A testament to the country’s commitment to efficiency, innovation and customer satisfaction, transport in Japan sets the bar high. Whether you’re exploring the bustling cities, venturing into the countryside or hopping between islands, Japan’s transport system ensures that getting around the country is both pleasurable and punctual. In one sleek bullet train journey, you can travel from the buzzy neon-lit streets of Tokyo to the crisp clean air of the Japanese Alps. From intricate underground networks to convenient buses, scenic ferry rides and reliable taxi services, transport in Japan is like nowhere else.

By Train

The shinkansen, commonly known as the bullet train, is the pride of Japan’s railways and one of country’s iconic symbols. Since its debut in 1964, it has revolutionised long-distance travel, offering exceptional speed, comfort and safety. From its sleek and futuristic design to its impeccable punctuality, riding a bullet train allows you to traverse vast distances in a fraction of the time it would take by car or plane. Passengers barely notice the pace of these smooth-running trains, which can reach up to 200mph. The network consists of multiple lines, each with its own features and experiences. The Tokaido Shinkansen, connecting Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima and Osaka is the busiest and most well-known. Other lines include the Tohoku Shinkansen, which connects Tokyo to the northern regions, and the Kyushu Shinkansen, which reaches the southern island of Kyushu. Each line offers scenic views and local attractions, making the shinkansen not just a mode of transportation but also a means to explore the diverse landscapes of Japan. To make travelling even easier,  there are announcements and signs in English telling you which stations are coming up. Just get to the door in good time, as you’ll generally only have a few seconds to disembark before the train fires off again.

By Bus

While trains dominate Japan’s transport landscape, buses play a crucial role in connecting areas that are not easily accessible by rail. City buses are a convenient way to explore Japan’s cities and towns, featuring electronic fare systems, multilingual announcements and the famous ‘front row’ - the best seat for enjoying panoramic views. For those looking to venture into Japan’s countryside, long-distance buses offer a comfortable and scenic option. They typically feature spacious seating, onboard amenities and breathtaking views of Japan’s natural landscapes. Popular journeys include the Alpine Route, which connects Toyama and Nagano, and offers stunning views of the Japanese Alps en route. Buses are also ideal for visiting hidden gems, such as the UNESCO World Heritage sites in Shirakawa-go or the picturesque villages of the Iya Valley.

By Underground

Japan’s subway systems demonstrate meticulous planning and efficiency. Tokyo’s underground network for instance is a labyrinth of interconnected lines that seamlessly transport millions of commuters daily. With its colourful lines and intricate station layouts, it can be initially overwhelming for visitors. Look out for the art installations and the famous ‘pushers’ who ensure that every passenger fits into the crowded trains during rush hour. Kyoto’s subway system seamlessly blends modernity with traditional aesthetics, while Osaka’s underground is known for its vibrant atmosphere. Navigating the urban jungles of Japan is a cinch with these networks - if you’re aware of the local etiquette. From queuing in an orderly manner to giving up seats for those in need, Japanese subway culture reflects the country’s emphasis on respect and consideration for others.

By Boat

Japan’s archipelago of 6,800 islands is a paradise for ferry fans. From the iconic Tokyo Bay ferries to the remote islands of Okinawa, boats are a scenic way to explore the country. Tokyo Bay ferries provide a different perspective of the city’s skyline, allowing passengers to enjoy panoramic views of landmarks like the Rainbow Bridge and Tokyo Tower. Beyond the capital, ferry services connect Japan’s far-flung islands. Okinawa, for example, is a popular destination known for its pristine beaches and vibrant culture. From the enchanting island of Naoshima, known for its contemporary art installations, to the historic island of Miyajima with its famous floating torii gate, ferry travel opens a world of exploration beyond the mainland.

By Plane

Air passengers in Japan can expect quality service, comfort and convenience. The two big domestic airlines are All Nippon Airways (ANA) and Japan Airlines (JAL). Both carriers offer discounts for advance bookings, which are strongly advised, especially during peak season and holidays. Other local airlines include Air Do for services from Tokyo to destinations in Hokkaido, and Skymark, with routes between Tokyo and Fukuoka, Kobe, Naha and Sapporo and Kobe-Naha.

By Taxi

Japan’s taxis are known for their cleanliness, reliability and courteous drivers. With automatic doors and white-gloved chauffeurs, taxis in Japan boast some interesting features, including free WiFi, phone chargers and even complimentary bottled water (Uber eat your heart out). As you’d expect, apps that allow you to easily hail a taxi, track their route and pay electronically, are commonplace in Japan. Another unique aspect is the concept of takkyubin, a luggage delivery service which allows travellers to send their bags directly to their destination, eliminating the need to carry heavy items. Whether you’re in a standard taxi, a luxurious black taxi or an eco-friendly hybrid taxi, you’re sure to enjoy a smooth and pleasant ride.

By Car

With so many excellent transport options to choose from, we wouldn’t recommend driving around Japan’s cities on your own. Traffic is a given, parking is tricky, and unless you speak Japanese, getting around is going to be difficult. However, driving can be a great way to tour the country’s off-the-beaten-track areas, especially if you’re in a group. There are car rental counters at all the major airports and train stations, and operators include Nippon, Nissan, Toyota, Mazda, Budget and Hertz. Eki Rent-a-Car offers discounts for combining car rental with train tickets so you can explore areas at your leisure, dropping the car at or close to a convenient train station on your return.

The excellent transport in Japan makes exploring the country’s diverse landscapes and vibrant cities easy and enjoyable. Experience it your way with a tailored itinerary from Original Travel.

Contact one of our Japan specialists