Tokyo Metro Signage – You Can Find Your Way Without Reading Japanese

January 6th, 2014

Ten years ago I moved to Tokyo for work. Unfortunately, my Japanese language skills were non-existent, so I spent much of those early months perpetually lost on Tokyo’s streets. But underground it was a different story. If you’ve ever been, you know that many of the central Tokyo stations are massive – multiple exits, mezzanines, pedestrian tunnels, and tons and tons of people. However, Tokyo Metro, the JR East Lines and the private rail lines that together create the city’s rail network have a good wayfinding system provided in Japanese and English that make it fairly easy to get around underground.

Which car should I stand in?

Which car should you use?

Though it was not translated into English, my particular favorite piece of signage is shown above. Many of the platforms are eight to ten cars long and, invariably, I would be at the wrong end for my preferred exit or transfer location. These signs were well spaced along a platform and wrapped some of the pillars on the platform. For the destination station, it tells a rider which car to board to reach a specific exit or to transfer to a different line. In the photo above from a Namboku Line platform, if you are traveling to Oji and want to transfer to the JR Line, you should stand in car 2 or 5. While I didn’t quite get the other information, at least I knew which car to board to make an easy transfer. (On a side note, the app Exit Strategy does the same thing for NYC Transit and is more than worth the $4.99 price tag.)

Additional platform signage on the ground tells riders where the doors will open on the platform, which stair/escalator to use to get to a specific building or destination, and where women-only cars will be.

Where should you stand on the platform?

Where should you stand on the platform?

Key buildings and the appropriate exit and stair/escalator to use

Which stair/escalator will get you closest to your destination?

Which car is for women only?

Which car is for women only?

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  1. January 6th, 2014 at 22:02 | #1

    Great post. I would add that the Metro Master app (, iPhone App Store) is the Exit Strategy equivalent for the wmata system – and it’s free!

  2. David
    January 11th, 2014 at 17:39 | #2


    Glad to see that Tokyo’s subway is on your mind. I’ve spent a fair amount of time there and think we could import a lot of good ideas. Any reason we couldn’t do this here?

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