Getting Around in Japan: A Guide to Transportation Options

Last Updated: January 18,2024

Welcome to Japan: A Guide to Transportation for Tourists

Welcome to Japan! Janpan is known for its efficient and reliable transportaiotn network. Japan has one of the best transportation systems in the world. It is easy to tarvel wihin tcities and between different regions of the country with its extensive network of trans, subways, buses and taxis. Whether you are first-time visitor or not, this guide will help navigate Japan's transportation like a local.

Begin with an overview of Japan's transportation options, this guide will focus on Tokyo, the capital city of Japan and provide the comprehensive guide of public transportation in Tokyo. We'll also focus on other major cities and provide transportation information.

This guide also provide the tips on renting cars and highlight some of the best tourist destinations in Japan, providing recommended routes and travel times.

In this guide will provide praatical tips on purchasing ticktets and passes, navigating transportation systems and dealing with common problems. The safety is the most important isuuse when traveling, so this guide also provide the tips for staying safe while using differnent modes of transportation and emergency procedures in case of an accident or other emergency.

Whether you are traveling to Japan first time or not, this guide will help you make the most of Japan's transportation network and explore the country's must-see attractions. So contact with us! Pack your bags, grab your Japan Ril Pass and get ready for an unforgettable adventure!

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Overview of Japan's Transportation Options

Trains

Japan offers travelers a wide range of options across the country with its transportation which is one of the most efficient and extensive networks in the world. Rail system is one of the most popular and convenient modes of transportation in Japan, which is known for its speed, reliability and comfort.

Local Trains

Traveling within cities and regions in Japan, local trains are a convenient and affordable way. Local trains are suitable for shory-distance travel with them typically make frequent stops. There are two types of local trains that are JR railway and private railway companies.

JR Railways

The Japan Railways Group(JR), a major railway operator in Japan, consists of six regional passenger railway companies and one nationwide freight railway company. JR Hokkaido, JR East, Jr Center, JR West, JR Shikoku, JR Kyushu and JR Freight are included which were established after the privatization of the Japanese National Railways(JNR) in 1987.

The JR Group operates a comprehensive network of urban, regional, and interregional train lines, as well as the famous shinkansen(bullet train).  The shinkansen is a high-speed train system that operates between major cities in Japan and is known for its speed, safety, and punctuality.

For both locals and tourists in Japan, JR trains are a popular transportation option for offering a convenient and reliable way to travel between cities and regions with its various types of trains available to suit different travel needs.

Private Railway Companies

Private railway companies are a major part of Japan's transportation systme but not part of the JR Group. The smaller ones operate just a single line while operate extensive networks.Below are the major private railway companies.

Greater Tokyo

Tobu(approx.460 km)

Website http://www.tobu.co.jp/

Tobu operates train lines in the greater Tokyo and Tohoku regions. Of interest to tourists: access to Nikko and Kawagoe.

Keise(approx.100 km)

Website:https://www.keisei.co.jp/

Keisei operates a main train lines connect Tokyo aand Chiba Prefecture. Of interest to tourists: access to Narita Airport.

Keikyu(approx.90 km)

Website: https://www. keikyu.co.jp/

Connects Tokyo with Yokohama and southern Kanagawa Prefecture. Of interest to tourists: access to Haneda Airport and Yokohama.

Greater Nagoya

Meitetsu(approx.450 km)

Website: https://www.meitetsu.co.jp/

Meitetsu operates an extensive rail network around Nagoya. Interest: Access to Inuyama and Central Japan airport.

Greater Osaka

Kintetsu(approx.500 km)

Website: https://www.kintetsu.co.jp/

Kintetsu operates the largest network among non-JR companies, connecting Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Ise and Nagoya

Nankai(approx.170 km)

Website:http://www.nankai.co.jp/

Nankai operates a network of railway lines in southern Osaka and Wakayama Prefecture. For tourists interested in accessing to Kansai Airport and Koyasan.

Hankyu(appros.150 km)

Website: https://www.hankyu.co.jp/

Hankyu operates several lines in northern Osaka and connects Osaka with Kobe and Kyoto.

