Japan is known for its efficient rail infrastructures, and Tokyo is home to a mind-boggling network of train lines that tangle up with each other like a massive cobweb. Did you know? There are 882 train stations in and around the Tokyo metropolis! Tokyo is also home to the world's busiest transit hub: Shinjuku Station.
As a self-proclaimed transit nerd and train enthusiast, I am proud to say that I have traveled on the majority of train lines in and around Tokyo! Today I present you my 10 favorite commuter train lines for scenic joyrides!
On this list, I am purposely excluding all the fancy but expensive journeys onboard limited express trains and bullet trains. Instead, these are ordinary commuter train lines that provide fantastic opportunities to see the "real" Tokyo by blending in with locals, going into sleepy residential districts far from the glittering and bustling neon lights shining on Shinjuku. However, with that said, certain lines provide the option of limited express trains for a faster and more comfortable journey for an added surcharge.
To avoid crowding during rush hours, the best times to hop on these trains are during late morning and early afternoon on weekdays, and all day on weekends and public holidays.
The Yurikamome is a driverless train system that runs on elevated guideways through Shinagawa seaside and over to the futuristic city of Odaiba. Starting from Shimbashi Station, you can take the driver's seat up front, and soak in all the beautiful views of Tokyo Bay, crossing the Rainbow Bridge into the heart of Odaiba. Odaiba is a futuristic city built on a manmade island, where you will find a giant Gundam robot safeguarding the Diversity Tokyo shopping complex. You will also pass by the Iconic Fuji TV building that looks like a sci-fi space bunker.
Similar to the Yurikamome train, The Tokyo Monorail also runs almost entirely on elevated tracks, providing panoramic views along the way to Haneda Airport from Central Tokyo. Starting from Hamamatsucho Station served by the Yamanote Line, the monorail train runs through and crisscrosses between expensive condo buildings in the heart of Shinagawa, one of the most expensive area codes in Japan, before reaching the coast and leisurely cruises beside Tokyo Bay, before finally reaching its final destination of Haneda Airport. There is a fantastic viewing deck on the top floor of Haneda Airport Terminal 3, where you can sit back, relax and watch airplanes take off and land every 90 seconds! Be sure to take the Airport Express trains that bypasses all stations along the way until arriving at Haneda Airport.
Tsukuba Express is a commuter train line that runs Northeast to the futuristic university town of Tsukuba in Ibaraki Prefecture. The cool thing about this train line is that within 45 minutes, you will travel through 4 different prefectures! Starting in Akihabara, the iconic district known for anime and manga culture in Central Tokyo, Tsukuba Express line spends the first 15 minutes as an underground subway train. Up until the northern border of Tokyo, then it runs mostly on elevated bridges through Saitama, Chiba and Ibaraki prefectures! The most scenic section of the Tsukuba Express line is between Nagareyama-ootakanomori Station and Miraidaira Station, when the train gradually leaves the city and runs through wide opened fields and rice paddies in northern Chiba and southern Ibaraki. Tsukuba Express also boasts running one of the fastest commuter train lines in Japan, with speeds reaching up to 130km/h through certain sections of route! Once you arrive at the northern terminus, you can explore the futuristic university town of Tsukuba, home to Tsukuba University, one of the most renowned educational institutions in the nation.
The Nippori-Toneri Liner is an automated train system that runs exclusively on elevated guideways. Starting from Nippori Station on the Yamanote Line, you can take the front driver's seat and enjoy the views along the journey towards the district of Adachi in North Tokyo. Along the way, you will cross the Arakawa River, and runs through the heart of Toneri Park, before finally reaching the northern terminus at Toneri Station. This is a short journey that takes around 20 minutes from beginning to end, and a great way to see local residential areas close from Central Tokyo. Be sure to check out Yanaka Ginza near Nippori Station, it's a fantastic local shopping street where you can sample ordinary street food and shop with the locals.
JR Tokaido Line runs from Central Tokyo towards the coastal town of Atami in Shizuoka Prefecture. Starting from Ueno Station, the train makes its way to the busy port city of Yokohama, also home to the largest Chinatown in Japan. From Yokohama, the train travels through the sleepy seaside towns of Chigasaki and Hiratsuka, before spending lots of time slowly chugging right by the ocean, traveling on the coast of Sagami Bay towards the historic town of Odawara, and eventually reaching the southern terminus of Atami. For those looking for a more exclusive experience, the Limited Express Saphir Odoriko train runs along the same tracks all the way to Shimoda and Shuzenji on the Izu Peninsula, where you can enjoy beautiful beaches and an endless list of attractions and activities!
The Odakyu Odawara Line runs from Shinjuku Station to Odawara and Hakone, directly through the heart of Kanagawa Prefecture. Along the way, you will go through the busy shopping and residential areas of Setagaya, Machida and Ebina, eventually crossing the Sagami River and over into much more relaxing rural farms and small towns towards the city of Odawara. On a clear sunny day, you will get to see Mount Fuji along the journey! For a more exclusive experience, consider taking the limited express "Romance Car" train with couch style seating and nice big windows for taking pictures along the way!
