How big is Tokyo?

It’s hard to plan a trip to somewhere before you know how big it is and how hard it will be to get around. Compare Tokyo’s size and population to a city you know, then scroll down to see Tokyo’s main subway line superimposed on your city’s map!

So…how big IS Tokyo?

Graphic comparing world cities areas
When gathering data about world cities, I had to choose between staying strictly inside the city limits or including the greater metropolitan area. I chose to stay in the city limits, because I didn’t know how many of the surrounding suburbs/cities they were including in the “metro” area. All data is from Wikipedia as of 2019
Graphic comparing world cities populations
All figures from Wikipedia (2019)

Now scroll down to find a city you’re familiar with, and see how it compares to Tokyo. (They’re in alphabetical order.)

The “Area” graphics show how big other cities are, compared to Tokyo, and the “Population” graphics show how many people each city has, compared to Tokyo.

What’s interesting is that the “Population” circles also tell us how crowded other cities are, compared to Tokyo – the bigger the circle representing the other city, the closer it comes to Tokyo’s density. Only two cities represented here have more people per square kilometer than Tokyo – Delhi and Shanghai.

Graphic comparing sizes of Tokyo and Berlin

Graphic comparing sizes of Tokyo and Cairo

Graphic comparing sizes of Tokyo and Chicago

Graphic comparing sizes of Tokyo and Delhi

Graphic comparing sizes of Tokyo and London

Graphic comparing sizes of Tokyo and Los Angeles

Graphic comparing sizes of Tokyo and New YorkGraphic comparing sizes of Tokyo and Paris

Graphic comparing sizes of Tokyo and San Francisco

Graphic comparing sizes of Tokyo and Sao Paolo

Graphic comparing sizes of Tokyo and Seattle

Graphic comparing sizes of Tokyo and Shanghai

Graphic comparing sizes of Tokyo and Stockholm

Graphic comparing sizes of Tokyo and Sydney

How long does it take to get from here to there? 

Anyone who wants to be somewhere on time in Tokyo takes the train. They’re not just frequent and fast, they’re scarily on time. For example, this is the Yamanote train line, which runs in a ring around central Tokyo, and is ridden by an average of 2 million people per day.

Tokyo subway map with Yamanote line

I’ve highlighted some of the biggest stations in the circuit (plus Odaiba, since it’s such a popular destination). Here’s how far apart they are on a regular map:

Tokyo map with Yamanote line superimposed

And here’s how many minutes it takes to go between the highlighted stations if you’re riding the train:

Tokyo map with Yamanote line superimposed and time between main stations

To give you a better idea of how far and how fast, here’s how the Yamanote Line would look in other cities around the world, and how long (in minutes) it would take to get between stations (apologies if I didn’t pick your city – I had to draw the line somewhere!):

BERLIN

Berlin map with Yamanote line
If the Yamanote Line’s Shinjuku Station was at Brandenburger Tor, here’s where the other stops would be

CAIRO

Cairo map with Yamanote line
If you could get off the train at Shibuya to see the Sphinx, the Yamanote line could also take you to the Opera House if you got off at Ueno

CHICAGO

Chicago map with Yamanote line
If you got on the train at the Ueno stop at Wrigley Field, the Yamanote line could also take you to the Shedd Aquarium/Navy Pier area in 20 minutes

DELHI

Delhi map with Yamanote line
If the Red Fort was outside Ueno Station, Shibuya would be on the far side of the Pusa Hill Forest

LONDON

London map with Yamanote line
In London, you could get off at Hyde Park at the Shibuya stop, Hampstead Heath at Shinjuku, and Spitalfields at Shimbashi

LOS ANGELES

LA map with Yamanote line
If you got on at the Ikebukuro stop by the Getty Museum, you could be at the Santa Monica Pier in 16 minutes, and getting on a boat for an afternoon sail out of Marina del Rey in under a half hour

NEW YORK

New York map with Yamanote line
If the Ueno stop were up in Harlem at the very top of Central Park, Shimbashi would be on the East Side in midtown, Shimagawa would be down in the Village, Shibuya would be across the bridges and through the tunnels in Hoboken

PARIS

Paris map with Yamanote line
If you could get off the Yamanote Line at Shibuya and be at the Eiffel Tower, the only stop that would still be within the city limits would be Shimbashi, over in Bagnolet

SAN FRANCISCO

San Francisco map with Yamanote line
If the Ueno stop dropped you at Pier 39 near Fisherman’s Wharf, Shimbashi would take you to Dolores Park, Shinagawa would be outside City College, and Ikebukuro would be across the Big Red Thing

SAO PAOLO

Sao Paolo map with Yamanote line
If the Akihabara stop were outside the Patio do Colegio, Shinjuku Station would be near the Universidade de Sal Paulo

SEATTLE

Seattle
If Shibuya were the stop where you’d get off to see the Seahawks play, Shinjuku would be up near the UDub, Shimbashi out in Bellevue, and Shinagawa down at Seward Park

SHANGHAI

Shanghai map with Yamanote line
Seeing the Yamanote Line in Shanghai really brings home just how HUGE Shanghai is. The ring of stations encompasses the Bund and some fancy downtown shopping, but doesn’t get anywhere near the outskirts!

STOCKHOLM

Stockholm map with Yamanote line
If Shimbashi were the stop right in the middle of Stockholm, Ikebukuro would be quite far out in the countryside!

SYDNEY

Sydney map with Yamanote line
If Odaiba (home of the Borderless Digital Museum) were out at Bondi Beach, Shinagawa would be directly inland at Centennial Park, And Ikebukuro would be up near Middle Cove

I’d be very interested to hear whether these distances/time to get somewhere seem short or long to you. After living in both Tokyo and San Francisco, where traffic is a nightmare at all hours of the day, when I compare the time in transit to going a similar distance in a car, it seems hella fast to me!

The Yamanote line is just one of the many train lines that make getting around Tokyo faster, easier and cheaper than driving or taking a taxi. And the main reason is traffic. Here are two Navitime Japan Travel app search results for getting from Shinjuku Station across town to the delightful and popular neighborhood of Asakusa. The one on the left is for arrival at 9 am, the other for arrival at 11am:

Train travel times between Shinjuku and Asakusa

Note that the train routes vary in length and which trains they recommend, depending on whether it’s rush hour (left) or not (right). The one thing that doesn’t change is option #5, the taxi time and price estimate. That’s because they don’t take traffic into account. In a parallel universe, where you are the only one on the road (ahahahahahaha), you would get there in about 24 minutes. But that never happens. Trust me when I say that even if you spend over ¥6000 instead of less than ¥400, you will not get there faster if you take a cab.

Know someone who’s planning a trip to Japan? Share this!

Jonelle Patrick author

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