Japan is an island nation that is easy both to reach, and to navigate once you get there. The country's transportation infrastructure is sophisticated and extensive, so no matter where you go, you will find it easy to travel on to your next destination.
There are many means of transportation in Japan and they all have their pros and cons. Factors such as how long you'll be traveling, where you'll be going, and what your comfort levels are, all add into the equation to help you figure out the most efficient and cost-effective means of travel for you.
This article will provide you with some more information about how best to travel within Japan.
- Japan offers a wide variety of transportation at different price levels, from planes and trains, to ferries and buses.
- Trains are the most popular form of transport in Japan.
- The Japanese Rail Pass allows travel on virtually all JR services throughout Japan. It is very cost-effective.
- Japan has a comprehensive system of long-distance buses. Though buses will be a lot slower than trains, they can take you to secret places.
- One of the most pleasant ways of travelling around this island nation is by ferry.
Shinkansen bullet train
Going by rail is the most thrilling way to see Japan, especially if you're only in the country for a short visit. The bullet train can take you from Tokyo to Kyoto, Nara, Osaka and other major cities within a few hours, making the shinkansen the favorite type of transportation for foreign visitors.
There are six main shinkansen lines. The busiest route is the Tokaido line, which runs south from Tokyo through Nagoya, Kyoto, and Osaka. On the train there are announcements and electronic signs in English telling you which stations are coming up. So don't worry if you don't understand Japanese.
The Japanese Rail Pass is the most popular pass to use, allowing travel on JR trains and buses with only a few exceptions (like certain shinkansen trains). Passes are available for 7, 14 or 21 days. Using the JR pass is very easy: just show your pass to the staff at the gate and make your way to the train.
Information on JR trains and schedules is available at Travel Service Centers at major JR stations throughout Japan. It is important to buy your JR Pass before arriving in Japan because it is not available for purchase after you arrive.
Sharon has been very helpful since the…
Sharon has been very helpful since the beginning coordinating our itinerary in order to accommodate everything we want to see, it been great working with herMore
May, Jul 2023
When I first book I was scared of what…
When I first book I was scared of what to expect, but oh my God! What an amazing experience this has been, from Sharon to all the guides Shawn and Mr. Ho, such amazing people! Their work is excellentMore
Saul Velez, Jul 2023
Albee was very helpful and responsive…
Albee was very helpful and responsive in helping me make plans for their 10 day Japanese tour.More
Bhavini Patel, Jul 2023
Alisa was a perfect tour consultant
Alisa responded to my numerous questions with efficiency and accuracy. She was constantly suggesting options to make the trip more enjoyableMore
Matha Goram, Jul 2023
I highly Recommend Asia Highlights
For our first guide Jun, he was amazing. Very accommodating. Kept in good communication & kept us on time for our activities. Reached out to me the night before to confirm meet times and locations. Our driver for this time was also so kind & driver was always on time. For our second Guide , Ho. He went above and beyond. He stayed in great communication. Stayed later with us on one of the days because we were worried about riding the train back alone but wanted to visit at the shopping center a littler longer, so he stayed with us and made sure we got off on the right stop! During our time with him he took pictures of us and sent them to us! He was very knowledgeable about every place we visited. He was kind and patient with our large group. He made our trip easy & memorable. The driver we had for this timeframe was also kind & always on time! We felt a bond with both guides given to us! If you want an easy going, stress free trip book with “Asia Highlights”!!!More
Jessalynn Flores, Jul 2023
Working to put together a custom trip…
Working to put together a custom trip with Alissa has been a great experienceMore
Marc, Jul 2023
Wonderful Service from Sharon!
Sharon at Asia Highlights has been a HUGE help in planning our trip to Japan later this year. From her initial contact to finalization of the plan, she has been very responsive, professional, patient, and knowledgeable. She was able to quickly propose an amazing itinerary and helped us customize it for our interests. She also made many great recommendations and gave us tips for the trip. I wasn’t familiar with Asia Highlights before I reached out, but after Sharon’s wonderful service, I have full confidence in them. I can’t wait for the trip and I hope it’s as awesome as Sharon’s service!!!More
Ali Tahir, Jul 2023
We had a wonderful time in Japan with guides Moni and Kazuko and with Jan in Singapore. Will always remember this trip!More
Happy Customer, Jun 2023
Just got to say
Just got to say, Monica was great in every way! So sweet and helpful with planning, itineraries, answering questions… would love to meet her in person! Thank you Monica!More
Teri, Jun 2023
Monica is fantastic
Monica is fantastic. She understood our needs, was very responsive and planned a perfect vacation for us. Highly recommend.More
Philip Sheldon, Jun 2023
Me and my son are traveling to Japan
Me and my son are traveling to Japan. Albee is magnificent. Extremely efficient, helpful, trustworthy. I am very happy she is helping us with my son's dreaming trip.More
Ana Letícia Urbanin, Jun 2023
A great way to plan a dream vacation
Due to circumstances, we had to delay our trip to Japan so this review is only about the process of designing the trip. Albee was always available, responsive to our goals, and competent. Based on how involved he was with our family trip, we know we will be back next year and resuming the plan he built. Really impressed with the quality and extent of resources we found through Albee and KimKim.More
KC, May 2023
Yeliz - Asia Highlights
Yeliz was extremely helpful and patient during our Japan trip planning and answered all my various questions. Really looking forward to our upcoming trip to Tokyo, Mt. Fuji, Kyoto and Osaka!More
Cyndie, May 2023
Sharon’s was very patient and helpful…
Sharon’s was very patient and helpful when navigating me through the trip planning process. She helped me plan a very exciting and extravagant trip.More
Jonny Abad, May 2023
Wonderful 10 day trip in Japan!!!
