Highway bus / Local buses

Bus service is available in all cities, but can sometimes be a bit difficult for non-Japanese speaking visitors to use. JR operates long-distance buses between Tokyo and other major cities (JR Bus Network). Though travel takes longer, sometimes due to heavy traffic, fares are cheaper than Shinkansen train fares. Other bus companies provide bus travel between major cities as well. Benefits of Night Buses include money saving on a night’s accommodation, good riding comfort and economical travel even in daytime on routes good for sightseeing.

Highway bus

Highway buses run mainly on expressways. There are many bus services linking cities to cities or cities to tourist spots. Traveling by a highway bus is generally less expensive than by an airplane or the railway. Highway buses are also called long distance buses or overnight buses (they run at night.)
Regarding the method of purchasing highway bus tickets, each bus company or route has its own way. By using our information that we provide here as a reference, please contact each bus company information center for further information.The arrival and departure schedules might be delayed due to traffic congestion or accidents, etc.

Q & A for highway buses

Q: Where can I check routes and fares?

A: You can check them on the internet or travel agencies.

There are websites at which you can check nationwide routes, make reservations, purchase tickets, etc., but there are few websites for foreign visitors. You can also purchase tickets or ask for information at any ticket offices of JR stations (for the routes run by JR affiliated bus companies) or travel agencies.

* Each bus company or route has different information on their websites.

Highway Bus Information Platform
Highway Bus Information Platform as a doorway to obtain information on highway buses available in Japan.

Japan bus WEB
This site provides a data base by which you can check nationwide express bus services. An English version is also available.

Highway Bus net
This is an express bus reservation website operated by JR bus companies. You can search and check the availability of seats, book your seat, purchase it, and print out a ticket from the website after becoming a member (membership is free).

JAPAN BUS LINES has an excellent team with bus companies from every region in the country, and a leading highway bus network covering many cities. The website is in English, Korean, and traditional Chinese, and possible to complete from booking, purchasing and payment.

JR Bus Kanto
This is limited to the highway buses of JR Kanto (departure or arrival at Tokyo). The timetable and detailed information on vehicle types etc., are available.

Highway bus.com
You can search this site for nationwide highway bus information, check seat availability, and book seats without registering a membership.

Specialized in comfortable sleeper bus that connects major city like Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka. Variety of specialized buses are available, such as female-only bus, business-class seat, bus with toilet, phone chargers, and on-board Wi-Fi. Credit card payment, e-ticket, and ticket printout are available without registering.

Japan Bus Online offers English online reservations for sightseeing and highway bus services and routes by one of the major bus companies in Japan. The website will let you check for bus amenities, interior& exterior photos, schedules, fares, seat availability, and pick up and drop off locations so that you can find the suitable bus service for yourself, Users can immediately purchase a ticket online by credit card without the need to register or login to the website. The Japan Bus Online customer Support accepts inquiries related to website operations in English via e-mail.

Q: Do I have to make an advanced reservation for riding a bus? Where can I pay the fare?

A: You may need to book a seat and purchase a ticket in advance for boarding the bus.

For a long distance bus, you need to book your seat first and purchase a ticket before boarding. Regarding reservations and purchasing, please contact any ticket offices of JR stations (for the routes run by JR affiliated bus companies) or travel agencies, bus terminals, multimedia terminals of some convenience stores, etc. (depending on bus companies and routes.) Or you may also make a reservation by calling the reservation center for an individual bus company and purchase your ticket at the bus terminal. You can make a reservation up to about one month in advance. When you make your reservation, please reconfirm the ticket purchase deadline (for instance, 30 minutes before boarding, etc), and information about any changes or cancellation rules.

Q: Where can I get on and off the bus?

A: At a bus terminal or a bus stop for the highway bus.

In most cities, accessing bus terminals is usually easy because they are located next to railway stations. In big cities, however, there are many terminals. Each bus company has its own terminal, so please make sure which bus you are taking. Bus stops are usually either on the highway or around the ramp of the highway, and access is an inconvenience, so we recommend that you make sure of the arrival or departure time in advance. You can check the location of bus terminals and stops at highway bus reservation websites.

Q: How early should I be at the terminal before the bus leaves?

A: Boarding starts from about 10 minutes before the bus leaves.

Usually you have to reserve your seat to board a long distance bus or a night bus. We recommend that you be at the bus terminal or the bus stop 30 minutes before the bus leaves.

Q: Does the vehicle have a bathroom? How about food?

A: Normally every highway bus is equipped with its own bathroom. You can bring food and drink on the bus.

Long distance buses are usually equipped with their own bathrooms, but we recommend that you ask the information counter to confirm beforehand (you can also check on highway bus reservation websites). The bus usually makes brief stops (for about 15 minutes) for several times at places called “service areas” where bathrooms, food and drink are available. You should also remember the bus parking location since there are usually several similar buses parked in a big parking lot.

Q: Are there any things which I have to be careful of?

A; Smoking is not allowed, and seatbelts must be fastened.

Smoking is prohibited on the bus. Smoking is only allowable at service areas. Fastening your seatbelt is obligatory while the bus is running. As long as you follow the common etiquettes and manners, you may also use mobile phones and eat food.

Local buses

In an area without trains or subways, local buses (city buses) are the main transportation system. In Japan, you can get on or off a bus only at a bus stop, and if you know the basic rules of how to use the bus, taking a bus can be a very convenient way to get around.

Q & A for local buses

Q: Where can I find a timetable?

A: Timetables are shown at the bus stop.

There are various kinds of bus stops, but usually a timetable and a bus route (with the name of the bus stops and routes) are displayed at the stops. Except during rush hours, buses normally arrive at bus stops on time. Check with individual bus companies regarding arrival times to destinations.

Q: How much is the bus fare?

A: There are two kinds of bus fares, a “regular charge” and a “zone charge.”

Big cities such as Tokyo and Osaka use a flat regular charge system. For example, within the Tokyo 23 wards, the Tokyo Metro bus costs \200 (\100 for children). For zone charge buses, take a number ticket (indicating the number of the bus stop at which you board) from the ticket machine located at the bus entrance, then pay the fare when you get off the bus. The numbers and corresponding fares are shown on a display inside the bus. If you use a prepaid card or an IC card, you don’t need to take the number ticket, but you do need to pass the card through the machine when getting on the bus.

Q: When and how do I pay the fare?

A: There are two kinds of payment systems: “pay first” and “pay later”

For a regular charge, you usually pay your fare first, so get on the bus from the front door. For the zone charge, you get on the bus from the rear door and pay the fare when you get off the bus. When you pay by cash, pay it to the fare box by the driver. If you have a number ticket, you pay cash into the box with the number ticket. Preparing cash (coins) before you get on the bus makes your ride go more smoothly.

Q: How do I tell the driver to stop at my destination?

A: Press a stop button on the inside wall of the bus.

Press one of the stop buttons on the inside wall of the bus when the bus approaches your destination bus stop.The display or announcement will often tell the next stop in Japanese only. If you have difficulty understanding the display or the announcement, it might be better to ask a driver or passengers around you to let you know where to get off the bus. Passengers can get on or off the buses only at the bus stops.