South Korean culture.

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

Yoyogi Station

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 fairly close to Shinjuku station.

Photo by Marc Mosco @Flickr – Yoyogi Park, Tokyo

Harajuku Station

The Harajuku station exit will guide you straight to the south part of the Yoyogi park.

Harajuku district is perfect for shoppers — you’ll find the following close to the station:

  • Takeshita — one of the most famous and fashionable streets in Tokyo
  • Omotesando Hills — a large shopping complex with many local Japanese brands.
  • Oriental Bazaar — a huge Japan-themed souvenir shop

Shibuya Station

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 in Tokyo, as well as one of the most active business centers.

Check out the following if you’re in the area:

  • Shibuya 109 — an iconic Tokyo department store.
  • Center Gai street — restaurants, shops, and fashion
  • Bunkamura cultural center — a variety of exhibitions, 2 different cinema houses, and various eateries
Shibuya Center Gai Street
Photo by Joi Ito @Flickr – Center Gai Street, Tokyo

Meguro Station

This is the station for the quiet and residential area of Ebisu and Meguro.

The Meguro canal is a popular spot in spring, when the cherry trees growing on the riverside start blossoming.

Other points of interest include:

  • Institute for Nature Study
  • Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum

Shinagawa Station

One of the line’s busiest hubs, this station serves the Shinagawa Ward.

Various foreign embassies are located here, making this an important stop if you’re a national of one of these countries — including Belarus, Colombia, North Macedonia, and Thailand.

At Shinagawa Station, you can change to the Tokaido Shinkansen line. In the future, it will also be the terminus of the Chuo Shinkansen.

Takanawa Gateway Station

The newest station on the Yamanote line, Takanawa Gateway opened in March 2020 and is located in Tokyo’s Minato Ward between the Shinagawa and Tamachi districts.

This futuristic new station is also served by the Keihin Tohoku Line and is within walking distance of Sengakuji Station.

Tokyo Station

Tokyo Station (Tokyo-Eki) is the central station, 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 these nearby landmarks:

  • Kitchen Street — find a variety of great Japanese restaurants
  • The Imperial Palace East Garden — a great option for a relaxing walk in nature

Do not miss out of the beautiful night lights of Tokyo station after sunset.

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

Akihabara Station

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

Akihabara Station is found in one of the biggest central districts in Tokyo. It is known for its numerous electronic shops in the famous “Electric Town”.

You can find these places of interest in Akihabara:

  • Tokyo Anime Center — manga, anime, exhibitions
  • Radio Kaikan — toys, trading cards, collectibles
  • Yodobashi Multimedia Akiba — department store

Ueno Station

All Shinkansen trains that go to the north of Japan stop at Ueno Station.

Check out these landmarks and attractions in the Ueno area:

  • Ueno Royal Museum
  • Ueno Park
  • Ueno Zoo
  • Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum
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 – ShinagawaTakanawa Gateway – 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 ride for free with the JR Pass:

  • Chuo-Sobu line: Akihabara Station – Tokyo Station – Shinjuku – Yoyogi
  • Narita Express (to Narita Airport): Tokyo Station – Hamamatsucho – Shinagawa – Shibuya – Shinjuku – Ikebukuro
  • Tokyo Monorail (to Haneda Airport): Hamamatsucho Station

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