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On my last trip to Tokyo, I made extensive use of subway lines (Tokyo Metro and Toei). Very often, there were no direct subway route to my destination. So I have to change trains. And since the subway had a bit of history and development, I have a couple of routes on hand to choose from.

I tried to pick a route with minimum walking distance when changing trains. But to know how much I need to walk when planning my trip was a challenge. I looked through the official websites and Wikipedia. No resource on the platform-to-platform distance were available.

When planning my trip, I tried to avoid interchanging between two stations with different names, or interchanging with "transfer at ground level", or interchanging at large train station. I believed these clues would hint a long walking distance. These methods might have helped me avoid some walkings, but I still encountered some long walks. For example, my interchange at Mitsukoshimae between Ginza Line and Hanzomon Line took more than 5 minutes, along a long corridor between the two platforms. Had I chose a different route and changed between Ginza Line and Tozai Line at Nihombashi, it would have been a 1 minute walk instead.

I know that there is distance information available at the direction instruction guiding passengers to the desired line. The problem is that I do not get to see it until I alight at the interchange station. In such case even if I found that the walking distance at that station is long, I hesitated to get back on the train and try a different interchange station.

Question: When planning my trip involving Tokyo Metro and Toei, how can I know how much walking is needed when changing trains?

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    Can you read Japanese? – fkraiem Dec 14 '19 at 14:07
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    @fkraiem Very little, but I am fluent in Google Translate. – Link Ng Dec 14 '19 at 14:08
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    So, just use Google Maps with Less walking option. But if you are not able to walk 100m between Ginza line and Tozai line nothing will help. – Rambalac Dec 14 '19 at 16:27
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If you use the Jorudan (https://world.jorudan.co.jp/mln/en/) trip planner, it splits the change time into transfer time and waiting time. The transfer portion can give you an indication for how far away the different platforms. The times given are generally the maximum and on the Japanese version of the site you can specify how quickly you can do transfers

■Jiyugaoka(Tokyu)    Platform 5.6
|   Tokyu-Toyoko Line (For Ikebukuro)    Center    
|   10:20-10:32 [12 min]
|   160 yen 
◇Shibuya    Platform 5.6
|   Direct    
◇Shibuya    Platform 5.6
|   Tokyo-Metro Fukutoshin Line (For Ikebukuro)        
|   10:33-10:40 [7 min]
|   280 yen 
◇Shinjuku-Sanchome    Platform 4
|   Transfer    
|   10:40-10:50 [Transfer 6 min + Wait 4 min]
◇Shinjuku-Sanchome    Platform 2
|   Toei Subway-Shinjuku Line (For Motoyawata)    Forward/Rearward    
|   10:50-10:57 [7 min]
■Kudanshita    Platform 6
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A simple Hyperdia search should be all you need in most circumstances; just search for your route and see the transfer times that are given for each possible transfer option. For example if you search from Kanda to Otemachi, you see that it does indeed show longer transfer times at Mitsukoshimae vs. at Nihombashi.

If you want to see for yourself what the transfer looks like, many people have documented them on YouTube; for example see here and here. You do need to know the Japanese names of the station and lines to know what to search for, however.

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I personally am very happy with the Japan Travel app (App store link, Google Play link) by Navitime. It is very good for finding trips from one train station to another (sometimes it provides bus routes but that is very unreliable). But most importantly, it lets you choose the following options for route search:

  • fastest route
  • lowest number of transfers
  • shortest walking distance
  • lowest price
  • environmentally friendly (whatever that is, never tried; a relatively recent addition)

Furthermore, it allows options to avoid rain (i.e. indoor transfers) or least steps but I haven’t tested all of them. It knows which routes you can take with different flat rate passes and it is aware of traffic disruptions. I believe it essentially uses the same raw data as HyperDia but since it is aimed at tourists all its interfaces are in English (and I am not sure whether HyperDia even features a fully functional app).

I found it searching for train timetable apps two years ago when I visited Japan for the first time. I am not affiliated with the app or its company in any way.

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Unfortunately, there is no easy way to do this. The train companies don't advertise long walks, they advertise "connected to ...".

Checking the transfer time works in the short-time direction but not for long times. If the transfer time says "2 minutes" that is likely a platform change, but if it says "10 minutes" you don't know if it is a 9 minute walk followed by a 1-minute wait or walking across the common platform (about 5 meters) and waiting 10 minutes for the next train.

You have already discovered that different stations have huge differences in transfer distance, that happens a lot. A rather epic difference is Hanzomon to Ginza lines. At Shibuya it's sub-basement to 3rd floor in a different building, at Omotesando (the next stop) it's across the common platform.

"interchanging at large train station" does not guarantee a long walk. Shinjuku is the world's busiest station but is quite compact. JR to Odakyu can be 2 minutes, IF you get off the train at the right place and use the underground transfer gate.

Also consider that the transfer time assumes no wrong turns, no lines, no crowds, and a brisk walking pace. Actually getting there in X minutes not guaranteed.

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  • "the transfer time assumes no wrong turns, no lines, no crowds, and a brisk walking pace." No, it doesn't. If you walk briskly, with no wrong turns, etc., you can often make an earlier connection than the one shown. – fkraiem Dec 15 '19 at 8:06
  • hey @peter, thanks for the excellent answer. what do you think of the tools hyperdia / jorudan ? – Fattie Dec 15 '19 at 13:02
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    @Fattie Jorudan is good when you want a quick route / fare / departure time, not so good for a complicated or detailed journey. Hyperdia has air, bus, different types of train, passing points, finely-detailed schedules... and therefore is a bit much most times. – peter Dec 16 '19 at 4:03

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