The Musashino Line train runs partially along the Keiyo Line tracks from Tokyo Station to Nishi-Funabashi Station. Along the way, you will cruise along the coast of Tokyo Bay, passing by Disneyland and Kasai-Rinkai Koen ("Kasai seaside park"). After arriving at Nishi-Funabashi Station, the train makes its way through busy residential areas through northern Chiba and Saitama prefectures. If you'd like to do some shopping, the Musashino Line is also the ultimate shopping train, stopping by some of the biggest shopping complexes on the outskirt of Tokyo. Notably, Shim-Misato Station is a popular shopping destination, home to Lalaport Shim-Misato, Ikea and Costco. Another popular shopping destination along the Musashino Line is Aeon Lake Town at Koshigaya Lake Town Station, one of the largest shopping complexes around Tokyo!
The views are incredibly rewarding along the way, crossing 4 rivers along the journey, and also running through areas with lots of nature, fields and farmlands. To sightsee and shop using the Musashino Line, you may start from Tokyo Station with a Musashino Line Train, and eventually end the trip at Nishi-Kokubunji Station, where you can quickly return to Shinjuku or Tokyo Station using the Chuo Line Rapid Train.
This line becomes extremely congested during rush hours on weekdays, be sure to use it during off-peak hours from 10 am to 3 pm.
The Toden-Arakawa Line is one of the only tram lines left in Tokyo, dating back to 1911 when trams were the mainstream transportation mode serving the capital, before getting phased out and replaced by diesel city buses. The Sakura Tram isn't particularly scenic, but it's a great way to tour through local residential neighborhoods in the heart of central Tokyo. Connecting from JR Otsuka Station on a tram bound for Minowabashi, you will cruise through the neighborhood of Sugamo, a popular traditional shopping area nicknamed "the elderly's Shinjuku". The shopping street at Sugamo is worth exploring, home to a number of well-established restaurants and shops selling traditional snacks and sweets to locals for decades after decades. Passing by the tram depot, you will find some historic trams preserved in a little public park, and you are welcome to board and get a feel of the nostalgic golden days of Tokyo. Near Oji Station, you can hop on a funicular and reach the top of Asukayama Park, where you can take a lazy afternoon stroll inside the park, and a great spot for blending in and hanging out with the locals.
Alternatively, you can also jump on a tram bound for Waseda, and explore the neighborhood near Waseda University, one of the most prestigious universities in Japan.
Popularized by many anime and television drama series such as Slam Dunk and A Channel, the Enoden Electric Railway is one of the most scenic and romantic train lines in Japan. The 10km route travels through Kamakura seaside, making scheduled stops at dreamy photogenic locations such as Kamakura-Kokomae Station, where you can enjoy the gentle ocean breeze, and watch the tidal waves wash up the coast along miles of beaches for as far as the eyes can see. During the month of June, Kamakura is well-known for having some of the most beautiful Hydrangea flowers in the nation and taking the Enoden train is a fantastic way to enjoy the sceneries of the Ajisai flowers while enjoying the summer wind and sunshine.
The Isumi Railway is situated a little far from Central Tokyo. From Tokyo Station, take the JR Sobu Rapid train bound for Kisarazu or Kimitsu, and transfer to the Isumi Railway at Goi Station. The Isumi Railway is a very slow and relaxing train ride through the heart of Boso Peninsula, crossing fields after fields in the middle of the remote Boso Peninsula. During spring and summer, Isumi Railway is popular amongst domestic tourists, because it runs through very scenic fields filled with beautiful flowers. Isumi Railway makes a great day trip away from the hustling and bustling chaos of the city, immersing into mother nature on a slow-paced relaxing train journey through some of the most scenic parts of Chiba's agricultural heartlands, quiet hidden villages and remote wilderness in the countryside.
Through all my train travels in Japan, the Kashima Line is one of my favorites of all times. Like Isumi Railway, this line requires a little bit of time and effort to get to, and it is best done as a full day trip. From Narita Station (near the airport), hop on a Narita Line Train bound for Choshi, and transfer to the Kashima Line at Kaotori Station. The Kashima Line is a short train ride that crosses 3 rivers and passes through the scenic "water countryside" (水郷) of Chiba, providing incredible sceneries along the way. When you reach Kashima, be sure to hop off and visit Kashimajingu Shrine, one of the most prominent shrines in Japan. Kashimajingu Shrine is the head shrine leading over 600 Kashima Shrines throughout Japan, it is considered as the ultimate power spot for praying to the Shinto God of Victory. For more details and activity suggestions in Ibaraki, Kashima and Chiba, please visit Wanderplans!
Let us know in comments if you have ever used any of these train lines for commuting or traveling! Also, if you have different suggestions for scenic commuter train lines that hasn't been listed here, please let us know! We are always looking to explore new scenic train adventures!