Transportation in Japan (Airlines, Taxis, Buses, Ferries)


Some basic information about international and domestic flights.

International Air Travel

The three main entrances for international air travel to Japan are Narita International Airport ( Tokyo ), Kansai International Airport ( Osaka ), and Central Japan International Airport ( Nagoya ). The Central Japan International Airport ( also known as Centrair ), started its new service from February 2005, expanding the former Nagoya Airport in association with the holding of Expo 2005 Aichi.

Besides these three main airports, 28 more including Haneda International Airport in Tokyo, and Osaka International Airport ( also known as Itami Airport )in Osaka, partly operates international flight service to and from Asian countries, Guam, Hawaii and Austaralia.

Domestic Air Travel

Thanks to the severe competitions among airline companies, air fares had become comparatively reasonable in the past ten or so years. Due to this, it can be said that today domestic flights are the most convenient means to travel, between large cities inside the country for distance over approximately 380 miles.

The reason why domestic flights are the most convenient means to travel long distance over 380 miles, is because the Shinkansen ( bullet train ) is often faster, when you think about the transfer time between airports and city centers. However, taking domestic flights will save time traveling to regions that are not served by Shinkansen, and sometimes it can be effective to hold down traveling fees for most airlines offer discount rates.

There are two main groups offering domestic flight service in Japan, the JAL Group and the ANA Group and each of them are consisted with several airline companies serving more than 50 airports all over the country. Other than this, there are several independant domestic airline companies such as Skymark Airlines, or Air Do, which are not included in the former two groups.

The merits of domestic air travel are that you can save time, under the limits of traveling long distance over 380 miles to regions that are not served by Shinkansen, and that you can hold down your traveling cost by making use of the various campaigns and discount rates, which most airline companies offer.

The demerit is that when you are traveling distance under 380 miles, it costs more and takes more time for you need to transfer to other transportations ( most airports are build apart from city centers ), that consequently, it ends up faster and cheaper to use other good-for-long-distance-travel transportation.



Taxis, I think, is not such a smart choice for traveling in Japan, because most of the time taxi fares cost more than other public transportation means like trains or buses.

In sightseeing spots like Kyoto, there seems to be such a thing as "sightseeing taxis" that drives you through popular tourist attractions with local driver guides. But I feel that plain local taxis driving through cities, can not be suggested when I think about the value for money. In that sense, it may be better to use taxis only on limited occasions like when you are traveling a very short distance between train stations, or when you have a lot of baggage to carry around with you, or when you're visiting the place for the first time and you don't know how to get around ( though many drivers, these days, don't seem to know the roads ). It may also be a good idea to take taxis with more than two people. If you split the fare by the number of people, it could help to keep your traveling cost low.

Incidentally, I often hear that Japanese use taxis to get home when they've missed the last train, but regarding the fact that extra fees such as late-night charge is added to the fare, the overvalue priced sort of feeling still can not be denied.

The merit of local taxis is that it comes in handy, when you're only moving between stations, or when you have too much to carry, or when you don't know the way around the place. Another merit is that since the sense of distance between the driver and the customer is close compared to other transportation, you can receive direct service ( which means that the driver's service attitude directly reflects on the quality of the service itself ).

The demerits are that because the drivers serve the customers directly, sometimes ( or should I say most of the time ) it makes you feel terrible when you bump into a rude driver, and that the VFM ( value for money ) is not well ballanced, including such present service situation.

Web Links

For a good choice of hotels with discount prices, visit Hotel in Tokyo for more information.


There are two types of buses running in Japan according to the distance you travel, the local bus and the highway bus.

Local Buses

local bus

Local buses run inside towns and cities as a secondary transportation to trains, except in cities with less dense train networks where they become a main public transportation service. But the calculation systems of bus fares differ depending on each bus company, and all the signs and destinations are written in Japanese, that local buses are not the best choice of transportation, for foreign tourists. It could be said that local buses are rather for advanced people, not for Japan beginners.

The merit of local buses are that it's useful in places where train networks are less dense, and that it's good for traveling short distance inside towns and cities.

The demerits are that since things differ depending on each bus company, and most of the signs or announcements are in Japanese, local buses turn out to be a rather unsuitable transportation for Japan beginners.

Highway Buses

Highway buses run between cities linking them in long distance rides. Many companies offer long distance over-night transportation service, and using such service can consequently save your lodging cost for one night. Since you can move from one place to another during the night time, highway buses can be very convenient in a way, leaving you plenty of time to spend the following day.

Though you have to stay on the bus for a certain period of time depending on your destination, all the buses are air conditioned and has a small lavatory, and you can also bring your own food and drink. Added to this, the fares are much reasonable compared to trains or airplanes, which is a great attraction for backpackers.

The merits of highway buses are that you don't have to spare a long time during the day to move from one place to another, since most of them are run during the night time, which means that you can also save money for a night's stay. It is also a great merit that the traveling cost is much lower, compared to trains or airplanes.

The demerits are that you have to stay on the bus for a long time ( at least 7 to 8 hours generally, depending on your destination ), and although you can save money for a night's stay, it may not be as comfortable as staying in an average hotel ( well... they don't have any bathing facility in the bus... ) .

Domestic Ferries

Since Japan consists of islands ( four main islands and thousands of smaller ones ), domestic ferries have been a useful means of transportation between each islands. Today, the four main islands Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu are connected with bridges and tunnels, making it possible to travel by land. On the other hand, more than 50 airports that are now in service throughout Japan, together with the comparatively reasonable air fares have increased the popularity of air travel, leaving us less opportunities to travel in ferries.

But in order to reach smaller islands, ferries and boats are still used as an inter-island main transportation. In some of these islands, ferries and boats are actually a very important means of transportation, which is essential to daily life.

Usually, domestic ferries transport people, vehicles and cargo. But the size of the ferry varies, and some of the large types has a capacity of carrying several hundreds of passengers, sometimes even equipped with facilities such as communal baths and restaurants.

The merits of ferries are that they can take you to smaller islands, where you can not reach by other transportation, and also enjoy a relaxing cruise to your destination.

The demerits are that the number of landing spots ( piers ) are less when in comparison to other transportation, and that most of them are not in good access from city centers. It also would be a demerit that cruising takes more time than other transportation, while the fares cost just as much.