Subway and Metro System

The major ciities of Japan including Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya has an extensive subway and metro system.

Japan's subway and metro system are known for their cleanliness, efficiency and punctuality which offers a safe and convient way to travel around the city especially during rush hour when roads can be heavily congested.

The subway and metro systems can be a convenient and cost-effective way to explore cities when traveling Japan for many stations have signs and announcements in both Japanese and English.

Shinkansen(Bullet Trains)

Japan's main islands of Honshu, Kyushu and Hokkaido are served by a network of high-speed railway lines operated by Japan Railway Group that connects major cities across Japan including Tokyo, Osaka and  Kyoto with the speed of up to 320 km/h(200 mph). Japan's high speed trains are called shinkansen kowned as the "bullet train".

The Shinkansen, known for punctuality(most trains depart on time to second), comfort(realitively silent cars with spacious, always forward-facing seats), safety(no fatal accidents in its history)and efficiency,can be a very cost effective means of travel.

Rental Cars

Renting a car can an option worth considering when you plan to explore rural Japan where public transportation can be both inconvenient and infrequent. Renting a car can also be an economical alternative when travelling in groups or can make traveling with a lot of luggage easier.

Attention Notes

In Japan, cars should drive on the left side of the road, you'd better to have a GPS system or a map in English for many of road signs are in Japanese.

The cost of renting cars may be high so it is worth comparing round to make the best choice.

In large cities parking can be difficult and the cost may be highly expensive. You shold check the parking options in advance and prepared to pay for parking fees.

The most important thing, international driving permits are not issued in Japan and should be obtained in your home country in advance. Foreigners with recognized international driving licenses can drive in Japan for up to one year. Japan recognizes only licenses issued by a number of countries on the basis of the 1949 Geneva Conventions.

Buses

In Tokyo, Osaka and some other large cities, buses serve as secondary public transport,complementing train and subway networks. In cities like Kyoto, where train networks are less dense, buses are the main form of public transport. Buses also serve small towns, villages and national parks. For travelers, buses is a popular mode of transportation for more affordable than trains and offring access to destinations that are not served by trains and many cities have sightseeing buses that take visitors on tours of popular.

Taxis

For budget-conscious travelers in Japan's major cities, taxis can be an expensive and unnecessary alternative to efficient public transport. However, once trains and buses stop running around midnight, taxis may become the only option for getting around, resulting in high demand and long wait times at taxi stands, especially on Friday and Saturday nights.

In smaller cities, rural areas, and Kyoto, public transport may be less convenient, making taking a taxi from the nearest train station a viable option. Taxis can also be a cost-effective choice for short trips when traveling in groups of three or more.

Airplane

Japan is well-connected to other parts of the world through dozens of airlines, with the most popular airports being Narita and Haneda in Tokyo, and Kansai in Osaka. Thanks to low-cost carriers, Japan is an affordable destination for tpourists.

As Japan is a very long island chain, it is possible to travel by airplane to almost every prefecture, with each county having its own airport. With increased competition and the emergence of budget airlines, flying has become one of the cheapest long-distance travel options in Japan, with some routes only accessible by air.

Getting Around Tokyo

Tokyo is the capital and largeat city of Japan, which is located in Honshu Island. Tokyo is covered by a dense network of train, subway and bus lines operated by about a dozen different companies. JR East operates train lines and subway lines that are the most convenient means of transportation in central Tokyo.The tickets of Tokyo subway and bus have various types including one-way, one-day and multi-day passes,tourists can buy different kinds of tickets based on their travel requirements. In this city, taixs also offer a comveient mode of transportation.However, the costs of taixs may be expensive in Japan, you can choose depend on your budget and preferrnces.Furthermore, Tokyo is covered by JR lines which is operated by Japan Railway Group. JR lines is a recommended options to navigate through the city.

