I'll be going to Tokyo for a W3C TAG meeting in November, and we're doing some logistics now months in advance to nail down the meeting location. I love the place, and a late-fall trip has the advantage that you can do some Christmas shopping, you just can't beat Tokyo for that. Anyhow, this note is just to give you a look at some way-cool transit maps I ran across.
Of course, I have a soft spot for maps anyhow, and they're are what I do for a living; not this kind, but aren't they great-looking? I'd give pointers to them, but the way I found them was typing “Tokyo subway map” and “Tokyo JR map” in to Google and picking the first one of each list, and I'd recommend you do this before your next trip to Tokyo.
For those who don't know, Tokyo's public-transit system is maybe the most sophisticated in the world, over twelve million people use it to get around town every day. It's moderately priced and clean, if not always comfortable. It's also insanely complex. The two biggest components are the (mostly) above-ground JR system, illustrated above, and the subway system, below.
Some people have told me that they find the subway tougher than the JR, but I think they're about the same “degree of difficulty.” There are signs in English and helpful “Fare Adjustment Machines” so you don't have to work out the fare in advance, and once you get over the initial sensory overload of the whole thing, Tokyo becomes fairly straightforward to get around in.
There are downsides. The system gets insanely crowded during rush hours. It can get brutally hot and sticky in the summer. Many of the stations have no elevators or escalators, so if you're carrying your suitcase and your laptop and your bag of duty-free booze, you're just gonna have to hump 'em up and down a lot of stairs. Many of the interesting-looking eating establishments are gaijin-unfriendly, with no plastic food showcases to order from by pointing. Tokyo's big, so it can take a while to get there.
But as I said before, Tokyo doesn't need you to like it.