Japan is covered in a rail network that reaches to almost every corner of the archipelago. Most are owned and run by the Japan Railway (JR) system and the world famous "Shinkansen" bullet train is of course one of the fastest and most enjoyable forms of land transport anywhere – the distance between Tokyo and Osaka being covered in just 2hrs 30 mins on the fastest line.
Japan Rail Pass
Japan Rail Pass allows you to use the whole JR system (including the Shinkansen) but is only sold outside Japan. 28,300 yen gets you a full 7 day ticket (adults).
For more info, check the Japan Rail Pass website
Long-distance buses in Japan are run by numerous companies including JR. Buses are generally more economic than traveling by plane or train but do take longer and can be affected by traffic jams at busy times of the day or night.
Local buses run all over Japan as well as in the major cities and sometimes English instructions or stop announcements are used but this is not the case everywhere. We would recommend you ask drivers to remind you of where you must disembark prior to setting off.
Japanese taxis can be found at the exit to every train station in the country or alternatively hailed on the streets. The red sign visible through the windshield of the car: "空車" (kusha) means it is vacant and available for hire but when the sign reads "賃走" (chinso), it is unavailable. The back door on the left side will open and close automatically so be careful not to stand too close! (All the other doors are operated manually) Rates vary depending on the taxi company but usually start at a fixed rate of 710 yen (in Tokyo) for the first two kilometers. The rate system is shown inside the taxi and receipts can be issued. In urban areas, you can usually pay by credit card for a taxi. If credit cards are accepted, a taxi has a sticker showing this on the window.
Japan Railways(JR East)
Keisei Electric Railway
In big cities, such as Tokyo and Osaka, the under and over ground train system is well organized and highly efficient accessing any and all parts of the cities. To avoid wasting time lining up for tickets and working out how to use the machines in different stations, it is highly recommended to purchase pre-paid cards.
Getting Around in Tokyo
Transportation cards/useful tickets
If planning to stay in Japan for a longer period why not try using IC cards? (500 yen deposit returned when returning the card) Simply touch the card on a rectangular pad beside the ticket gate and the fare used is automatically deducted from the value of the card. In Tokyo the cards are known as Suica or PASMO and are accepted on JR lines, subways and most other railways and buses.
Tokyo Furii Kippu (東京フリーきっぷ) is available for use on JR lines (inside Tokyo's 23 wards), subways, and the Toei Bus service for one whole day – ending at midnight – at a charge of 1,580 yen.
JR Kanto Area Pass is a discounted pass for unlimited rides in Tokyo and the surrounding Kanto area. Valid for three days, the pass is good for unlimited rides using reserved seats on ordinary cars on Shinkansen (bullet trains), limited express and other trains. Prices are 8,000 yen (Adults), and 4,000 yen (Children).
Getting Around in Osaka
Transportation cards/useful tickets
In the Kansai (Osaka) area ICOCA or PiTaPa is available IC cards similar to Suica / PASMO.
Kansai Area Pass is valid for unlimited travel using ordinary non-reserved seats of JR-WEST local and rapid trains in the defined "Free Area." Prices are 2,000 yen (1-day), 4,000 yen (2-days), 5,000 yen (3-days), and 6,000 yen (4-days).
Kansai Thru Pass (スルッと関西) offers a similar service to the Tokyo Furii Kippu in Kansai and enables subway, railway (bar JR lines), and bus use throughout the Kansai area. Price - 3,800 yen for 2 days or 5,000 yen for 3 days.
You can cash traveler's checks at many banks. Traveler's checks can also be used at hotels, ryokan Japanese style hotels, and shops in big cities. Credit cards can be widely used in urban areas, but sometimes are not accepted at shops in rural areas.
Exchanging non-Japanese currency for yen can be carried out at international airports, and most major banks. At the airports exchanging Japanese yen into foreign currency is also possible. Operating hours are usually 6:30am-11:00pm.
At "World Currency Shop," even after banks close their doors it is possible to exchange later in the day. Jimbocho Head Quarters - 03-5275-7611 (11:00am-5:00pm)
Public telephones can be found almost everywhere in Japan and most can be used to make domestic and international calls. Only 10 or 100 yen coins can be used but all telephones take pre-paid telephone cards – purchase in convenience stores for 500 or 1000 yen.If you use a calling card when you make an international call, it can reduce your calling rate.
Depending on the type of cell-phone you have, it may also be able to be used in Japan through roaming service. You can rent a cell-phone at international airports in Japan.