Public Transportation in Tokyo

Trains

The train is a direct and convenient way to explore Tokyo. With a wide range of railway lines, all signs in Tokyo have station names and maps in English, making it foreigner-friendly. Additionally, trains are known to be punctual and the train cars are kept tidy. Overall, trains are a reliable mode of transportation for tourists looking to get around Tokyo.

Somthing need to pay attention:

1.It's impolite to talk on the phone in public

2.Eating on the train is not allowed in Japan

3.Smoking is not allowed on most trains in Japan

4.Take care of your belongings at all times

Taxis

Taxi are everywhere in Tokyo, no matter where you are, you can see them. The fare of Tokyo taxis starts from the basic interest rate, and increases according to the distance of the travel and the time spent on the taxi. There may be other traffic fees, surcharges or baggage fees late at night, so taxis in Tokyo may be more expensive. You can decide whether to take a taxi based on your budget.

Things to keep in mind:

The taxi drivers in Japan speak limitted English.Therefore you'd better to write down your destination so you can show it to the cab driver.

Buses

Buses are quite common in Tokyo. Bus are a convenient mode of transportation in Tokyo especially in some areas that are not easily accessible by train.Among the 23 areas of Tokyo, the Green Dongying bus line is your main choice with the fare of 210 yen. When you board the bus, you need to pay the fare into the coin machine next to the door.

Navigating Tokyo's Subway System

Subways are the main urban transportation system in Japan, starting with the Tokyo Metro (today's Tokyo Metro Ginza Line), which opened in 1927. Japan is the first country in Asia to have subways and the second largest number of subways in Asia. At present, the subway has become a part of the life of Tokyo residents, and the daily commute is closely related to the subway.

截图20230410170435.png

Among Tokyo's subway lines, the Ginza Line is the oldest line which runs through the heart of Tokyo, passing through the upscale shopping district of Ginza. Furthermore, some tourist attractions along this line such as Tokyo Tower and the Imperial Palace.

Yamanote Line circles central Tokyo and connects many major stations in Tokyo. This line go through some landmarks and tourist attractions including Shibuya Crossing, one of the busiest intersections in the world and the Tokyo Skytree, a tall tower with 634-meter height ,where can enjoy the stunning views of the city.

Chuo line runs through the center of Tokyo and connects several major stations, including Tokyo, Shinjuku and Akihabara.The Trendy neighborhoods of Harajuku and Ometesando and the historic Asakusa district, the home to the famous Senso-ji Temple and Nakamise-dori shopping street are included.

Tozai line runs through some tourist atractions such as Tokyo Disney Resort which is a popular theme park with rides and attractions for all ages and the Tokyo Sea Life Park, an aquarium with over 600 species of marine life.

With the map, you need to check the line color and name of the each line and fine your current station. Make sure the station you need to get off and determine the transfer points. If you accidentally lose your way, don't hesitate to ask the station staff for help, the staff will be happy to assist you.

Fare System

There are two types of tickets in Tokyo subway system-peper tickets and IC cards. The subway fare is based on the distance traveled between the departure and arrival stations, the longer the distance, the higher the fare. When you take the subway, you can see the fare for each distance at the ticket machines. If you need to transfer to another line within the subway system, you may be eligible for a transfer discount. The fare adjustment machine will automatically calculate the discounted fare when you transfer to another line within a certain time limit.

Something Special:

There are also special tickets availale, such as day passes or tourist passes, which allow unlimited travel on the subway system for a certain period of time at a distance price. These tickets can be puchased at the ticket machines or ticket counters.

Tips

1.Subway system in Tokyo accepts various prepaid transportation cards such as Suica and Pasmo which can buy at vending machines or ticket offfices. With prepaid transportation cards, you can travel much more convenient for they can not only be used on the subway, but on buses, trains and even some taxis.

2.In hush hour, it will be extremely crowded on the sybway. It wise of you to avoid traveling during the peak hours of 7-9am and 5-7pm.

3.Politeness is highly valued in Japan. It is not polite to speak loud,eat and drink in the public area. So be sure to keep your voice down and avoid eating and drinking.

