Japan Travel 101: Getting Around Japan
There are so many different places of wonder waiting for you to discover in Japan, but I am pretty sure for first-timers the standard itinerary would include Tokyo and Kyoto; and maybe Osaka as well. Likewise for me, when I first travelled to Japan I only covered Tokyo and Kyoto. To many, travelling in Japan can be a big headache so I hope this guide can help relief some of your planning pains!
- Shinkansen (Bullet trains in Japan)
Tokyo –> Kyoto
The first question that always pops up regarding travelling is: “Do I need to buy any JR Rail Pass?” (It is actually a travel pass for tourists to travel around Japan with the use of Shinkansen. You may refer to our previous blog post for more details). Well it depends on where you are going. A JR Rail Pass is actually unnecessary as it is more expensive (29110yen for 7 days) than to get a single ticket, unless you are planning to travel between Tokyo and Kyoto for up to 7 days. The route from Tokyo to Kyoto is not covered in any regional passes as well, so it is not necessary to buy the passes.
A single ticket for a ride from Tokyo to Kyoto via the Nozomi Shinkansen, the fastest Shinkansen in Japan, costs about 13,080 yen and takes about 2 hours and 2 0 minutes to get to Kyoto. I only recommend this option to people who value comfort and time over budget, but it is actually not worth it as it is only slightly cheaper than the JR Rail pass.
You may opt for buses instead as prices are half or three times cheaper than the Shinkansen. Indeed it takes a much longer time (up to 8 hours) to travel from Tokyo to Kyoto, but for budget-conscious peeps like me, overnight buses are a good alternative as you save on transport and accommodation as the buses are actually comfortable enough to sleep on while traveling. I once stayed in Tokyo for 3 days, took the overnight bus to Kyoto and stayed there for 2 days, then took the overnight bus back to Tokyo and stayed there for another day. You can book your tickets in advance on the internet.
English website: http://willerexpress.com/en/
If you are feeling a bit more adventurous, you can opt for the 3 day/5 day bus pass offered by Willerexpress that allows you to travel to 5 cities (Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, Kyoto and Hiroshima) for 10,000/15,000yen.
Book your bus pass here: http://willerexpress.com/st/3/en/pc/buspass/
Want more cost savings?
If you or your friend know Japanese, book your tickets through Japanese websites instead (eg. http://www.bushikaku.net/) as it will be cheaper – because frankly, everyone knows tourist-catered stuff are always a little more…pricey.
Try to book in advance as there as early bird discounts and students are also entitled to student discounts even if you are not a local student there. Avoid weekends as they can be much more expensive than weekdays.
- Local trains
Trains are also a cheaper alternative, but it can be quite confusing as you have to change trains multiple times for the same travelling time as buses. People may opt for this option if they want to enjoy the sceneries of Japan!
Kyoto ↔ Osaka
Travelling between Kyoto to Osaka is actually pretty straightforward, as they are very close to each other, about 30mins by local train. It’s cheaper too, costing only about 600 yen. For people starting from Osaka, there are one and two day passes to travel from Osaka to Kyoto and Kobe or even from Kansai International Airport at relatively cheap prices. Check out kansai360.net to find out more. This pass may only be used on Hankyu Lines and can only be purchased at Hankyu Tourist Center, OSAKA-UMEDA (Umeda station).
These are the possible routes you may take:
① Tokyo (by bus) –> Kyoto (by bus) –> Tokyo
② Tokyo (by bus) –> Kyoto (train) –> Osaka (by bus) –> Tokyo
③ Osaka (by train) –> Kyoto (by bus) –> Tokyo (by bus) –> Osaka
These are just possible suggestions to travel more cheaply and if you have a better route please do us a favor and enlighten us, thank you!
WRITTEN BY: Pascalle Ji