Inland transportation in Japan is going to eat an important part of your budget. There are not many options to lower costs and if your intention is to know the country in depth the best thing is that you plan and dodge the high seasons (Golden Week, O-bon, etc.). We have divided this section in 3 parts to make it easier for everyone, and to clarify any doubts.

FLIGHTS

The best option is to use a flight searching website to find the best option for you. Flying is something personal and some would prefer to make a stopover in Europe, some who prefers to stop mid-route, and some who would like to fly direct in one stretch. That would be totally up to you.

What we do recommend however, is that you watch the time that you are going to make a stopover, since sometimes to save you a small amount you have to wait 16 hours in the middle of the Russian steppe in a deserted airport.

AIRPORT - CITY


INTERNATIONAL NARITA AIRPORT


Narita Airport is located in Chiba prefecture. It has 2 connected terminals and a third(T3) which is connected to T2 by a shuttle bus every 5 minutes.

Upon arriving Narita Airport, here are the options to get to the city.

TYPE OF TRANSPORTATION APPROXIMATE DURATION PRICE (JPY) DESCRIPTION
Train 45 min 2470 JPY Narita communicates with the city center (Nippori and Ueno) in a little less than 45 min. The ticket costs 2470 JPY.
Train +/- 1 h 1030 JPY It’s a cheaper and slightly slower alternative to the Skyliner. Make the same tour for 1030 JPY. It takes a little over 1 hour.
Train 50 min 3020 JPY The Narita Express connects the airport with the main Tokyo stations.The trip to Tokyo costs 3,020JPY and takes approximately 50 minutes to Tokyo station. It offers a round trip option for 4,000 JPY but is valid only for 14 days.
Train 1h 30 min 1320 JPY Every so often, interspersed with the Narita Express, the Sobu Line Rapid Airport Narita departs from Tokyo station to Terminal 1 of the airport. The journey lasts a little over 1 hour and a half and costs about 1320 JPY.
Bus 1h 30 min 3100 JPY The counter of the Limousine company is located right at the exit, after passing the luggage control. You have up to 21 possible destinations and exactly the same ones to return to the airport. The average fare is 3100 JPY although it varies slightly depending on the destination you are traveling to. The journey to Shinjuku Station takes about 1 hour and a half, although it depends on traffic. Surcharges apply to night trips.
Cab +1h +/- 27000 JPY This is to say the least, no the cheapest option to get to the city from the airport. A trip until Shinjuku station could cost around 27,000 JPY.

TOKYO-HANEDA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT


Haneda is the most convenient airport if you are going to land in Tokyo, it’s 20 km from the city center, in the district of Ota-Ku. It has 3 terminals 2 domestic and one international. If you land Haneda, these are your options:

TYPE OF TRANSPORTATION APPROXIMATE DURATION PRICE (JPY) DESCRIPTION
Train 30 min 610 JPY The Keikyu company offers a train service from the airport to 11 different stations plus the connection to Narita Airport. The trip to Shijuku for example, takes 30 minutes at a cost of 610 JPY.
Monorail 15 min 490 JPY The monorail option takes you from the airport to JR Hamamatsucho station, where you can easily link to the Yamanote Line (circular line).The journey costs 490 JPY and takes an average of 15 minutes, depending on whether it is the Rapid or Express line.
Train 1h 30 min 1320 JPY This is the standard JR train service which can connect you to almost all destinations, at varied prices.
Bus 45 min 1200 JPY As in Narita, the counter of the Limousine company is located right at the exit, after passing the luggage control. You have more than 30 different destinations, including destinations in other prefectures. The cost of a ticket to Shinjuku station is around J200. At night a surcharge applies and can reach 2000JPY. The journey takes about 45 minutes although it depends a lot on traffic.
Bus 1h 1030 JPY This bus service makes a trip to Shibuya in about 60 minutes at a cost of JPY 1030. It has fewer possible destinations than the normal Limousine bus.
Taxi Less than 1h +/- 27000 JPY A taxi from Haneda to Shinjuku Station costs around 8,500 JPY.Therefore it is not a bad option if you come with a couple of homies and you have to wait for any of the above options.
Taxi Less than 1h 7100 JPY Keikyu also offers a flat rate taxi service from Haneda to the main neighborhoods of Tokyo. The trip to Shinjuku area would cost 7,100 JPY with a nightly surcharge of 1,400JPY.

KANSAI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT


Kansai airport is located on an artificial island in Osaka Bay about 3km from the coast and connected to the mainland by a bridge.

TYPE OF TRANSPORTATION APPROXIMATE DURATION PRICE (JPY) DESCRIPTION
Monorail 34 min 1270 JPY Nankai Limited Express Rapid, travels in 34 minutes at a cost of 1270 JPY
Monorail 45 min 920 JPY Nankai Airport Express, 45 minutes at 920 JPY.
Train 50 min 2100 JPY This is the fastest option. It takes 30 minutes to Osaka Tennoji Station, 50 minutes to Shin-Osaka Station and 70 minutes to Kyoto Station. In the reserved seats option, prices range from 2100 JPY to 3500 JPY in the case of Kyoto.
Train 70 min 1000 JPY The JR local line makes more stops and take around 70 minutes intill Osaka station, for a slightly cheaper price. 1200 JPY.If there is not an ortion to reserve seats, this train might go a bit more full depending on the timings, and at times would be hard to get a seat too.
Bus 80 min 1550 JPY The Kansai Airport Limousine bus company offers several destinations including Osaka Station (80 minutes, 1550 JPY), Namba (50 minutes / 1000 JPY) and Kyoto (2h, 2500 JPY)
Taxi Less than 1h +/- 20000 JPY The taxi from the airport to Osaka station takes approximately 1h with an approximate cost of JPY 17,000 depending on factors such as time or traffic.

