Japan is well known for its excellent public transport systems as well as their ability to run almost exactly on time. They tend to try to keep to the exact schedule as much as possible and will even go so far as to send out apology texts when things run later than usual. That being said there are a few ways that you can make all of your travel a bit easier and even more convenient. Here are a few things you can do to help you get around the cities and the rest of the country.
Timing is Everything
You can generally find out the train and bus timing for most places by checking your phone apps or looking on the internet. You can get a basic feel for the timing of the trains and buses in most areas. The trains will generally run every seven minutes, with the express trains being a few minutes more apart. Knowing this you should leave early enough to make time for your departure and never count on a train to be late as they generally run precisely on time.
Buses, on the other hand, have the same kind of schedule set up but can’t be as exact. There is always traffic, the number of stops in between, and how many people are waiting at bus stops or getting off the bus. They can be extremely late or right with the minute hand on the clock, but most of the time they will be an inconsistent form of transportation. Always try to be early to any transportation as you can never predict accidents or small slowdowns from passengers.
Many videos on the web show people tapping cards or their wallets at the ticket gates, and you would think it is all using their smartphones but it is mostly IC cards you can get at all train stations. They are called Suica and Pasmo cards, and you can purchase one at any ticket machine that has the card labels on them. These cards or extremely useful and can help speed up your ability to ride public transportation. You can charge money on the card to any amount of cash that you have on you. You can charge in amounts from one to ten thousand yen and it takes little to no time. You can use the card on any kind of public transport and all it takes is a simple tap of the card onto the sensor. You will always have your remaining balance displayed so you can keep track of your funds. You can use these cards at convenience stores, kiosks, some restaurants, and other stores that participate in Suica and Pasmo. It saves all the time and trouble of buying tickets each time you ride a train or counting your cash when riding a bus. If you’re visiting it would be best to get one and load it with 20,000 yen for all of your travel and small convenience store purchases.
The rail pass is a great option for anyone who is traveling to Japan for vacation and looking to make their travel during a visit as easy as possible. You have to apply before going to Japan and you have to have a tourist visa. Unfortunately, this one doesn’t really apply to residents. Once you have them you will have unlimited use of the trains in any city in Japan. You can use is for a certain amount of time and it allows you to move around with little to no hassle. It will cost a little bit more up front but it saves you from constantly having to check how much you need for basic travel.
There are shinkansen rail passes as well, so if you plan to go to other parts of the country using the bullet trains for no extra charge. Shinkansen can be very expensive, so this is a real lifesaver for elongated travel in Japan. You can use it in the same way at the shinkansen ticket terminals and you can get your tickets with no problems.
If you want to have easy and inexpensive travel over long distances you can use the highway bus system. The highway buses run at all times of the day, and there are even night buses for longer travel. You can travel to different cities for as low as three thousand yen. The Schedules are easy to understand and almost all of them have an English version for foreigners to read. The people at the information desks are very helpful if you have trouble understanding anything so never be afraid to ask for help from them.
It can be a little scary trying to use the means of transportation in a foreign country, and it can be compounded by the fact that you can’t fully use the native language. Thankfully there are smartphones and the inclusion of English at almost all of the locations in Japan that you will be using to get around. Using the Pasmo or Suica will be the easiest thing to do, and they are accepted nationwide at many of the stores that you will be using so it’s best to try and get one of them. Just take it easy and enjoy the scenery you will be experiencing while taking the main modes of transportation.