Elevators in Tokyo subways are usually easy to understand. The arrow pointing up makes it go up, the downward arrow makes it go down. If there are more than one floor 1, 2, 3 ... are easy to understand. B1, B2, B3 are no ptoblem either - those are basement floors, where you find the grocery departments in the department stores. That is also usually where the stores connect to the trains or subway.
Trains are the most convenient and cheapest ways of getting around in Tokyo, if you avoid rush hour as I have written about before. And the easiest way of getting to the subway, at least if you have a kid in a stroller, is to take the elevator.
But where is this elevator going? What does the characters on the buttons mean? And it does not help the tourist that the staff have been helpful and addrd text in hiragana, the Japanese syllabic writing.
The elevator is going down, since I pressed the ホーム button. It reads "ho-mu", and does not mean home, but is an abbreviated form of the Japanese pronounciation of "platform". So the elevator is on its way to the platform where the trains depart.
But where is it coming from? The characters 改札口 means ticket gate (kaisatsuguchi in Japanese). Which means you took it after entering the ticket gates.
But where is this elevator coming from? It is evidently on its way to the ticket gatrs, since that is the button that is lit. But where is 地上?
Pronounced "chishou" it simply means "above ground". So the elevator is going from street level to the ticket gates.
Hope this helps!
I am Wisterian Watertree, recently moved from Bangkok to Tokyo, with a brief visit to Honolulu on the way. I write about travel, especially with our three beautiful kids (two girls and one boy, soon turning six - yes. they are triplets). Travel is education and fun rolled into one, and if you are like me, that is something you want to give to your kids. If you want more tips and want to find out when I will publish something, get it from my email list. If you want to be personal, drop me a note on firstname.lastname@example.org, or if you want general tips, follow me on Twitter @wisterianw.