Japan: Inspired by Tokyo's Yamanote Line

The Yamanote Line is a 34.5 km train loop that connects many of Tokyo’s major urban areas and subway lines. Its trains come every several minutes to the 29 stations, both clockwise and anti-clockwise. (Explore this interactive map.)

Yamanote Line, from Wikipedia

This recent Global Voices link to the Yamanote Loop project spurred feedback from readers on other projects that were inspired by the Line.

Steve from the Fwdmovement site has kicked off a photography project called Yamanote Loop. The project will cover each of the 29 stations in Tokyo's JR Yamanote Line, starting with Mejiro Station.

This post introduces several personal projects that were published online in English and Japanese. To my knowledge, all of the online photography projects are by non-Japanese living in Tokyo, while native Tokyoites favored chronicling walking projects on their blogs.

160yen – A Day on Tokyo's Yamanote Line

This is a series of black and white photographs by Fabrizio Quagliuso (a.k.a. fabuchan) in April 2010, now available as a book.

I started this project because I was fascinated by the idea that by being always on the same line and going round and round in the loop, as the day progressed I would have been able to see the whole range of Tokyo life just passing in front of me.

Alexandre Gervais

Alexandre Gervais has two projects, Girls of the Yamanote and Surroundings of the Yamanote.

Since I first came to Tokyo in 2007, I always found that the Yamanote line was, in my opinion, one of the most significant landmarks in Tokyo while never being recognize as such. You will always hear about the Tokyo Tower, Shibuya Crossing and others but if there’s one thing that’s omnipresent in everyone’s life in Tokyo, it’s the Yamanote.

Ghosts of Tokyo

A photography project by Olivier Théreaux in 2003, which he calls a “a visual haiku, a photographic poem telling a story of ghosts in the City”.

This book started as a project to document the “other” face of Tokyo, by walking around the Yamanote, the ultra-busy circular train line often thought of as the heart (or more appropriately, the crown) of the city, and taking pictures of the areas between the stations, when the common images were too often close to the stations.

A highspeed video of riding the Yamanote Line.

And more

Some bloggers use the Line as a way to explore Tokyo, such as the Traveling Tales blog, the Soul Sauce blog, and My Year in Japan blog. Wataru Fujiki has beautiful illustrations [ja].

In Yamanote Line Sounds, Rick Benedict collected Japanese and English on-train announcement for each station. They are offered online and as ringtones. There are alarm clocks and piggy banks, too.

A look into the Japanese blogosphere brought forth many entries of people walking around the entire line. For example, Mari from the Watashi to Tokyo blog completed the walk in 14 hours, starting at 7:00 in the morning at Shinjuku Station. The blogger at WADA-blog posted [ja] walked it in 11 hours and 20 minutes, excluding meals and breaks, taking 64,755 steps over 42.73 kilometers. Remember, sitting through a complete loop of the Yamanote Line takes around an hour.

Besides the slew of noteworthy projects, the Yamanote Line has inspired other things in a Tokyoite’s daily life. There’s a drinking game called the Yamanote Line Game and some might fondly recall going on a Yamanote Line Date [ja] during their high school years.


  • This is great!!!

    Just this morning I was thinking to do a post on my blog about Tokyo and mentioning how important and interesting the Yamanote line is. Will still be doing it so please check out my blog in the next few days.

    Last year I tried to find the station ringtones online for my Iphone but there were none of good quality. Went back to Tokyo in October and recorded my own. Will check out the site you recommend because mine have a bit of background noise.

    Also like how you mention the drinking game. I remember doing that!

    As far as my personal favorite stations (my old neighborhoods) they are Ikebukuro, Mejiro and Takadanobaba. Those ringtones always bring back great memories!

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