Tokyo Metro’s new subway app for tourists can mislead


Tokyo Metro has launched a new English language app called ‘Tokyo Subway Navigation for Tourists’. I just wanted to take a moment to show why I would not recommend it to any tourist.

Here’s a sample search and result for how to get from Shibuya to Ebisu:


Most train apps will tell you that the best way is to take the Yamanote Line, operated by JR East, for one stop and you’ll be there in about three minutes. But Tokyo Metro has not included JR trains, either because it can’t or doesn’t want to. Whatever the case, its a disservice to consumers.

No app should ever suggest this route to anyone.

Otherwise the app looks sharp, bringing interactivity to the popular Tokyo Metro map, as well as language support for English, Chinese (simplified and traditional), Korean, and Japanese.

Considering the shortcomings of the above application, it would be nice to see third party developers be better enabled to contribute in this space. The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications does have an open data strategy, which is said to include public transportation such as trains and buses, but I’m not sure of its current progress. I don’t see any information for developers about APIs on Tokyo Metro’s or Japan Railways’s websites in English, and that should really change.