Travel Within Japan

By Rail

Japan boasts one of the most advanced rail systems in the world, but also one of the most expensive. Depending on the duration of your stay it may pay to get a Japan Rail Pass, which allows foreigners of any age (not just students) unlimited passage on Japan Rail trains; consult your travel agent for details on pricing and other options. 

A unique experience is a ride on the shinkansen, or bullet train. Shinkansen lines run nearly the entire length of Japan's main island of Honshu, are quick and reliable, and often cheaper and more convenient that flying domestically. Due to its popularity, seats often fill up quickly so it is best to book them in advance. Reserved seats are only 500 yen (about $4.50) more each (even with the pass) but are well worth the extra expense, especially along the crowded Tokyo-Kyoto-Osaka corridor. Visitors who do not speak Japanese will be encouraged to know that train stops and other announcements are made in English.

For shorter trips, travelers can rely on the local train system. While the tickets are much cheaper than bullet trains (or also free with the pass), train stops and other announcements are made in Japanese only. Signs for train stops are written in both Japanese characters and roman letters. Even so, it may be a good idea to write down the Japanese characters of your destination before beginning the trip or ask a Japanese acquaintance to write your destination on a card for you.

In the cities, buses, local trains and sometimes subways are available. Prices for each type of transportation vary depending on the distance, starting at 150-200 yen; a one-day pass may be available in larger cities. Taxis are also a viable, yet expensive, option. It costs about 690 yen ($6.00) just to get in. Taxis in Japan are probably the cleanest you will find anywhere in the world, so enjoy the ride. 


Japan's three main domestic carriers are Japan Airlines (JAL), All Nippon Airlines (ANA) and Japan Air System (JAS) and between them they cover all the major routes. The domestic airports for Tokyo and Osaka are Hanada and Itami respectively, both nearer the city centers than the international airports.

JAL (Japan Airline)
Official JAL Homepage.
ANA (All Nippon Airways)
Official ANA Homepage.
JAS (Japan Air System)
Official JAS Homepage.


Overnight Buses

Another means of traveling that is often cheaper than taking trains are overnight buses. There is an extensive network of these buses in Japan and the fares are cheaper than trains. For example, whereas a Tokyo - Osaka Shinkansen ticket is ~14,000 yen each way .


Several steamship companies operate regular services between major Japanese ports and harbor cities of Russia, Korea and China.
Ferries and high-speed vessels operating to and from Fukuoka and Shimonoseki provide easy access to Korea.

Japan-Korea Ship Route
Route Travel Time (approx.) Availability
Shimonoseki-Busan (car ferry) 9 hours 30 minutes Everyday (1return)
Hakata-Busan (ferry) 9 hours 20 minutes 3 days a week
Hakata-Busan (high-speed vessel) 3 hours Everyday (3-4 returns)


The cheapest of all options is the "Seishun-jyuuhachi-kippu" ("18 year old youth's ticket"). Despite the name, this ticket can be used by anyone regardless of age. 

Travel Related Links

For more details on the different train passes, overnight buses, and other types of transit available visit the Japan National Tourist Organization's Intra-City Transportation Discounts Page.


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