JapanCaution if Traveling in Tokyo: One of the Most Important Train Lines Closing Down for the First Time Since 1987!

3755 min

A large part of the Yamanote Line will be shut down for construction this weekend (November 16 and November 17, 2019).

The easiest and most convenient way to go from Point A to Point B in Tokyo is often to use trains. This is because the roads are often jammed with traffic. Just one train line allows one to see most of the sights of downtown Tokyo. That line is the JR Yamanote Line. It goes through the city center, forming a loop. Using the JR Yamanote Line, you can go to Ginza and its shops that sell high fashions, visit Akihabara, which is the Mecca for video game and anime nerds, go to Ueno Park, a very spacious green space, various museums, and the zoo. The JR Yamanote Line also brings you close to where you can take the bullet train, or Shinkansen: Tokyo Station and Shinagawa. Tokyo Station is even near the Pokémon Café, a permanent Pokémon-themed business in which customers and eat and drink.

Since 1987, when JR East was formed, the Yamanote line has never been closed for repairs, maintenance, the addition of a new station, etc. That is how important it is to daily life and entertainment, both for local citizens and tourists. However, this impressive 32 years of continuous operation will come to an end this weekend. JR East made it public that beginning on Saturday, November 16 (in the morning), about ⅓ of the line will be shut down.

Why is ⅓ of the line going to be shut down? The answer is that a new station, called Takanawa Gateway Station, will be added. It will open in 2020, in the spring. It will be the first new station on the Yamanote Line since 1971. The last train to enter the depot will be on November 15, at night. Then railroad workers will start to equip the new station with needed track-switching equipment. They will not be able to finish before the first morning train, and therefore, the station will be shut down for the weekend. This outage will affect the length of track between Osaki Station and Ueno Station. It will be impossible to travel between those, and 11 stations will be affected. These stops are Osaki, Shinagawa, Tamachi, Hamamatsucho, Shimbashi, Yurakucho, Tokyo, Kanda, Akihabara, Okachimachi, and Ueno.

On Sunday, at about 4:00 PM, those stations will start to have Yamanote Line trains running through them, again. JR’s Keihin Tōhoku Line will also be affected; it will not run between Shinagawa Station and Tamachi Station, because those two stations are next to the future Takanawa Gateway Station. These two JR Keihin Tōhoku Line stations will be out of commission the whole day.

There is some good news, however. To compensate for this, JR is adding more trains on lines that passengers might use as an alternative to bypass the contruction and shut-down lines. These additional trains (greater frequency, basically) are on the Saikyō Line and Ueno-Tōkyō Line. This will be helpful for those who would normally want to use the JR Yamanote Line or the JR Keihin Tōhoku Line.