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. Scroll down to see Tokyo’s main subway line superimposed on your city’s map!

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


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 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 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 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


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


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 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 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 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.

The Last Tea Bowl Thief was chosen as an Editor’s Pick for Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense on Amazon

 For three hundred years, a missing tea bowl passes from one fortune-seeker to the next, changing the lives of all who possess it…read more

“A fascinating mix of history and mystery.” —Booklist

Jonelle Patrick writes novels set in Japan, produces the monthly e-magazine Japanagram, and blogs at Only In Japan and The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had

2 thoughts on “How big is Tokyo?

  1. A little inconsistent with use of Tokyo’s population against other cities. For all cities you have used metro population (some outdated fir example Sydney has been over 5 million for years and the number you quote is from well over 20 years ago). I’m this respect it’s well know that although Tokyo is the only mega city in decline, it’s still in 2023 considered to be 36.5 million for the greater Tokyo area. The greater Shanghai population you refer to though is quite accurate (only a couple of years off).

    Love the maps!

    1. Wow, thank you for that call-out on the wrong numbers! This is an old post, but that’s no excuse for comparing apples to oranges (why did I do that? ugh) And honestly, by now, all the city numbers are becoming more and more inaccurate, so I think I’ll take down the city graphs and just keep the train maps—those a more fun way of giving people a feel for how big Tokyo is compared to places they’re familiar with, anyway! Thank you for the prod to make this post better!

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