Japan Transport

Get in


The most common intercontinental flight destination is Narita Airport(NRT) which is about an hour west of Tokyo. Tokyo's Haneda Airport (HND), while still primarily for domestic flights, has recently completing an expansion which has allowed for more international service. The second most common destination is Kansai Airport (KIX) about an hour south of Osaka. Osaka International Airport (ITM), commonly referred to as Itami airport, is primarily a domestic airport. Japan's two major airlines are Japan Airlines(JAL) and All Nippon Airways(ANA). ANA offers domestic connections for Star Alliance carriers, and JAL offers domestic connections for OneWorld carriers.


There are a number of international ferries to Japan, but for a casual traveller, Busan is likely to be the only practical destination from which to take a boat to Japan. Except for the ferries from Busan to Fukuoka and Shimonoseki, boats are generally uncompetitive with air fares, schedules can be infrequent, and travel times long. Unless you’re travelling with cargo, spending two days on a ferry is likely not practical.
Get around


Japan's railways are fast, highly efficient and cover the majority of the country, making this the transport mode of choice for most visitors. The first and most confusing aspect of Japan's railway system that you will encounter is the overlap of several private railway networks with the JR network. Tokyo also has two separate subway companies and these lines offer through service to lines of a half dozen other companies servicing locations further out.


Long-distance highway buses serve many of the inter-city routes covered by trains at significantly lower prices, ut take much longer than the Shinkansen. There is a multitude of operators, including Star Express and Willer Express, Kansai Bus, as well as companies of the JR group. Bus operator Willer Express offers a Japan Bus Pass for travel on their network of highway buses, it is available to both Japanese and foreigners, but must be purchased outside of Japan. You won't need to use local buses much in the major cities, but they're common in smaller towns and the idiosyncratic payment system is worth a mention.


You will find taxis everywhere in Japan, not only in the city but also in the country. Taxis are clean and completely safe, though a bit expensive. Note that even in the major cities, extremely few taxi drivers can speak English, so carrying a pamphlet or card of your hotel or destination with the address on it can be very helpful. An interesting feature of Japanese taxis is that the driver controls the opening and closing of the rear left passenger door.


Japan has many great opportunities for bikers, bike rentals can be found throughout the country, especially near popular routes. If you choose to purchase a bike, be aware that you need to have it registered under your name as the proper sticker. Note that if you are caught borrowing a bike registered under someone else's name, it is considered stolen in Japan.


Rental cars and driving in Japan are rare in or around the major cities, as public transport is generally excellent and gets you almost everywhere. In addition, the roads of major cities like Tokyo are plagued with massive traffic jams and parking is expensive and difficult to find, so driving there is more of a hindrance than anything else. An international driver's license (or Japanese license) will be required if you wish to rent a car or drive in Japan, and must be carried at all times. Both rental costs and fuel are more expensive than those in the USA, but fuel is generally cheaper than found in Europe.