Exploring Rural Areas and Smaller Towns

Small towns can be a great option for tourists seeking a quieter and more relaxed atmosphere. They offer breathtaking landscapes, historical landmarks, and delicious local cuisine to satisfy your cravings. Some rural areas have unique festivals and activities, such as Aomori's Nebuta Festival or Gifu's Alpine Autumn Festival. Similarly, certain regions are renowned for their distinctive dishes, such as Nagano's soba noodles or Gifu's flying beef. Keep in mind that transportation in small towns may not be as convenient as in cities, so renting a car is often the best option. Alternatively, bicycles are also a great choice for getting around.

Tips for renting cars in Japan

1. If you want to rent a car in Japan, making sure that you have obtained an internatioal driving permit(IDP) before your trip. With this permit, you can drive in Japan with your valid driver's license from your home country.

2. Be familiar with Japanesse traffic rules. Cars in Japan should drive on the left side.

3. It is recommended to reserve your rental car in advance, especially if you plan on traveling during peak tourist seasons.

4. Never forget to check the insurance coverage included with the rental car. Some companies may offer additional insurance coverage for an extra fee.

Riding Bicycles

In small towns, bicycles offer tourists with convenience to eplore enjoy the overwelming sightseeing. Also, cycling also allowa you to take in the scenery at a leisurely pace.

Tips for Riding Bicycles

1. Keep in mind that bicycles are consideres vehicles in Japan and riders are required to follow the traffic rules including riding on the left side of the road, stopping at traffic lights and giving way to pedestrians.

2. In rural areas, some roads may not have designated bicycle lanes, so it is important to be aware of road conditions and ride carefully.

3. Make sure to follow the local rules and regulations when parking your bicycle. Some areas may have designated bicycle parking areas or require a fee parking.

Tourist Destination Transportation Guide

Popular Tourist Destinations

Fushimi Inari

Fushimi Inari Taisha was established in the 8th century and is one of the main shrines dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of agriculture and commerce. As one of the most popular shrines in Kyoto, the entrance to the shrine is marked by the massive torii gate donated by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1589. Behind the gate is the main hall and other buildings of the shrine. You can also find various fox statues in the shrine, which are considered to be messengers of Inari, and the horse-like faces painted on the foxes are a unique feature of this place.

The most famous sight in Fushimi Inari Taisha is the dense rows of vermilion torii gates called "Senbon Torii," which is one of the most representative landscapes of Kyoto. Hundreds of vermilion torii gates line the path leading up to the top of Mount Inari, and there are also dozens of fox statues along the way. Walking through the Senbon Torii, you will see old and faded vermilion gates interweaved with new and bright ones, creating a stunning visual impact under the sunlight.

Recommended Routes

From Kyoto Station: Take the JR Nara Line to Inari Station, 2stops, 5minutes

From Gion-Shijo Station: Take the Keihan Main Line to Fushimi Inari Station, 4stops, 9minutes

From Osaka Station: Take the JR Kyoto Station, then transfer to the JR Nara Line to Inari Station

Meiji Jingu Shrine

Meiji Jingu Shrine is the largest and most powerful spot in Tokyo, Meiji Jingu enshrines Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken as its deities.

Recommended Routes

From Tokyo Station: Take the Yamanote Line to Harajuku Station, about 20 minutes.From there, it's a 10-minute walk to the shrine

From Shinjuku Station: Take the JR Yamanote Line to Harajuku Station, about 2 minutes, From there, it's a 10-minute walk to the shrine

From Shibuyaa Station: Take the JR Yamanote Line to Harajuku Station, about 2minutes. From there, it's a 10-minute walk to the shrine.

Senso-ji Temple

Senso-ji Temple is the oldest and most prominent temple. The magestic Senso-ji Buddhist Temple is almost 1400 years old and is a symbol of Asakusa and the entire city of Tokyo.

Recommended Routes

From Tokyo Station: Take the JR Yamanote Line or the JR Keihin-tohoku Line to Kanda Station, then transfer to the Ginza Line and take it to Asakusa Station.

