shinkasen

Transportation in Japan

Japan is very easy to get around and it is usually not necessary to have a car.  Many of Japan's larger cities provide efficient networks for public transportation.  These are all connected by shinkansen (the Japanese bullet train).  

There are only two large airports in Tokyo.  Narita International Airport, which was formerly known as the New Tokyo International Airport, mostly handles international flights.  This airport sits in Narita city, which is located in the Chiba Prefecture.  It is the point of arrival for most of the foreign visitors that come to Japan.  There are two terminals, both of which are connected to central Tokyo with a network of bus and rail lines.  Tokyo's other airport, Haneda, is actually more centrally-located.  It handles more of Tokyo's domestic flights.  Only a few international flights come through Haneda.

The four major islands of Japan, Kyushu, Shikoku, Hokkaido, and Honshu, are outfitted with a network of reliable and extensive railways.  It is very convenient for visitors to travel around Japan on train, especially with the low cost of the Japan Rail Pass.  Over seventy percent of the railway network in Japan is under the operation of the Japan Railways.  The other thirty percent belongs to private companies.  

The Japan Railways Group used to be the Japanese National Railways, but was privatized after sustaining huge debts due to mismanagement.  It is composed of six railway companies that cater to regional passengers.  These railway companies are JR East, JR Hokkaido, JR West, JR Kyushu, JR Shikoku, JR Central, and JR Freight, a nationwide freight company.  They combine to create a network of regional, interregional, and urban night trains, Shinkansen (Japanese bullet trains), and train lines across the nation.        

Kosoku (highway buses) are inexpensive alternatives to riding trains across Japan.  Although bus trips take longer than train trips, the fares are generally much cheaper.  This is especially true of buses that run along the more competitive routes.  Discount fares can be extremely cheap.  Japan Bus Pass is the best discount offer for rock bottom fares to locations across the nation.    

A heavy network of overnight and daytime bus lines covers Japan.  There are one or more bus companies that serve every larger city or prefecture.  There is much competition for bus business on the routes to Tokyo and other popular routes.      

Since the nation of Japan is a collection of many thousand islands, it is natural that the country hosts a complex domestic ferry network.  Hokkaido, Kyushu, Honshu, and Shikoku are connected by tunnels and bridges, but ferries are still an interesting choice.  Many of the smaller islands are only reachable by ship.

The larger ferries carry not only people but also cargo and vehicles.  These large ferries usually transport hundreds of people and cars and offer a variety of amenities.  These include restaurants and public baths.  Some of them are almost luxury liners.  However, shorter routes use smaller ships that can just carry a few cars and tens of passengers.        

In Japan you will find a wide choice of transportation options suitable for any budget.