Exploring Tokyo On The Yamanote Line
By Anthony Joh
With a population of over 13 million people, Tokyo is one of the busiest cities in the world but with its extensive rail network it is also one of the easiest cities to get around in. I travelled around Tokyo via the Yamanote Line to explore some of the city’s most popular attractions.
The Yamanote Line is a rapid transit line operated by the East Japan Railway Company (JR East) that connects many of Tokyo’s major urban centers. The Tokunai Pass allows unlimited rides on local and rapid JR East trains within the 23 Wards of Tokyo.
A complete loop of the Yamanote Line takes 1 hour and stops at 29 stations.
My journey starts off at the recently renovated Tokyo Station which is located a short distance from the Imperial Palace. After a long renovation period Tokyo Station has been restored to its original appearance when it first opened over 100 years ago.
Tokyo Station is one of the main hub stations in Japan, serving many regional lines of Japan Railways, Tokyo Metro and the Shinkansen lines. The station itself offers a number of tourist attractions, such as a hotel, art gallery and numerous restaurants.
From Tokyo Station my first stop is the world famous Akihabara, home to electronics, anime, and otaku culture. One attraction that is unique to Japan are the maid cafes, where Japanese girls will dress up in French maid outfits and interact with the customers.
Make sure to visit on a Sunday when the main street (Chuo Dori) is closed to car traffic from 13:00 to 18:00 (until 17:00 from October through March)
Next stop is Ueno Station, home of the famous cheery blossom festival that is held every year in nearby Ueno Park. The cherry blossoms are usually in bloom during late March and early April and attract large numbers of hanami parties.
Ueno Park is also home to a variety of science museums and makes a great picnic area for the family. For bargain hunters, make sure you check out Ameyayokocho Street, located across from Ueno Park for great deals on food, art, clothing and more.
Two stops past Ueno is Nippori Station, home to one of Tokyo’s best old world secrets. Yanaka Ginza is a historic shopping area that is lined with traditional stores selling everything from fresh treats to handmade souvenirs.
After you’ve finished shopping, stop for a (large) bite to eat at the famous Zakuro Restaurant.
With 35 platforms, over 200 exits and 3.64 million commuters per day, Shinjuku Station is the busiest train train station in the world. West of the station is Shinjuku’s skyscraper district, home to many of Tokyo’s tallest buildings. Make sure to check out the Tokyo City Hall building that was built during the height of the Japanese economic bubble and enjoy the view from the free observation deck.
For a little color and music check out Takeshita Street which is said to be the teenage fashion capital of Japan. Located directly across from Harajuku Station, Takeshita Dori is very popular with young teenagers, from cute lolita fashion to dark gothic drag, you will find every style imaginable here.
We finish our circle of the Yamanote Line at Tokyo’s most famous crossing. Shibuya represents the fast paced energetic life that is living in Tokyo. For first time visitors to Tokyo, the Yamanote Line offers a fun and convenient way to see the city. I only covered 7 out of the 29 stations that make up the Yamanote Line, so there is so much more to explore.
Next time you are in Tokyo, grab the Tokunai Pass and discover this amazing city for yourself.