Traveling Japan by Bus – The Cheapest Way to Get Around

Transportation

As you travel Japan, there are a number of transportation options to choose from as you get to and around the land of the rising sun. Trains that always arrive on time, taxis with chatty drivers, and comfortable domestic flights are just a few of the options to choose from. When it comes to long-distance travel, however, one of the most limiting factors that many people cannot stand is the expensive transportation costs factored into the journey., Quickly though, Japan boasts a variety of bus services that are reasonably priced, making them a perfect option for long-distance domestic travel.

One of these alternative options to domestic flights and the shinkansen is long-distance busses which are both comfortable and affordable. But what types of buses are available in Japan? How much does it typically cost to take highway buses? And where can you find the best deals of reasonable bus tickets? Here you can find the ultimate guide to highway buses in Japan!    

1. Highway Buses

Highways busses waiting for departure

Highway buses are one of the most convenient ways to travel around Japan. They are safe, clean, and reasonably priced to fit anyone’s budget. The highway bus network in Japan connects most parts of Japan from northern Hokkaido, all the way down to the Kyushu region in the south, with the exception of some remote regions such as Okinawa. These days, highway buses in Japan are becoming more comfortable with spacious private seats and useful facilities such as a bathroom on board.

Highway buses in Japan are generally cheaper than other popular public transportation, including domestic flights and Shinkansen. Therefore, they could be the best option if you want to travel a long distance in Japan with a limited budget!  

Highlights of highway buses in Japan

・Safe, clean, and reasonably priced

・Perfect option to travel a long distance 

・Conveniently connects major cities around Japan 

2. Overnight Bus

Overnight buses are another popular transportation option for long-distant trips around Japan. Many bus companies in Japan offer bus services that operate during the nighttime and arrive at your destination in the early morning. Taking an overnight bus will allow you to save time and money that can be used for other purposes once you arrive at your destination.    

In major cities such as Tokyo and Osaka, you will be able to find a great number of bus terminals. These bus terminals are typically located beside major JR railway stations or famous tourist attractions, making them easy to find even for first-time travelers. 

Typical overnight buses in Japan feature spacious reclining seats. Some seats have outlets for cellphones, blankets, and curtains that provide you a degree of privacy. You can also book special buses which provide women-only seats exclusively available only for women, allowing female travelers to feel safe and comfortable at night while traveling alone!       

Highlights of overnight buses in Japan

・Best way to travel in Japan while saving time and money

・Comfortable reclining seats that help you get enough sleep before your adventure

・Women-only seats allow women travelers to stay safe during the night

3. Best Bus Companies in Japan! 

Buses are convenient to board from anywhere in Japan

Willer Express

Willer Express is one of Japan’s most well-known and biggest bus companies. They offer a wide range of bus services including long-distance highway buses as well as comfortable overnight buses that connect about 120 routes across Japan. Prices vary depending on the type of bus and the seat you choose. Online booking is conveniently available in multiple languages, including English and Chinese. 

For international tourists, Japan Bus Pass is the best way to travel around Japan with long-distance buses by Willer Express! Prices vary from ¥10,200 (valid for 3 days) to ¥1,5300 (7 days) depending on how many days you need to complete your travel. (※temporarily not available due to COVID-19.)

Keio Buses

Keio Buses operate extensive bus routes in and around the Tokyo area. Departing from Shinjuku (occasionally from Shibuya depending on the destination), popular destinations include the Mt. Fuji area, Kamikochi in Nagano, Hida Takayama in Gifu, and Nagoya in Aichi Prefecture. They also provide direct bus services to major airports such as Narita and Haneda from several bus terminals in Tokyo.        

JR Bus

JR Bus boasts a nationwide highway bus service which is similar to their railway network. JR group consists of seven regional companies, and each of them operates different bus routes around Japan. Here are the major JR bus services:

JR Bus Kanto (Tokyo and other Kanto destinations)

JR Tokai Bus Company (Nagoya, Shizuoka, Gifu, and other Chubu destinations)

JR Bus West (Kyoto, Osaka, Hyogo, and other Kansai destinations)

4. Best destinations to visit by highway/overnight buses in Japan!

Mt. Fuji is stunning no matter the season

1) Mt. Fuji/Kawaguchi/Fuji Q highland area

Mt. Fuji and the surrounding area is one of the best weekend getaways from Tokyo. Enjoy a refreshing hike at Mt. Fuji, immerse yourself in beautiful nature around Lake Kawaguchi, or let your children try a wide range of exciting rides at Fuji Q highland

Highway buses from Tokyo to Mt. Fuji area

Fujikyuko Bus (¥4,000/ round trip)

Willer Express (¥4,000/ round trip)

※Fares may vary depending on the boarding date.

