In part 1 we looked at a few apps that you can download and use on your trip in Tokyo. In This part, I thought we might explore some of the hardcopy Tokyo map options that are available.
OK, so what kinds of maps are we talking about here? I have chosen to look at three different categories of maps; pure maps(city atlas), maps as a part of a guidebook or free maps (the kind you find at information centers).
1. Pure maps
I only actually have the ONE really good Tokyo map that I can recommend, based on personal experience. That’s the “Tokyo City Atlas: a bilingual guide”. The map comes in the shape of a book, and not your perhaps traditional touristy fold-out map. Which I see as something really positive. It makes the map really portable and doesn’t take that much space when you are using it.
First of all, you have maps of both the train networks and the subway network in Tokyo in the beginning of the book. They are literally the first 4 pages. Really convenient as you will probably be commuting quite a bit while in Tokyo.
The book is divided into two levels of detailing. One high-level that covers the whole of Tokyo, here you can get an overview of large parts of Tokyo and you can get some navigational directions, but this part is not that helpful when trying to find your way around on foot.
The other part of the book that goes into a more detailed level of selected areas in the city, really the big city centers interesting when sightseeing. This part is really useful when on foot in Tokyo. In this section, it’s possible to clearly see all the different streets, points of interest (stores, hotels, museums, etc.).
You can also see where the different exits and entrances to the stations are located, something that can be really convenient for the larger stations. You can even find buildings based on an address (if you have that), this is something that no other guidebook or free option can do.
A note on the Japanese address-system at the bottom of the post.
Here is what the Shibuya area looks like in the Tokyo City Atlas:
Buy it on Amazon:
Tokyo City Atlas: A Bilingual Guide
2. Guidebook maps
If you are traveling to Tokyo you might have purchased or looking to purchase a guidebook. There are a bunch of them out there, I thought I would look at three of the big ones with maps in mind, Lonely Planet, TimeOut, and Rough Guide.
To be fair here, I currently have quite an old version of their Japan guidebook. The later versions of the guide have color maps, instead of the black and white ones in my old version. The map highlights things such as the name of train lines, big streets, area names and big buildings. It also uses different shaped symbols (square, circle, square) to show different things on the map such as stores, restaurants etc.
A bit similar to the Lonely Planet maps utilizing different symbols to display points of interest on the map. The map does not give you the name of all the train lines that go to and from the station, which I see as a bit if a minus. I would say despite being in color it does not help that much with clarity, it makes it a bit more cluttered than it needs to be.
Rough Guide to Tokyo
The Rough Guide map is probably the least detailed map of the three. Which is both good and bad, it makes the map less busy but it also leaves a bit out in terms of things to see and do.
The winner out of these three is Lonely Planet, it’s the easiest map to read and has the right level of details.
3. Free maps
If you find yourself without any of the above you can always find maps at the different tourist information offices in and around Tokyo. Lately, the free guides and maps that are available have increased and has become very good. The downside is that there is commercial inserted in the guides, but other than that it’s all good.
So there are a few options available here when you are looking for maps, and these are only a few of all that are available.
A note on the address system in Tokyo. The address system in Japan is a bit different compared to the way you and I are used to having streets named and numbered. In Japan the address sort of narrows down from a large geographical area to a smaller area and then finally the house you might be looking for.