TRANSPORTATION WITHIN THE COUNTRY

Its quite useful to use the Google Maps application to know how to get from one point to another, how long the trip will last and also know the train schedules.

TOKYO


Tokyo has some of the most complex but at the same time most useful and efficient public transport systems in the world. At first glance the maps of the train and the metro are quite intimidating, but as soon as you understand the basic functionality, you realize how easy it is to move around the city.

In Tokyo there are several different train companies that we could divide into 2 large groups: JR (EAST JAPAN RAILWAY COMPANY) and Metro. Each time you switch or crossover from one to another you have to make the corresponding adjustment.

These 2 cards are very useful. Both Suica and Pasmo are prepaid electronic cards with allow you to use in public transport (bus, train, taxi metro), the can also be used for shopping at vending machines and any convening store. You can also use your card for shopping and restaurants in department stores connected to the train and subway stations. Suica is more JR (train) oriented and Pasmo is more subway oriented, although they are almost fully interchangeable. These cards can be obtained from any train station and will require you to deposit 500 yen that will be returned to you when you are done using your card.

It is fairly easy to use. Once recharged, you just need to pass the card over the reader as you enter the station gates. This option of paying with your card will end up saving you about 5% of the train fare compared to buying tickets. There are machines available for charge inside out outside the ticket gates. You could also pass your wallet over the reader without removing the card, as the locals do.

One-day JR / Metro / Combined pass

There is also the option to buy a one-day ticket. As we have already mentioned there are several train companies and therefore there are also different daily tickets. They can be purchased both in the machines and in the various offices/booths.

  • Tokunai Pass (730 JPY): JR Tokyo train lines
  • Tokyo Metro (719 JPY): Metro Tokyo
  • Tokyo Metro + Toei (1000 JPY): Metro Tokyo + Metro Toei
  • Tokyo Free Kippu (1580 JPY): All JR Train lines + Metro Tokyo
  • Kyujitsu Odekake Pass (2600 JPY): JR East trains + Metro + Monorail + Yokohama + Kamakura + Chiba, on holidays and periods busy holiday seasons from July 20 to August 31 and from December 29 to January 3.

OSAKA


Osaka on the other hand offers 2 possibilities for the daily pass, one exclusive for tourists and another available for everyone:

  • “Eco-Card” is a One-day pass that costs 800 JPY during the week and 600 JPY on weekends and holidays. They can be purchased at any station in the ticket machines.
  • OSAKA 1 day pass, this is exclusive for tourists and it will be required to show your passport to be able to acquire it. In Japan you can only buy them at the Kansai airport and the Kansai Tourism office (not Kyoto). You could also buy this ticket in advance in your country from travel agents that offer you this ticket at their office or online.

ALL OVER JAPAN


Each zone of Japan has a different card, although in many cases they are interchangeable and the same card works in different zones. Even so, the operation is basically the same.

In this map you can see the cards that are used in different areas of Japan:

Tourists Only: Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) and Regional Passes

The JR Pass is undoubtedly the best option for a reasonable price it offers the opportunity to travel to the most touristic places in Japan and also to the deep unknowns.

It is a national ticket pass that gives access to most of the trains and other transports of the company JR. This means the majority of Shinkansen (bullet trains), local trains, Tokyo-monorail and JR buses among others.

It is important to note that the JR Pass can only be purchased outside Japan and can only be used by those who are in the country with a short-term visa (Tourist). The pass is activated at the main train stations (also at the airport) and the duration of its validity starts from its activation. Here are the the different prices per adult as per their validity:

  • 7 days: 28.300 JPY
  • 14 days: 45.100 JPY
  • 21 days: 57.700 JPY

More info at:

JRseishun

The Seishun Ju-Hachi Kippu is the cheapest option to move around Japan (only available in summer and Christmas). Okay, it does not work for bullet trains – Shinkansen, but you can go through Japan from end to end for a small relatively reasonable price. You can use it on local and rapid trains. For example from Tokyo to Kyoto you can travel on local trains for only 11,500 / 5 = 2,300 yen. It will take you 10 hours to arrive and you have to change the train half a dozen times (it’s just a matter of changing the platform) … and it’s a cool experience! Moving around Japan can be cheap!

  • 11500 JPY: 5 days (Here you will get 5 tickets, each valid for 24 hours and the days do not have to be consecutive). More info.

Buses

In Japan there are several bus companies that connect the main cities with the surroundings. It is especially recommended for those who are on a tighter budget since their prices are substantially lower than the same train ride. Note: A bus ride would generally cost you 220 yen, and it would be the same for all distances. Trains on the other hand do not have this same price system. Some bus routes also offer night trips for when the trains are no longer running.