Transportation 101: Everything You Need to Know About Transportations in Japan!

train Transportation

Japan boasts a great transportation system that takes you everywhere around the country comfortably and easily. You can use trains, buses and taxis to move between the tourist areas and for a long-distance trip, you can use Shinkansen and planes.
Understanding the features of each transportations prior to your visit will help you get around the country more easily with confidence while saving time for sightseeing. Here is a useful list of public transportations in Japan!      

1. Train

Trains are definitely the most popular and convenient way to travel around Japan. There are countless numbers of train routes that connect every corner of the country. “JR (Japan Railway Group)” is the biggest railway company that plays a significant role in offering a primary railway network around the country. 

Trains in Japan are known to be very punctual. You can always expect trains arriving on time except for unusual situations such as accidents or troubles caused by natural disasters like typhoons. In Tokyo, the trains will come every few minutes!
Everyone is supposed to keep quiet and refrain from talking on their phone on trains. It creates a comfortable atmosphere for everyone.

Things to remember when you take train in Japan

It is better to avoid taking trains during a rush-hour, when trains are packed with people commuting to work or school. It is very common especially in big cities such as Tokyo and Osaka where many people commute or go to school by public transport instead of car. As we mentioned above, it is also strictly prohibited to talk over your cellphone on the train. 
And please note that trains come less frequently in urban areas!  

Key facts

  • Trains in Japan are very punctual and always come on time
  • Avoid the rush-hour when you take trains to get around big cities

2. Subway

Subway is considered as one of the main parts of train networks in Japan. You can easily find subway stations particularly in big cities such as Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, and Kyoto. They extensively cover a range of major areas including shopping areas and business districts as well as popular tourist attractions. Subway platforms are always clean with station staff’s effort. 

In general, subways in Japan run precisely on schedule without delays just like trains. They are available until around midnight in big cities, whereas some regions don’t have subway systems at all. 

Key facts

  • Subways can be used as a convenient way to get around big cities.  
  • Some regions, especially remote areas don’t have subway systems.

3. City Bus

City bus networks in Japan contribute to offer a convenient means of getting around. In big cities or developed areas, many people take city buses for a range of purposes such as commute, shopping, sightseeing, and more. The fare is usually relatively affordable compared to other public transportations. There are numerous bus stands on different bus routes that connect everywhere, which allow passengers to reach their destinations more easily than taking trains that have a limited number of stations. In the countryside, they are mainly used by locals or the elderly who can’t get around on their own. 

Key facts

  • Fairly affordable fare and countless numbers of bus stands around the big cities.
  • Used widely as an essential transportation service for locals and the elderly in countryside

4. Taxi

In Japan, taxis are not as popular as other public transport that we introduced above, especially in big cities like Tokyo. This is partly because the fare can be relatively high. It’s good to use taxis when there is no train or bus available at a convenient time and for a short-distance trip. 

Texis get busy especially at night or weekends, when many people go drinking with their colleagues or friends after work and miss the train. 

Things to remember about taking trains in Japan

It’s easy to catch a taxi at the train station or you can use apps such as JapanTaxi and DiDi! Also you can call Taxi company if there is no taxi available in the area.
Good news is tips are not required when you take taxis in Japan! 

Key facts

  • Not as popular as train or bus 
  • Use apps or call to catch a taxi 

5. Shinkansen

Shinkansen refers to a bullet train that is widely recognized as a symbolic transportation system in Japan. Since its opening in 1964, it has served as a primary transportation system that takes everyone around the country with comfortable ride and professional services. It conveniently covers most part of the country except Sanin (山陰) and Shikoku (四国) region. 

The high-speed train allows you to save time, which is obvious when thinking about the fact that it takes less than 2.5 hours to get to Osaka from Tokyo by Shinkansen! There are mainly three types of Shinkansen: Nozomi (のぞみ), Hikari (ひかり), and Kodama (こだま), which stop at different stations. On-board service offers a range of snacks, Bento boxes, and beverages that you can enjoy during the long journey! It is undoubtedly a perfect option when you plan a long trip to get around Japan!   


Key facts

6. Highway Bus

Highway bus refers to special buses which take passengers to their destination via highways. It’s a reasonable option if you compare it with Shinkansen! 

The highway bus service has seen a tremendous improvement in the last couple of years, which made it possible for passengers to enjoy their long journey more comfortably. You can book special seats which have luxurious interiors and enough space to make you feel comfortable and unwind. Some seats feature curtains or walls that protect your privacy even when you need to spend a night in night buses. You might be surprised to see sometimes there is a screen like a plane on the bus too! Taking night buses also helps you start your trip efficiently as they are usually scheduled to arrive at the destination early in the morning!


Key facts

  • Highway bus features: reasonable fare & direct transport to specific destination
  • Comfortable seats equipped with useful facilities and enough private space 

7. Plane

If you are planning to travel to beautiful islands or remote areas in Japan, taking domestic flights will probably be a reasonable option. There are mainly two major airline companies: ANA and JAL, while there are also a number of low-cost airlines specialized in domestic flights with affordable fares. Sometimes you will even find flight tickets cheaper than Shinkansen so we would recommend you to compare the total travel costs between planes and Shinkansen before you decide the way of transportation for your trip!     

One of the biggest advantages that you can get by taking planes is that you can fly to remote areas while saving considerable time. And you can get to the special places which are only accessible by planes such as Okinawa. You can expect high-quality customer service as well.  In big cities including Tokyo, Osaka, there are major airports such as Narita (成田国際空港) and Kanku (関西国際空港) that serve as a gateway to both international and domestic flights!  

Key facts

  • Best option for long-distance travel heading for islands or remote areas
  • High-quality customer service & a range of fare depending on airline companies

Japan Wonder Travel Tours

If you need some help to organize your trip to Japan, you should definitely check out our private tour including English guide. We’re glad to help you make your trip to Japan a safe, comfortable, and unforgettable memory!

You will be able to make the most of your time in Japan by taking the right transportation depending on the situations and budget. Some of them may seem confusing or complicated, especially in big cities such as Tokyo, but you will soon get used to it! Please make sure to check their latest timetable and schedule as they may possibly be revised regularly. 

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