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?
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.
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.
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:
And here’s how many minutes it takes to go between the highlighted stations if you’re riding the train:
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!):
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:
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.
Jonelle Patrick is the author of five novels set in Japan
The Last Tea Bowl Thief was chosen as an Editor’s Pick for Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense on Amazon
“A fascinating mix of history and mystery.” —Booklist