How to Read the Signboards in Japan's Subway Stations

They will help you navigate the area easily.

Major cities such as Sapporo, Tokyo, Yokohama, Nagoya, Osaka, Kobe, and Fukuoka have very convenient and well-used subway systems. In fact, all over these stations, you'll find useful signboards that are meant to help make travelers, both local and foreign, navigate the area. To help you understand these signboards, here's a quick guide to one of Japan's most popular lines: the Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line.

Subway stations have a letter and number before their names. As shown in the photo above, Shinjuku Station on the Marunouchi Line is marked M08, and Shinjuku Sanchome Station is M09.

This system is a simpler way to identify stations; the full name would be station name and the letter-number code. The code is based on the first letter of line’s name, and the numbering proceeds upward from the westernmost or southernmost station.

The signboard on the column shows that Shinjuku Station on the Marunouchi Line is M08, with the next station, Shinjuku Sanchome, is M09. Shinjuku-gyoen-mae is M10.

Other useful information is also posted on the columns around the station. For example, these guide maps found in various spots around the station tell you which cars are closest to which exits to major facilities and attractions around the destination station.

To use, confirm your present location first. The number after the station name is the car number. The mark shows the train car position closest to your present position. According to the photo, we are near where Car 4 stops at Shinjuku Station.

Next, confirm your destination station. For example, if we get off at Shinjuku Sanchome and want to go to BICQLO or the Shinjuku Ward Office, the exit near Car 1 would position us there the closest. However, please note that as of October 2017, the names of the main facilities outside each exit are only printed in Japanese.

Once you know which car to board, it's time to move. The sharp end of the diagram indicates the front of the train. The arrow indicates the direction the train will travel. As we can see here, Car 6 is the first car of the train and Car 1 is the last car.

This column shows information useful for transferring to other lines.

This shows where the Station Office and Lost and Found center are.

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