When going between Tokyo and Osaka, who doesn’t love riding the Bullet Train (known as the Shinkansen in Japanese)? It’s fast, smooth, boasts of frequent departures, and gives riders the chance to view Mt. Fuji, glimpses of the coast, and a host of cities, towns, and rural bits in between. There’s just one problem with this two and a half hour wonder journey, and it can be expressed as a number: 14,650 JPY (118 USD). This is how much a one-way reserved seat costs between the two cities. But fear not, for there is convenient overnight bus service that is affordable and, as a bonus, obviates the need for a night of lodging!
Your low-budget chariot awaits you!
Just a block or so away from Shinjuku Station, right smack dab in arguably the busiest part of the city, is the long distance bus departure terminal. In this case, terminal means “a place where you can line up and wait for your bus, and maybe buy something at a vending machine.” As the hour nears midnight, the buses start coming in quick succession, opening their doors for the slightly glum looking passengers (or are they just tired?) who have resigned themselves to a night without a bed.
All long distance buses are not created equal!
For the cheapest of the cheap, with advance purchase for a Monday through Thursday departure, there exists a bus that slogs between Tokyo and Osaka in less than optimal comfort for a mere 3,800 JPY (31 USD), a remarkable 74% savings over the bullet train! But you, dear traveler, are not a bottom feeder willing to wreck your next day by doing the ultimate cheapo bus ride. Instead, you should go VIP, as pictured above, on a double-decker bus that has only three seats across, with two aisles running the length. This means no sharing armrests and no strangers slumping onto your shoulder. Luxury like this will naturally require you to peel a couple more bills out of your wallet. A ride on the “Premium Sleeper” bus can be as low as 5,400 JPY (44 USD), with prices rising moderately during peak periods and weekends.
Premium Sleeper seats are 45 cm wide (17.7 inches) and recline a whopping 50 degrees! Compare that to the mere six degrees of recline that imprisons you in most airlines’ economy class. You are also provided with a blanket, overhead storage space, and a checked baggage service as well. With these kinds of comforts, frugality doesn’t have to be painful.
Have a stretch at a rest stop
The nicer buses, such as the Premium Sleeper described above, have on-board restrooms, and therefore make less stops along the way. While less stops does mean a shorter journey time, even the toilet equipped buses generally make a stop or two to allow for a stretch or just a more spacious lavatory experience. While some rest areas are quite deluxe, others are, well, not so deluxe. Keep your mind focused on the money you are saving – including that which you are getting by sleeping on the bus instead of in a hotel room. For a single traveler, total savings can easily top 20,000 JPY (161 USD)!
It’s tomorrow, and the sun has indeed come out!
After a journey of around seven hours, you’ve arrived in central Osaka at about 7:15 AM, ready to hit the town! As you walk away from the bus, you take one more look at this beautiful, money-saving transporter. In the morning light, she is a sight to behold.
Overnight bus travel is not so bad after all
Overnight buses in Japan are clean, well equipped, and just plain comfortable. Sure the bullet train is nice, but just think what you can do with all that saved cash! The overnight bus is clearly an experience to profit from.
Get Trip101 in your inbox