Make sure to check our private walking tour at Mt. Fuji!

Mt. Fuji Highlight Private Walking Tour (7 Hours)

The mountains of Kamikochi are an incredible getaway

2) Kamikochi 

Kamikochi is a scenic mountainous resort nestled in Matsumoto city, Nagano prefecture. It is a perfect spot for hiking, trekking, and enjoying a variety of outdoor activities while surrounded by beautiful nature and symbolic peaks of the Northern Japan Alps.  

【Highway buses from Tokyo to Kamikochi】

Alpico Group (¥6,000~10,000/ round trip)

Kinkakuji is one of Japan’s greatest treasures

3) Kyoto & Osaka (USJ) 

Kyoto and Osaka are the two major tourist destinations in the Kansai area. There are various types of bus services available from Tokyo to Kansai area. If you want to visit world-famous temples and shrines such as Kiyomizu Temple and Kankaku-ji Temple, head to Kyoto which is known as the ancient capital of Japan. Osaka is home to unique food culture, historic sites (Osaka Castle is definitely a must-visit!), and USJ which is recognized as one of Japan’s most popular amusement parks!   

Highway buses from Tokyo to Osaka (USJ)

Willer Express (※Fares vary depending on the plan)

→Willer Express offers a special bus service which directly takes you to USJ, Osaka. There are several types of plans available that you can choose from depending on your itinerary. One-way bus ticket is an ideal option if you want to visit other tourist attractions in Osaka on your own after enjoying USJ. It comes with a 1-Day Pass that can be used at USJ!  

Highway buses from Tokyo to Kyoto

Kanto Bus (※Fares vary depending on the boarding date)

4) Shibuya-Karuizawa/Kusatsu line

Karuizawa has brilliant fall colors

Karuizawa is a peaceful resort area in Nagano Prefecture. It is home to great shopping spots, scenic natural attractions, historic buildings, and much more to explore. Kusatsu is one of Japan’s most famous hot spring resorts in Gunma prefecture. Tokyu Bus offers a special package bus ticket which allows you to make the most of your time in both Karuizawa and Kusatsu! 

Highway buses from Shibuya to Karuizawa & Kusatsu

Tokyu Bus  (¥8,000/ round trip)

5) Outlet Shopping Malls

Shop to you drop!

Japan is home to a great number of outlet malls that boast a large selection of fashion brands and other items. Some of them offer convenient direct bus services from several locations in Tokyo. They operate every day, and occasionally come with some benefits, including discount coupons that you can use for shopping! 

Direct buses services from Tokyo to Outlet Shopping Malls

Gotemba Premium Outlets (¥3,300/ round-trip from Shinjuku Sta.)

Shisui Premium Outlets (¥2,400/ round-trip from Tokyo Sta.)

Mitsui Outlet Park Kisarazu(¥2,600/ round-trip from Tokyo Sta.)

(※Reservation is available only for Gotemba Premium Outlets through their official website. ) 

If you have never traveled around Japan by bus, it might seem a bit challenging to take your first bus ride on your own. If that’s the case, we recommend trying a group trip with your friends or family, which will allow you to enjoy a comfortable bus journey with others who you know well. In many cases, bus tickets can be purchased online in multiple languages, but sometimes only available at ticket counters. Make sure to check how to buy tickets and the availability before planning your trip!

Don’t forget to check out our private tours!

Planning a trip to a foreign country alone is never easy! If you need some help to organize your trip to Japan and want to see Japan like a local, you should definitely check out our private tours complete with an English guide! We’re glad to help you make your trip to Japan a safe, comfortable, and unforgettable memory!

1. Tokyo Private Tour [Customized, 7 Hours]

Visit the must-visit highlights in Tokyo with our friendly guide! This tour is flexible and destinations are completely customizable according to your requests.

2. Kyoto Private Full-Day Walking Tour [Customizable]

Kyoto is a beautiful city full of historic temples and shrines. It is also a perfect spot for enjoying the incredible autumn colors in fall!  

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Happy travelling!

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Miho Shimizu is a Japanese freelance writer settled in Shizuoka with her husband and two rabbits. Fascinated with traveling at the age of 18, she has spent most of her long holidays exploring incredible spots around Japan. Also love to listen to music, draw, and read novels over a cup of green tea.

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