Well planned trip by Alisa . Everything was well scheduled, guides and drivers were excellent!! The cars were extremely comfortable and the hotel she chose for us was beautiful!! Enjoyed planning with her she was very professional and always offered other choices.More
Lianne Stone, May 2023
11 days trip to Japan
I am planning my trip to Japan in November with Sharon's help and she has provided amazing customer service.She is very responsive and put together very quickly an incredible plan for 11 days in Japan. She provided recommendations and made changes based on our interests and budget. She also provided information about visa restrictions and the best way to get tickets for transportation services. Thanks so much Sharon, looking forward to this trip!More
LE, May 2023
Hi Cathy! I just want to thank you for making our Japan trip so much fun & memorable! We loved everything that you had scheduled for us! All the guides and drivers were great & punctual! We love Japan so much that we’re planning to go back next year to different part of Japan! We’ll definitely contact Asia Highlights for our trip again! SereneMore
Serene Storslett, May 2023
Quick, easy and detailed service
Alisa was our advisor from Asia highlights and she prepared for us a wonderful 28 day trip to Japan, taking into consideration our needs and desire not to be traveling everyday and to have a mixture of slow and busy days. We've not yet taken our trip, but very much looking forward to it Thank you Alisa for the quick response and wonderful itineraryMore
Lynette Whittle, Apr 2023
Sharon Huang did an excellent job in planningour 15 day Cherry Blossom Japan tour. Shewas available during our trip to answer our questions and readily agreed to the itinerary changes.Everything was arranged - accommodation,breakfast, guide, car, entrance fees and train tickets. The guides were knowledgeable, and managed the tour very efficiently. The drivers were punctual and very patient. We visited must see places in and near Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima. We also got to experience Japanese Tea ceremony, Sushi making, Sake tasting, shopping etc.We highly recommend Asia Highlights for your travel needs.More
Madhu, Apr 2023
I organized a trip to Japan for my
I organized a trip to Japan for my parents who don’t speak English and Alisa was so amazing helping make an itinerary for them. They needed a Spanish guide and she coordinated everything so they wouldn’t have any trouble when they got there. She was so patient changing and adjusting the itinerary to their needs and wants, it’s been a total pleasure working with her and she always responds promptly to any question I have. I definitely recommend this company and if you can ask to work with Alisa.More
Luisa, Apr 2023
Because of the long distances between, for example, Fukuoka on the island of Kyushu and Sapporo on Hokkaido, flying is often the fastest way to travel, with airlines like JAL and ANA providing the most extensive coverage. Smaller domestic airlines with more competitive rates include Skymark, Solaseed Air and Jetstar Japan.
Overseas visitors can save money on domestic flights by purchasing tickets along with their international flights. Both JAL and ANA offer cheaper domestic fares for passengers flying international routes to Japan with them or any partner airline (such as ANA's Star Alliance partner, United).
Slightly more expensive fares are available for non-partner airlines. Several restrictions apply; for example, tickets must be purchased outside of Japan after buying the international tickets, and there are certain blackout dates. The prices of domestic airline tickets depend greatly on the season. You can book tickets either from official websites or through travel agents.
Buses are used extensively throughout the country. They are a low-cost alternative to trains, for reaching areas not served by rail, including more remote areas and Japan's many islands.
Long-distance buses travel between major cities, such as Tokyo and Kyoto, with much cheaper fares than trains, unless you have a JR Pass. Some buses are quite luxurious, with reclining seats for overnight trips and even salons.
Many long-distance buses, especially overnight buses, require seats to be reserved in advance. It is recommended to make reservations early for popular routes and during busy travel seasons. If the bus is not booked out, however, it is usually possible to purchase a ticket just prior to departure at the bus terminal.
On some shorter bus lines, seat reservations are not possible.
Ferries are a major form of transportation to Japan's many islands. Smaller islands, like Naoshima in the island-studded Seto Inland Sea, can only be reached by ferry.
Long-distance ferries may provide a more relaxing and cheaper alternative to planes.
Overnight ferry trips between Honshu and Hokkaido in the north, and Kyushu and Shikoku in the south, are highly recommended. If you cannot spare the time, try a short hop to one of the islands of the Inland Sea, or from Niigata to Sado-ga-shima. These are the most popular destinations.
