Tokyo made a guide to its labyrinthine underground network. But despite their good intentions, it may as well have been drawn by M.C. Escher.

Navigating the Tokyo Metro can be a challenge.

Together with the Toei Subway, Tokyo’s is the busiest metropolitan transit network in the world, with over 3 billion annual riders. The Metro’s nine lines have 179 stops, where travelers can transfer, in addition to the Toei, to dozens of privately owned rail lines, dozens of Japan Rail commuter trains, and of course, the Shinkansen bullet trains. (See the "Transport in Greater Tokyo" Wikipedia page for more.)

Are you confused yet? Try transferring at one of the world’s busiest stations.

The Tokyo Metro has by and large done an excellent job helping locals and tourists alike parse this labyrinthine underground network. Digital screens in every train car display the design of the approaching platform, adjusted to correspond to your current car, so you can see which way you’ll have to walk to the elevator, escalator, or transfer points.

And then there is the Tokyo Metro Navi booklet, free for the taking at every station, which maps out both the street geography surrounding the busiest stations and the architecture of the stations themselves.

These latter diagrams are of particular interest, for despite their good intentions, they might have been drawn by M.C. Escher. Is this a navigational aide or some mad artist’s blueprint for a subway station? You decide.

Akasaka-Mitsuke station

Ginza station
Ikibukuro station

Kasumigaseki station

Iidabashi station
Kokkai station
Shibuya station



Top image: Otemachi station. All images courtesy of the Tokyo Metro Navi.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. photo: a pair of homes in Pittsburgh
    Equity

    The House Flippers of Pittsburgh Try a New Tactic

    As the city’s real estate market heats up, neighborhood groups say that cash investors use building code violations to encourage homeowners to sell.  

  2. Life

    The Cities Americans Want to Flee, and Where They Want to Go

    An Apartment List report reveals the cities apartment-hunters are targeting for their next move—and shows that tales of a California exodus may be overstated.

  3. a photo of a Dodge Challenger
    Transportation

    The ‘Airbnb of Cars’ Gets Heat From the Rental Car Industry

    Peer-to-peer sharing services that let owners rent out their vehicles are a focus of concern from traditional car rental companies, who see disruption ahead.

  4. Equity

    A Visual History of the U.S. Census

    Vulnerable communities are bracing for an undercount in 2020. It’s a familiar story that traces back to the Articles of Confederation.

  5. A photo of a police officer in El Paso, Texas.
    Equity

    What New Research Says About Race and Police Shootings

    Two new studies have revived the long-running debate over how police respond to white criminal suspects versus African Americans.

×