Yamanote line

Yamanote line in Tokyo – 山手線

The Yamanote line 山手線 is one of the busiest and most important train lines in Tokyo. It is a 34.5 km loop line covering some of the most important landmarks in the city and every train takes between 59 and 65 minutes to run a complete loop.

Origin of the name

Yamanote 山の手 (literally mountain hands) traditionally refers to the hills section inside of the city located west of the Imperial Palace. Although the Yamanote area cannot be defined exactly, in the Edo period it was comprised of the following areas of Tokyo: Yotsuya, Aoyama, Ichigaya, Koishikawa and Hongō.

The Yamanote Japanese word is formed by the kanji (mountain), the kana (no) and (hand), but when referring the the train line, the word loses the genitive particle の, making it ambiguous to pronounce: 山手. It can be pronounced as やまて (yamate) or as やまのて (yamanote).

History of the Yamanote line

At the beginning, the Yamanote line only connected Shinagawa to Akabane, both in the traditional Yamanote area. That’s the reason it got this name. After few years, the Yamanote line continued expanding, until it reached the circular loop as we know it today.

Construction of the Yamanote Line


  • 1885 – Yamanote line is created the 1st of March, between Shinagawa Station in the south and Akabane Station in the north
  • 1903 – The upper section between Ikebukuro station and Tabata station is created. Both stations already existed at that time.
  • 1925 – The loop is completed, connecting the Kanda and Ueno stations.

Important stations

The Yamanote line has a total of 29 stations. Some of the most important ones are:

  • Shibuya – It’s the fourth busiest rail station in Japan. It serves an average of 2.4 million passengers per day.
  • Shinjuku – Being a major connection hub, it’s the busiest train station in the world. The station is used by 3.64 million people per day.
  • Ikebukuro – It’s the second busiest train station in the world. Used by 2.71 million passengers every day.
  • Ueno – It’s the station to reach the Ueno park and many Museums in the area.
  • Tokyo – It’s the busiest station in Japan in terms of number of trains. It serves more than 3000 different trains every day.
  • Shinagawa – Connects with the Tokaido Shinkansen line.

Geisha in Tokyo

Did you know there are still Geisha in Tokyo? Kyoto is not the only city where you can spot one.

Geisha 芸者 are traditional female Japanese entertainers skilled at different arts. Every year in mid April in the Asakusa district there is an Oiran Dōchū 花魁道中 (procession of courtesans) and if you are lucky enough to be around in this time of the year, you should try to go.

There, it is possible to see not only geisha in Tokyo but also Hangyoku 半玉 (apprentices), Oiran 花魁 (courtesan), Kamuro 禿 (Oiran’s child assistant), Wakai-mono 若い者 (man doing different duties in the pleasure quarters) and even a male Geisha!

Yes, there are also few male geisha in Japan. They are called taikomochi  太鼓持ち. The one in the previous picture is called Eitarou 栄太朗 and resides precisely in Asakusa, Tokyo.

They all belong to the Matsunoya Okiya 置き屋 (Geisha house)