From Shinjuku Station: Take the JR Chuo Line to Kanda Station, then transfer to the Ginza Line and take it to Asakusa Station.

From Shibuya Station: Take the Ginza Line to Asakusa Station.

Tsukiji Fish Market

The Tsukiji Fish Market was once the largest seafood market in the world, handling more than 2,000 tons of marine products a day. Tsukiji now regularly shows up on visitors’ lists of must-see destinations in Tokyo for its lively atmosphere and incredible sushi. Discover the delicate art of making the perfect sushi roll with this three-hour group cooking class in Shinjuku, Tokyo, where you'll learn how to make different types of sushi, including nigiri, inari, hosomali, and more.

Recommended Routes

Take the Metro Hibiya Line to Tsukiji Station and exit at Exit 1. Also, you can take the Toei Oedo Line to Tsukiji Station.

Mount Fuji

Mount Fuji, the highest peak in Japan is located in the south-central Honshu Island of Japan. Mount Fuji is a revered symbol of Japanese culture that captures the spirit of the nation. Mount Fuji is not only a sacred mountain in Japanese heart but a popular tourist attraction and a must-visit destination for many travelers to Japan.

Climbing Mount Fuji is a popular activity, but due to the weather, it is only permitted during a specified period of time in the summer season. Typically, climbing is allowed from July 2nd to August 26th every year. However, if you do not want to climb the mountain, there are still plenty of ways to experience its beauty. For instance, visit the West Lake Village to enjoy a picturesque view of Mount Fuji, or head to Oishi Park to capture stunning photographs of the mountain's reflection in the lake with flowers in the foreground.

Arakurayama Sengen Park is another popular attraction in the Mount Fuji area, featuring a five-story pagoda and scenic views of the mountain. During the Mt. Fuji Sakura season, the park is a prime spot to view Japanese cherry blossoms in full bloom, creating a spectacular display of color and beauty that is unique to Japan.

Recommended Routes

From Tokyo:

By Train: Take the JR Chuo Line to Otsuki Station, then transfer to the Fujikyu Railway Line to Kawaguchiko Station. From there, take a bus to the 5th station of Mount Fuji.

By Bus: Direct buses run from Kyoto Station and Shinjuku Station to the 5th Station of Mount Fuji.

From Kyoto

By Train: Take the JR Tokaido/Sanyo Shinkansen to Mishima Station, then transfer to the bus to the 5th station of Mount Fuji.

By Bus: Direct buses run from Kyo Station to the 5th station of Mount Fuji.

From Osaka

By Train: Take the JR Tokaido/Sanyo Shinkansen to Mishma Station, then transfer to the bus to the 5th station of Mount Fuji.

By Bus: Direct buses run from Osaka Station and Namba Station to the 5th station of Mount Fuji.

Transportation Safety Guide

Safety is always the most important thing need to consider when you travel around. Transportation is an essential part of traveling in Japan. Though Japan has one of safest transportation systems in the world, you also need to pay attention to prioritizing safety.Here is a huide can help you stay safe.

Trains/Subways

1.Always stand behind the yellow line on the platform and do not cross until the train has fully stopped.

2.Be aware of the designated smoking areas, which are typically located on the platform or outside of the station.

3.Do not attempt to board a train that is already full or try to force your way on.

4.Make sure to keep your belongings with you at all times and avoid leaving them unattended.

5.If you feel unwell, look for the emergency button on the train and press it to alert the conductor.

Buses

1.Always stand behind the line when waiting for the bus and do not cross until the bus has fully stopped.

2.Make sure to keep your belongings with you at all times and avoid leaving them unattended.

3.Pay attention to the bus driver's instructions, especially during an emergency situation.

4.If you feel unwell, inform the bus driver immediately.

Taxis

1.0Only use licensed taxis, which are typically colored in black and yellow or white and green.

2.Make sure to check that the taxi driver has a valid ID card displayed in the car.

3.Always wear your seatbelt, as it is required by law.

4.Do not distract the driver, and avoid loud conversations or phone calls that may interfere with their concentration.

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