Local Transportation in Japan

Japan train

Efficient and extensive transportation systems!

All the major cities in Japan offer a wide variety of public transport. In many cities you can get day passes for unlimited travel on bus, tram or subway systems. Such passes are usually called an ichi-nichi-jōsha-ken.

Japan is justifiably famous for its extensive, well-organised and efficient transportation network. Schedules are strictly adhered to and late or cancelled services are very uncommon.

Lonely Planet’s Japan Transportation Guide

Train & subway

Japanese rail services are among the best in the world: they are fast, frequent, clean and comfortable. The services range from small local lines to the shinkansen super-expresses or ‘bullet trains’ which have become a symbol of modern Japan.

The service efficiency starts even before you board the train. Your ticket indicates your carriage and seat number, and platform signs indicate where you should stand for that carriage entrance. The train pulls in precisely to the scheduled minute and, sure enough, the carriage door you want is right beside where you’re standing.


In Tokyo, Osaka and some other large cities, buses serve as a secondary means of public transportation, complementing the train and subway networks. In cities with less dense train networks like Kyoto, buses are the main means of public transportation.

Buses also serve smaller towns, the countryside and national parks. Major cities are, furthermore, linked by highway and long distance buses.


Bicycles are widely used in Japan by people of all age groups.


To the average cost conscious traveler in Japan’s large cities, taxis are an expensive and unnecessary alternative to the efficient public transportation. However, taxis are often the only way of getting around once trains and buses stop operating around midnight, resulting in a sudden increase in their demand, especially on Friday and Saturday nights.

To hail a taxi, either go to a taxi stand (usually located in front of train stations) or flag one down at a location where it is safe for it to stop. A plate on the dashboard in the lower corner of the windshield indicates whether a taxi is vacant or not. Usually, a red plate indicates that the taxi is vacant, while a green plate indicates the opposite (see illustration below). During the night a light on the roof of a taxi can indicate that the taxi is vacant.