Navigating your way around Japan
The principle mode of transportation in Japan’s big cities is rail. Clean, reliable, and safe, traveling by train is generally your best bet. For region specific information, look to the individual region pages in the Locations section.
If you’re looking to get between cities, the speedy shinkansen, or bullet train, is a popular way to travel. The cost of tickets for the shinkansen is more expensive than taking the regular train, but it’s worth it for the time saved and the amazing views from the elevated tracks!
Flat-rate buses/community buses
These types of buses generally operate in larger cities and usually within city limits. The cost is 200 yen for a ticket regardless if you get off at the very next stop or at the end of the line. You can purchase a commuter pass from the nearest ticket office or sometimes directly from the bus driver. Otherwise, all buses will have a cash machine on board for you to make the payment for one ticket or you can charge up your smart card and simply swipe your card for the payment. Payment is made upon boarding. Community buses generally travel very short routes with only a few stops. The rate is usually 100 yen.
Non-flat rate buses
Non-Flat Rate Buses charge patrons according to the stop they get off at. These buses usually travel farther than the flat-rate buses and fares will exceed 200 yen. Don’t confuse these with coach/highway buses that travel long distances between cities. Non-flat rate buses will still travel within the area. The payment is made at your stop before you alight.
Coaches or ‘Limousine’ buses that travel longer distances such as between the city and the airport or city-to-city overnight tend to charge flat rates. These buses tend to be popular with those who are looking for an inexpensive way to travel without the inconvenience of having many stops along the way.
Taxis are pricey but plentiful. Fares, generally calculated based on the distance traveled, start at 710 yen. After the first two kilometers, the rate is approximately 100 yen for every 300 meters. Additional charges that you should be aware of are late-night charges for service between 10pm and 5am. As of January 2017, a special charging system started just in central Tokyo, charging 410 yen for the first kilometer.
Most major taxi companies offer translation services which are usually in the form of calling into the company’s multilingual dispatchers. Since most drivers in Japan use a navigation system to get around, having the address of your destination handy is often the simplest option. Be aware that the curb-side passenger door is opened and closed by the taxi driver, so be sure to stand clear!