Japan is known for its excellent transportation, something that makes travelling long distances within the country an easy task. There are many different options of transport to choose from, including bus, train, car, ferry, airplane and of course the famous Shinkansen. This post focuses on three modes of transport in particular (these three options are the best suited for the majority of people): Night Bus, Airplane, and Shinkansen!
Tennen-Gas on Wikimedia
Night buses are the best option for those looking for low costs. Relatively cheap and convenient, many people opt for this mode of transport when travelling long distance. As is obvious from its name the buses travel through the night, leaving the starting destination in the evening and arriving early the next day. The buses make minimum stops (most are at the beginning, picking up passengers from other close-by stations) so in theory you can sleep pretty much the whole journey. You also have the option of what type of seat you would like, ranging from a more basic seat (a normal coach seat) to a more premium seat (typically a reclining seat with a hood, charge point and more leg/arm room, often labelled as “relax” seats) with the former being the cheapest option. Having travelled by night bus myself with both a basic seat and a premium seat, I would definitely recommend the latter. It’s only a little extra and the extra room /privacy really do go a long way, especially if you can actually sleep on the journey! Plus being able to charge your phone is also a great feature! With Night buses you also have the option of same sex seating which is particularly handy if you are a woman travelling solo.
As stated before Night buses are relatively cheap. An example of a return cost between say Osaka and Tokyo would be at its cheapest around 8000 yen and at its most expensive around 16000 yen. Though there are a few companies to choose from the company I recommend is WillerExpress.
Tokyoship on Wikimedia
Depending on where you are travelling to, flying as a mode of travel can either be the best option or just a pain, but in some cases (for example when travelling from Honshu Island to say Okinawa) it is one of the few options you have, and out of these three options is the only option! Flying can also be a relatively cheap option, especially if you book your flights well in advance and if you use one of Japan’s budget airlines (e.g. Peach, Jetstar). Flight tickets are easily booked online and again you have many payment options. Depending on where you are flying from/to in Japan the flights can be as short as 1 hour, and as it is a domestic flight checking in is a lot less hassle/much easier than with international flights. However, whilst the flight itself is short there is more risk of delays when flying (typically due to weather issues) and though checking is not as much of a hassle it can still take up more time than necessary. As well as this airports are often located on the outskirts of the cities, which means after you land you still need to travel from the airport to wherever it is you want to visit or to where you are staying. If however you are located near the airport or are travelling to somewhere located close to an airport then flying is a good option for you, and as I said before in some cases the only option!
As aforementioned there are some relatively cheap airlines such as Peach and Jetstar, with return flights from Osaka to Tokyo running as low as around 9000 yen!
Rsa on Wikimedia
The Shinkansen (Bullet Train) is probably the most famous and easiest way to travel long distances, it can, however, be the most expensive. The main pro of using the Shinkansen is of course its speed, you can travel from Osaka to Tokyo in less than 3 hours, thus beating both night bus and airplane in journey time (this is including flight check ins/check outs etc.). There is also a very low chance of any delays as Shinkansens are renowned for their punctuality, often leaving at the scheduled time on the dot! This mode of transport is also a comfortable way to travel. Regardless of whether you choose a standard car of Green car (slightly more expensive but has larger seats and more foot room) the seats generally are always roomy, always forward facing and the cars are normally fairly silent! There are also sometimes food carts, charging points in front of some seats and there is even the option of Wifi (must be purchased beforehand). Customers also have the option of choosing a reserved or non-reserved seat (Green Car seats are always reserved). The difference between the two, if not obvious, is that with non-reserved seats you are not guaranteed a seat, however from experience I find that there are normally seats free unless travelling in super peak times (e.g. on a national holiday).
Unlike the other two transport options it is much much easier to purchase tickets on the day, so if you decide last minute you want to travel to somewhere far away there is usually no hassle. Lastly, although I previously stated that the Shinkansen is the most expensive of the three, it can also be the least expensive if you already happen to have a Japan Rail Pass (A Rail Pass for all JR trains in Japan available for foreigners for a set amount of days). With this pass you can travel on all Shinkansens (excluding Nozomi and Mizuho) and even use the Green Cars for no extra charge!
So to conclude all three of these transportations are useful for travelling long distances in Japan, the best one simply depends on your budget, available time, end destination and basically personal preference!