Being from Houston, Texas we do not use trains or subways in our daily commute so getting the culture shock of making my way in and around the various districts in Tokyo using these systems was unique for me. Ticket counters are the best way to get your feet wet using the system, if you only speak English then the people there can help you to your destination.
Quite voices? From my very first train from the airport into the city I noticed there were no people talking loud or even ever talking on a cell phone. From what I gather this commute time is spent resting before your work day or after your work day. It was pretty peaceful at night especially when all you heard was the soft Asian voice over a speaker telling you what the next district stop was. Oh and when those doors open you better be ready to tuck and roll your way off because those doors do not stay open for long.
Helpful after the fact are the signs, for the most part if you only speak English the signs can be hard to understand some times. I made my way down the wrong path many times in the first couple of days because of this, although in a sense that was part of the fun so no worries here.
When you do get lost find help, the Japanese train and subway workers are used to the "Deer in the headlights look" of a lost visitor and very helpful in every way.They seem to love to practice their English which is just great because it really makes you realize how far from home you really are. Even if you are not lost just talk to them.
Not good! Argh!! These machines that spit out your ticket are only good once you know the exact payment number you need for the route you are going to take. Almost as if you are deciding 160 yen will get me to this point right? Wrong, so what I did was watch people very closely and see exactly what ticket they were buying to get past the gates. Might not be the most efficient way to learn but it worked haha! After a few days I picked it up. I could go on with how exactly it works but that would be no fun for you so figure it out. Heck who knows if I was even doing it right.
Stairmaster 2200 XP - The train and subway terminals will get your blood pumping every morning and evening for cheaper than a fitness membership you will never use anyways. As a fat guy pushing 300 lbs carrying 30 lbs of gear in pack it makes for that calf burn and I could only snicker at myself when I saw these never ending stairs after a whole day of walking around the city. For the most part this explains why there are no fat people in Japan. You may also take note to walk on the left side of walkpaths as Japan is opposite from what we normally do.
Talk to people, if you are traveling try to talk to people because this is the only way you will get familiar with the culture. This young lady was very pleasant when I asked to take her picture. Btw - she is a the lead singer for a new punk metal band that is making waves in the Tokyo club scene.