The country of Japan is blessed with all kinds of beautiful, natural, and historic sceneries. To see all these lovely sights, you must travel from city to city and this can be very tiresome to do but since Japan’s public transportation is incredibly efficient, the traveling become quite pleasurable. When people talk about public transportation in Japan, the topic usually revolves around their genius train system but as well as their train system is.
A General Guide about the Buses and Night Buses in Japan
Trains are great but buses have an edge over them in some ways because the buses are able to reach specific places which train cannot. The buses in Japan are able to connect the people to the more remote areas in Japan that are worth going to. It can get you to Kyoto, Osaka, Kansai, Hokkaido, Kyushu, Hiroshima, the Tohoku region, and anywhere else in Japan over a span of a few hours. There are many types of buses that can be found in Japan. For example, there are metro buses that provide transportation services to those who live in large cities and such alike.
There are also highway buses that travel longer distances compared to the metro buses. Depending on how far the destination is, the trips on these buses can last as long as an overnight travel. They travel much slower than express trains but they are considerably cheaper so if budget is something you are cautious about then traveling via buses might be extremely useful for you. Not only you can save travel money, if you schedule it wisely, you can make use of an overnight trip to save on accommodations as well.
These buses also make use of something very similar to the train system’s Japan Rail Pass. It is called the Japan Bus Pass and it functions as a VIP travel pass of some sort. Depending on the package you get, these passes allow you to ride 3 bus rides per day that are operated by the company known as Willer Express. Some of these passes are valid for 7 days so if you are a tourist in Japan, you should research on the available packages you can get on the dates of your trip. Normally though, the prices would range from 10,000 yen to 15,000 yen.
You should know that these passes were really made for foreigners because it is only available to holders of non-Japanese passports and foreign residents on Japan. You should also know that there are versions of this pass have date restrictions. The “Monday to Thursday” pass only permits the holder to make use of it during those specific dates. The “All Day” pass, on the other hand, allows the holder of the card to use it any day of the week.
You should also take note of the periods wherein both versions of the Japan Bus Pass cannot be used. These blackout periods are the Golden Week, New Year holidays, and Obon. There are also times when they have special blackout dates which are announced on their official website so it is best to be updated if you plan to make use of this card for your travels. This system also requires the riders to have seat reservations prior to your trip. You have to book at least 1 hour before the departure of the bus ride you are trying to book for it to be valid. Don’t worry though because this can easily be done online so as long as you are in a place with internet, booking in advance shouldn’t be much of a problem for you.
When planning for the routes to take and when to take it, it is advisable to look for maps that show which bus lines link where and if they offer both daytime and nighttime rides. This changes from city to city, so getting this straightened out with whoever you are traveling with can be vital to your trip. Imagine being in Kyoto and knowing that the bus line route to Tokyo is made up of a segment that provides rides only during the daytime and another segment that conveniently provides bus rides during both daytime and nighttime. With that kind of information, you can organize your schedule in a way that allows you to do whatever you want, until it’s time for you to move on to your next destination.
A Review on the Bus Companies
There are several highway bus companies that you can find in Japan. One of them has already been mentioned earlier and it is the Willer Express. This company is Japan’s leading discount bus operator but moreover, it is a company that has a wide network which allows its customers to travel on interregional bus trips easily. Combining its vast network with packages like the Japan Bus Pass makes it very clear why this Willer Express has been a successful bus operator company in Japan. It is all thanks to their unique ability to provide quality service at discounted costs.
Aside from Willer Express, another notable company is the JR buses. This used to be part of the National Railway run by the state but nowadays, it is run by the JR Group. This group is made up of eight regional JR Bus companies which are namely the Jr Hokkaido Bus, JR Kanto Bus, JR Tokai Bus, Nishinihon JR Bus, Chugoku JR Bus, JR Shikoku Bus, JR Kyushu Bus, and JR Tohoku Bus. All these smaller companies work together in connecting their networks to form one that can compete with companies like Willer Express and their interregional buses as well.
Bus rides from the JR companies aren’t as cheap as discount buses but considering that their prices are still cheaper than train tickets, it remains a viable option for those who wish to try out the JR Buses in Japan. This bus line used to allow the use of the Japan Rail Pass but since spring of 2013, they have changed their rules on this so be sure to have money with you on your trip.
How to Book of Cheap Highway Bus
Considering how the world works nowadays, it isn’t new to find out that you can now book almost everything through online in this day. The other thing you have to worry about is finding the best bus ticket deal out there. The majority of these bus companies have official websites that show their schedules and prices but going through each and every one of them can be very tedious. With this being said, there is an English website you can go to that allows you to make online reservations for all kinds of bus lines that the multiple bus companies have nationwide.
This website is called Japan Bus Online and it has been a game changer for the bus system of Japan. People love simple things and with the services offered by Japan Bus Online, looking for great bus tickets to go anywhere in Japan can be as far as a couple of clicks. They offer the basic types of tickets which are the one-way tickets, round trip tickets, and sometimes, they even offer the booklets of multiple tickets.
Aside from using websites to book your tickets, you can also do it the old fashion way. You can buy the tickets at major bus terminals or make reservations via telephone. There are also some convenience stores in Japan that offer this ticket booking service so keep an eye out for them. If you are going to use the JR buses, you can buy your tickets in any of the JR stations scattered all over Japan so it is very accessible. Although seat reservation needs only an allowance of 1 hour prior to the departure of the bus ride, remember that these seats are limited so as soon as you can organize your schedule, it would be wise to reserve seats as well.
With the continuous development of public transportation in Japan, the bus transportation system can only become better. As it is now, it is able to efficiently provide the services it was intended to provide. It truly does help both tourists and locals because of the more affordable trips it offers the public as well as the growing network these buses can use to bring people to destinations that weren’t reachable before. With the improvement and addition of the overnight buses, it has became more useful than before. Release all your worries about how to travel from place to place.