Getting Around Japan

Japan is comparable in size to California, but Japan is made up of four large islands and many tiny islands, some of which are quite far away from the main islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Shikoku.

Most visitors to Japan fly into one of Tokyo's two airports, Narita International Airport or Tokyo International Airport, also known as Haneda Airport. Haneda Airport is Japan's low-cost domestic airline hub. These discount carriers offer flights within Japan that are often less expensive than shinkansen (bullet train) connections. Most low-cost airlines have strict luggage rules, limited services, small seats and limited legroom compared to American and European carriers.

Trains connect both airports to downtown Tokyo; from there, Japan's rail networks carry passengers to destinations on Honshu, Hokkaido, Shikoku, and Kyushu. Even if you only plan to travel between two Japanese cities, consider buying a Japan Rail pass to save money. JR passes allow you to travel on most, but not all, shinkansen routes.

While most visitors use shinkansen and/or domestic flights to get around Japan, travelers who want to explore beyond Tokyo and Kyoto should consider using buses, rental cars, or private transfers. Japan's extensive bus network connects cities to suburbs and rural points of interest.

Renting a car in Japan is straightforward as long as you have an International Driving Permit or a Japanese driver's license. Japanese roads, like those in the United Kingdom, are set up so that drivers occupy the left side of the road. Self-driving is generally the worst-case transportation scenario in Japan not only because of potential lane confusion but also because all main highways charge tolls, gasoline is costly, and city parking is expensive and difficult to find.

Ferries between Japan's islands are generally slower than other forms of transportation, but you can see Japan from a different perspective when you travel by ferry. Some ferry lines offer entertainment or provide game rooms to help you enjoy your journey.
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Map of How to Get to Mt. Fuji
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View of Osaka Castle During Cherry Blossom Season, Japan
Map of How to Get from Tokyo to Osaka
How to Get from Tokyo to Osaka

There are several ways to get from Tokyo to Osaka. Although most travelers choose to travel by high-speed shinkansen (bullet train), you can also fly, drive, or take a bus.... read more

View of Kyoto and Japanese Women in Traditional Kimonos
Map of How to Get from Tokyo to Kyoto
How to Get from Tokyo to Kyoto

Kyoto is 283 miles (445 km) from Tokyo, but you can get from Tokyo to Kyoto in just over two hours if you travel on a high-speed shinkansen (bullet train). By air, the journey... read more

View of Shitenno-ji Temple in Osaka, Japan
Map of How to Get from Takayama to Osaka
How to Get from Takayama to Osaka

The fastest way to get from Takayama to Osaka is to take the JR Limited Hida Wide View Express train to Nagoya and transfer to a shinkansen (bullet train) headed for Shin-Osaka... read more

Map of How to Get from Tokyo to Hiroshima
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Osaka Castle With Cherry Blossoms at Sunset, Osaka, Japan
Map of How to Get from Kyoto to Osaka
How to Get from Kyoto to Osaka

Kyoto and Osaka are just 35 miles (56 kilometers) apart, so it does not take very long to travel between these iconic Japanese cities. In fact, you can even bicycle from Kyoto... read more

Map of How to Get to Hokkaido
How to Get to Hokkaido

Hokkaido is the northernmost prefecture in Japan and is known for its agriculture and unspoiled nature. During colder months it attracts skiers and snowboarders that can enjoy... read more

Daimon Gate, Traditional Entrance to Mount Koya, Japan
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Mount Koya, or Koyasan, is in the heart of the Kii Mountains, just 75 miles (120 kilometers) from Kyoto. Most visitors to Mount Koya arrive either by train and cable car or by... read more

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Okinawa is one of the 5 "blue zones" in the world. A blue zone is an area where locals live to be over 100 years old. This is typically due to the health benefits of local... read more

Osu Kannon Temple, Nagoya, Japan
Map of How to Get from Tokyo to Nagoya
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There are several ways to make the 217-mile (350 km) trip from Tokyo to Nagoya, including by train, road, and air. Traveling by train is fastest and most efficient, but if you... read more

Okunoin Cemetery, Mount Koya, Japan
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It is relatively easy to get from Japan's major cities to Mount Koya, the spiritual headquarters of Shingon Buddhism and the home of Okunoin, Japan's largest cemetery, which is... read more

Nagoya Castle, Nagoya, Japan
Map of How to Get from Kyoto to Nagoya
How to Get from Kyoto to Nagoya

Kyoto and Nagoya are just 82 miles (132 km apart), and train and bus connections are plentiful. Traveling by train is the fastest way to get from Kyoto to Nagoya; you can make... read more