Ferry schedules, however, are subject to seasonal changes and also vary according to the weather, so for up-to-date details of times and prices it's best to consult the local tourist information office. Or you can go to their official website for more information, where tickets can also be booked.
Japan has an efficient public transport network, especially within its large cities. The Japanese transport system, including subway, monorail, buses, taxis and even bicycles, can help you explore the city. Public transport is usually characterized by punctuality, excellent service and cleanliness.
City-wide subways are a quick and easy option for reaching any destination within big cities like Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto. Subway train announcements are made in Japanese but often in English too. The next station is often displayed on electronic boards in the carriages in both Japanese and English.
Most subway systems in Japan start at around 5 am and end around midnight. Services are less frequent at weekends and on public holidays. Some subway lines in Japan have women-only carriages running in the rush hour period, normally 8 to 9 am. The JR Pass cannot be used on subways, so you need to buy a ticket from a vending machine or ticket window.
As well as the subway, Japan has an extensive monorail system, and one Japanese line is the second longest monorail in the world. Big cities like Tokyo, Osaka, and Hiroshima all operate monorails.
Monorails are easy to ride. You can use your JR Pass on some of them. In case you cannot use your JR Pass, tickets for monorail can be purchased from the vending machine or ticket window. Riding the monorail in Tokyo is a memorable experience, because you can often enjoy seaside views. On clear days, Mount Fuji is visible in the distance.
Bus services are available throughout Japan's cities, but sometimes it can be difficult for non-Japanese-speaking visitors to find the relevant timetables and to reserve seats.
Buses can be a useful alternative to trains if you are staying outside the immediate city center. Although buses might not be as frequent as trains and generally take longer to get from place to place, they often travel to lesser-known areas and are a good way to avoid crowded train stations. Some have a free Wi-Fi system in place.
Japan has an estimated 260,000 taxis nationwide, with Tokyo alone having around 35,000 taxis from more than 320 different taxi companies. Kyoto also has a large number of taxis. All Japanese taxis can be hailed on the street, from virtually anywhere you like, at most times and in most areas.
Many taxis accept payment by credit card, and an increasing number accept payment by IC card. Stickers on the door often indicate accepted payment methods. When paying in cash, try to avoid paying small amounts with large bills. There is no tipping in Japan.
Riding a bike is a great way to get from A to B in the smaller towns and countryside, allowing you to see plenty of beautiful landscape and to meet up with local people.
Hokkaido, in particular, is a cyclist's dream, with excellent roads through scenery which is often stunning. You can rent bikes from outlets beside or near the train station. Some towns even have bikes for hire free of charge – enquire at the tourist office.
Useful tips for traveling in Japan
1. Get your JR Pass before leaving your home country.
2. Avoid the morning (8-9 am) and afternoon (5-6 pm) rush hours to beat the crowds in major cities like Tokyo and Osaka. The traffic volume on certain urban and suburban trains is so intense that passengers are pressed against each other to the extent that they are unable to move.
3. Carry at least 10,000-20,000 yen in cash with you. Most Japanese ATM machines do not accept foreign cards. Also many establishments do not accept credit cards. So, if you come across an ATM that accepts foreign cards, it may be a good idea to take out some money.
4. Don't tip anyone; even taxi-drivers will be offended if you do so.
5. Write down the full address of your hotel or destination to show to someone, in case you lose your way.
You might like to read
- Top Things to Do in Japan
- Top 15 Landmarks of Japan
- Eating and Drinking in Japan
- Traveling Round Japan by Bullet Train
Explore Japan with Asia Highlights
Discover the true beauty of Japan with Asia Highlights. Let us craft the best journey for you and your loved ones and create a remarkable experience for you in Japan. We are a professional travel agency with lots of experience.
Should you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us!
Why Travel with Asia Highlights (98.8% positive customer reviews among 10,000+)
- Unique experiences tailored to your interests: Enjoy a premium trip that goes beyond the typical tourist attractions.
- Hassle-free travel and peace of mind: Every aspect of your trip will be carefully planned and organized by your 1:1 travel consultant.
- Experienced and knowledgeable guides: Your guides will be local and love to work for travelers' smiles.
- Japan Weather in January 2024: Quiet Winter Month
- Japan Weather in February 2024, Where to Go & Costs
- Japan Weather in March 2024, Travel Tips (for First-Timers)
- Japan Weather in April 2024: Best for Cherry Blossoms
- Japan Weather in May 2024, Where to Go and Costs
- Japan Weather in June 2023: Coolest Summer Month, Travel Tips
- Japan Weather in July 2023: Best for Festivals, Travel Tips
- Japan Weather in August 2023, Travel Tips (for First-Timers)
- Japan Weather in September 2023, Travel Tips (for First-Timers)
- Japan Weather in October 2023, Where to Go & Costs
- Japan Weather in November 2023: Best Autumn Month, Travel Tips
- Japan Weather in December 2023, Travel Tips (for First-Timers)
Get Inspired with Some Popular Itineraries
At Asia Highlights, we create your kind of journey — your dates, your destinations, at your pace. You can have any trip tailor made for your travel.