Public Transportation in Japan: The Tsukuba Express

By Donald Ash | Articles

The Tsukuba Express is one of the most recently created train lines in Japan.  Opening it’s gates on  August 4th, 2005, the Tsukuba Express (or the TX as it’s more commonly known) services regions just northeast of Tokyo.  This train system was created to prevent some of the traffic congestion resulting from commuters having to use the JR Joban Line and existing rails to get to Tokyo.  Prior to having the TX commuters would either have to use the JR Bus (which takes about 65 minutes under normal traffic conditions) or the Joban Line (which would take 85 minutes) to reach Tokyo station.  Another reason for its creation, was the Japanese government’s decision to give Tsukuba a complete overhaul, making it a more international city. Within the last 10-15 years, Tsukuba has been transformed from your run-of-the-mill, rural town, to a noteworthy, global hub for scientific research.   Creating the Tsukuba Express has furthered the developmental cause, as it has fostered a need for more housing, and the establishment of businesses around respective TX stations.  Having the Tsukuba Express also makes Tsukuba more accessible from other major train stations, and makes commuting much easier for the many researchers living in the area.  In addition to making life far more convenient to those just outside of Tokyo, the Tsukuba Express adds even more charm to an already alluring city.


There are a number of benefits to riding the Tsukuba Express.  One noteworthy detail is that it’s an extremely efficient train.  I have been riding since January of 2008, and I have NEVER caught a late train.  Being from Atlanta, Georgia in the United States, this is a completely alien concept to me.  How can a train never be late?  In Georgia, MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, the public transit system in Georgia) would have a five minute delay on some of it’s best days…we won’t even talk about the worst days.

The TX’s speed/convenience is another great advantage.  The TX uses an  bridge and tunnel system and movable platform gates, which means it doesn’t have to stop at railroad crossings…pretty cool, huh? Being on it’s own, independent rail means no traffic coming from other trains, it means no automobile delays.

It’s PASMO & SUICA friendly.  If you have a PASMO or SUICA card you don’t have to worry about getting a ticket every time you hop on the TX.  Just tap your card on one of the sensors and you’re all set.

The Tsukuba Express is comfortable in more ways than one.  As the train is riding, it’s very smooth.  This can be both a pro and a con.  If you’re tired, for whatever reason, it’s very easy to fall asleep on the TX and miss your stop (believe me…I know).  But I definitely prefer the smooth ride. Each of the train-cars are air-conditioned, which is wonderful on those super-hot Japan days or the colder winter days.

I think safety is of extreme importance with all Japanese public transportation, which is why the rails are so effective at what they do.  From what I understand, train maintenance is conducted regularly, and delays/accident information is shared with other rails.  The TX even has safety doors to prevent accidents once the train is in motion.
Even when I couldn’t speak any Japanese at all, the staff was courteous and helpful.  I remember being late one day and I forgot to put money on my PASMO card.  The attendant saw I was in a hurry and that my train was leaving soon, so he just let me through…really cool!

There is one important, final mention…the TX is always clean!


Honestly there’s not a whole lot for me to write here.  Overall I’m pretty satisfied with the service I receive when riding on the TX.  Compared to some of the other rails in Tokyo that may travel similar distances, the Tsukuba Express is expensive.  A round trip from Tsukuba to Akihabara and back will cost you 2300 yen.  For me, Akihabara often isn’t the final destination either, so the travel expenses can add up quite quickly.
When most worker are headed home during the after-work rush, trains can get crowed pretty fast.  It’s definitely not a good thing having to stand during your entire TX ride.  However, you have to take into account that a Tsukuba Express rush hour simply doesn’t compare to Shinjuku Station rush (when they physically have to push people onto the trains).

The final con I want to mention about the TX is the last train.  The last train every evening is a local train that stops in Moriya.  Moriya?!?  Isn’t it called the Tsukuba Express?!?  I have no idea why this is the case, but it’s definitely something to be aware of.
Personally, I feel the pros of the TX far outweigh the cons.  All things considered, it’s a example of Japan’s public transportation at it’s finest.


  • How long does it take to get to Akihabara? Taking the rapid train, you can get from Tsukuba to Akihabara in 45 minutes.
  • What kind of train is the Tsukuba Express?  There are two types of TX trains a DC 1000 (with only bench-style seating) and a DC (Direct Current) 2000 (with mixed seating cars, both face-to-face and bench-style)
  • How long is the Tsukuba Express? From Tsukuba to Akihabara, the line’s longest stretch, measures 58.3km or about 36 miles
  • How fast does the TX go? 130 km/hour (almost 81 miles/hour)
  • How many stations does the Tsukuba Express have?  The TX consists of 20 different stations:

1. Akihabara,  2. Shin-Okachimachi,  3. Asakusa, 4. Minami-Senju, 5. Kita-Senju, 6. Aoi, 7. Rokucho, 8. Yashio, 9. Misato-Chuo, 10. Minami-Nagareyama, 11. Nagareyama-Central Park, 12. Nagareyama-Otakanomori, 13. Kashiwanoha-Campus, 14. Kashiwa-Tanaka, 15. Moriya, 16. Miraidaira, 17. Midorino, 18. Bampaku-Kinenkoen, 19. Kenkyu-Gakuen, and 20. Tsukuba.

  • What types of train service the the TX offer? There are three service speeds:

1. Rapid, 2. Semi-rapid, and 3. Local.

Nine Rapid Service Stops: 1. Akihabara, 2. Shin-Okachimachi, 3. Asakusa, 4. Minami-Senju, 5. Kita-Senju, 6. Minami-Nagareyama, 7. Nagareyama-Otakanomori, 8. Moriya, 9. Tsukuba

Sixteen Semi-Rapid Service Stops: 1. Akihabara, 2. Shin-Okachimachi, 3. Asakusa, 4. Minami-Senju, 5. Kita-Senju,  6. Yashio, 7. Misato-Chuo, 8. Minami Nagareyama, 9. Nagareyama-Otakanomori, 10. Kashiwanoha-Campus, 11. Moriya, 12. Miraidaira, 13. Midorino, 14. Bampaku-Kinenkoen, 15. Kenkyu-Gakuen, and 16. Tsukuba.

Local Service Stops: Stops at every station on the Tsukuba Express Line.
How much does it cost?  The cost of travel on the TX ranges from 160 yen to 1,150 yen.

Donald Ash

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Donald Ash is an ATLien expat who has been living in a Japanese time warp for the last six years. While in aforesaid time warp, he discovered that he absolutely loves writing, blogging, and sharing. Donald is the creator, writer, designer, editor, programmer, and occasional bad artist of blog (that's just way too many hats, dude). Wanna know more about this guy? Check out his "What's Your Story" page.
  • Liss

    Please, round ticket means that I have to go and return on the same day?

    Thank you

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