Trains are the main form of transport in Japan and are unavoidably expensive. If you frequently travel between the same station you can either buy a 1, 3 or 6 month season ticket or buy a book of tickets which gives you eleven tickets for the price of ten. Just ask for a kaisuken. The teikiken ticket allows you to go back and forth all day for a period of time should you need to do so. If you are not sure of your fare always buy a ticket for a smaller amount and then adjust the fare at a fare adjustment machine when you get to your destination. This way you will avoid wasting money.
THE BULLET TRAIN - SHINKANSEN
The Shinkansen (bullet train) will whip you all over Japan at 300kmph. It is extremely efficient and comfortable but also very expensive. It is possible to buy discounted shinkansen tickets which will save you around 10% on the full price. You can buy them at discount ticket booths which are usually situated near major stations in urban areas. These tickets are usually valid from a month of purchase.
You might want to consider taking an overnight bus instead which is half the price but twice as inconvenient although you will be comfortable on your journey as the seats recline and you are looked after by stewardesses on the bus.
The bus driver will be able to sell you a book of tickets which offers you a discount the more you spend. This is called the Kaisuken and if you travel on the bus regularly or even for a few weeks on and off you will save money over a year.
Taxis are not cheap but often the only alternative. Buses and trains stop running at about 10:00 and 01:00 respectively. Often the Bus, Train and Taxi services in any area are owned by one company. Taxis are encouraged when the trains are stopped. Fares may differ in each area of Japan, but all fares are set by the Japanese Ministry of Transportation. The total cost is based on time and distance, and rates increase by 30% after 10 or 11 pm, depending on the area.
When the light on the dashboard is RED then the driver is looking for a fare, when it is GREEN (blue for Kansai) they are en-route or occupied. You do not need to tip and there is no tax for the service.
You can rent a car in Japan from the following companies. You will need some identification which confirms your name and address, a valid drivers licence and a credit card, from which they will take a deposit when you pick up the vehicle (refunded upon return of said vehicle).
Hertz Japan 0120-489-882 (toll free)
Find rental locations through the Hertz Japan website.
ORIX Rent-a-Car (03) 3779-0543
Times: Weekdays 9:00 till 19:00
Saturday and Sundays 9:00 till 17:00
Nippon Rent-a-Car (03) 3485-7196
Times: Weekdays 09:00 till 17:30
When it comes to domestic flights you can get up to 50% off by booking a flight a month in advance so plan ahead. You will also need to use a Japanese travel agent as the English language travel agents such as those mentioned below do not deal in domestic flights. If you call the airline direct you will invariably pay a great deal more for the same flight, so try and get some help from a Japanese person and go to a travel agent. Some airlines offer special fares for travel on your birthday with up to three friends so there are bargains out there.
TRAVEL AND TRANSPORTATION LINKS
Kansai International Airport
Link to Kansai International Airport Website.
Comprehensive website with content and features on Japan travel, tourism, life and culture, entertainment and more.
Japan Travel Bureau (JTB)
Travel and tour information. Links include: Congresses, Conferences and Symposiums, Events and Exhibitions, Cultural and Nature Tour Planners, Japan Rail Pass, Specialists Serving Asian Travellers.
Travel Guide to Japan
Site includes hotel guide, museums, traditional and pop culture, media, festivals and townpage.
Club Tocoo! Discount Travel | Japanese
Online travel reservation company. Provides access to discounted accommodation, flights, and car rentals
to travelers in Japan.
Japan National Tourist Organization | Japanese
Comprensive tourist guide including travel tips, accommodations, shopping, transportation, maps, weather, and more. News, travel updates, and useful links available.
Japan Travel Info
Presented by the Japan National Tourist Organization, this site offers organized info for tourists in Japan. Transportation, accommodation, visa info, and more. Some sections are specifically designated for the press and for travel agents.
Travel, accommodation & cultural background information and services for visitors to Japan.
Welcome to Japan
Overview of travel information including airport arrival, accomodation, climate/holidays, dining, tours/culture. Individually maintained.
Chicago is a hub for domestic and international transportation, and offers a wide range of public and private transportation, including the "El" and The Metra train systems.
Chicago Transit Authority
CTA serves Chicago and 40 suburbs with its extensive train lines and bus routes. These are helpful visual aids for locating CTA service in specific areas of the city. The System Map has details for the entire CTA system including trains and buses. It also shows some of the Pace bus routes. The train Map shows just the train lines. 1-888-YOURCTA.
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