What Are The Best Ways To Travel In Japan? - Updated 2021

What Are The Best Ways To Travel In Japan? - Updated 2021

Japan, located in East Asia, is an island nation with a rich and distinct history and culture. Home to thousands of therapeutic onsens (hot spring baths), shrines and temples, picturesque mountainous regions and unique pop culture, it is an alluring destination for travellers from all over the world. With accommodation options such as tablet hotels and pod hotels, it attracts all kinds of travelers. Have you ever thought of what is the best way to travel in the 62nd biggest country in the world? Read this article for a comparison of the best ways to travel in Japan so that you have an easier time planning for that epic trip!

1. Can I explore Japan using the cheapest form of travelling - walking?

富士山登山(吉田ルート) Climb Mt.Fuji(Yoshida Trail)
Source: Photo by user Hajime NAKANO used under CC BY 2.0

If you are super tight on budget and think you should perhaps travel within the country on foot so as to save cost, think again. Japan is a long and thin country, measuring 3,008 kilometres (1,869 miles) in length, and 1,645 kilometres (1,022 miles) in width. Imagine how long you will need to walk to cover the whole of Japan, and whether you will have energy left to enjoy the awesome scenery! Unless you are on a race or trying to break some Guinness record, I’m not sure if you would really want to do that!

Nonetheless, walking is undoubtedly a great form of exercise and there are times when it is advisable to enjoy certain towns in the country on foot. For instance, the Shikoku Pilgrimage route is Japan’s very own Camino de Santiago and you can embark on some parts of the route by walking to challenge yourself physically. Or you can also enjoy some of Japan’s great walks through hiking in the Japanese Alps to take in its breathtaking scenery.

2. What about cycling around Japan?

Shimanami Kaido Bridge
Source: Photo by user Japanexperterna.se used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Similarly, cycling is another healthy form of workout like walking or hiking. But it may not be practical to explore the whole country just through cycling. With a total land area of 377,962 square kilometers (145,932 square miles) spanning across a whopping 6,852 islands, it is certainly no easy feat to complete a cycling tour in Japan. Even if you only cycle on the four main inhabited islands - Honshu (main island), Hokkaido, Shikoku and Kyushu, it will take you at least two months to complete the journey. Furthermore, more often than not, you need to keep your eyes on the cycling trails, which can sometimes be treacherous, for safety reasons. Thus, you may not be able to fully immerse in the scenic beauty and enjoy your sightseeing in the country.

Having said the above, of course it is still possible to go on a cycling tour within a prefecture or city. In fact, there are several attractive cycling routes charted out by the Japan Cycling Route Network for the cycling enthusiast. Amongst them all, the Shimanami Kaido bike route is the most spectacular bike routes that cyclists should embark on when visiting Japan. The Shimanami Kaido is a 60-kilometre (37.3-mile) long road and bridge network running between Japan’s Hiroshima prefecture and Ehime prefecture on Shikoku island. This is where you will be able to fully soak in mind-blowing views of Seto Inland Sea National Park and the Tatara Bridge, one of the world’s longest cable-stayed bridges.

3. Can I ride a motorcycle in Japan then?

Izu Skyline
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Douglas Paul Perkins used under CC BY 3.0

Rejoice if you are an avid biker as you can have a splendid time touring Japan by motorcycle. The weather in Japan is usually pleasant and enjoyable except during extreme summer or winter months. Besides, unlike motor vehicles like cars, motorcycles have the flexibility to get through a traffic jam because of the relatively smaller space they occupy on the road. That means you get to your next destination faster compared with driving a car. And of course, imagine breezing your way through a country with numerous picturesque mountainous national parks!

The downside of this way of travelling is probably you will not be able to travel in the same vehicle if you are a group of more than 2 persons. Travelling on motorcycle is an ideal adventure for a couple, just make sure you have an international driver’s permit for motorcycles! Best biker routes in Japan include the Izu Skyline in Shizuoka Prefecture, Bandai Azuma Skyline in Fukushima Prefecture and the Tokyo Bay Aqua Line.

4. I am thinking of renting a car to travel in Japan. Is that feasible?

Yes it is definitely feasible to rent a car for a great way to travel in Japan. Generally, roads in Japan are well-constructed and organised, just like how orderly the country is. Furthermore, road users, including both motorists and pedestrians, are well-behaved too. Best of all, you get to enjoy everything the fascinating country has to offer, at your own pace and in your own time. Catch the mesmerising sun rising from Mount Fuji at dawn, or the evening sun setting on a shrine without worrying about how to take the public transport to get to these destinations.

To rent a car in Japan, you will need to have either a Japanese driver’s licence or International Driving Permit (IDP). Do remember to get your IDP done before you arrive in Japan. In addition, note that in Japan, cars drive on the left side of the road with the driver’s seat on the right side. Consider this great option if you are travelling in a group and plan to explore a few areas in the country.

Tabirai Japan is one of the most foreigner-friendly car hire metasearch services in Japan. The key will be handed to you right away once the booking is done online!

5. How convenient is Japan’s public bus network?

HINO S'elega HD Limited Edition_日野 セレガ ハイデッカー リミテッドエディション
Source: Photo by user hans-johnson used under CC BY-ND 2.0

How to travel around Japan on a budget, you ask? Japan is covered by a dense public transport network, and that includes buses. This is likely the most attractive option for budget-conscious travellers. With the exception of large cities like Tokyo or Osaka, city buses are the most common type of transport being used, because it is the most economical option. If you wish to travel to different parts of Japan, consider taking a night coach to the next city. Why? Beside saving one night of accommodation cost, it is also cheaper compared with taking the Japan Railway (JR). Even if you prefer to take the bus in the day, it is also a comfortable and affordable way to enjoy sightseeing on the road.

6. Is it easy to travel around by train in Japan?

Hitachi Class 800 unveiled in Japan (1)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Hitachi Rail Europe used under CC BY 3.0

In big cities like Tokyo and Osaka, the rail and metro network is excellent, bringing you around the city conveniently. Foreign travellers can purchase one-day metro passes that offer unlimited rides in the city within the day. To travel from one region to another, there is a large selection of trains as well, including the bullet train and JR trains. Purchase the JR Pass, a cost effective rail pass for long distance train travel in Japan. It is only available to foreign visitors and offers unlimited use of JR trains for one, two or three weeks. You will also be able to enjoy discounted hotel stays at JR affiliated hotels with the JR Pass.

7. I have heard so much about Japan’s bullet trains, how do they work?

akita shinkansen
Source: Photo by user Syuzo Tsushima used under CC BY 2.0

Seeking the best ways to visit Japan? It is the first country in the world where high-speed bullet trains, or shinkansen, began operations on 1 October 1964. If you hold a JR Pass, travelling on the shinkansen is an attractive option as it belongs to the JR network. Travelling at speeds of up to 320 kilometres per hour, the world’s renowned shinkansen is known for its punctuality, comfort, safety and efficiency. In addition, there are also several fabulous scenic train trips to look forward to on the shinkansen. Seize the opportunity to ride on the shinkansen if you are travelling in the Akita Prefecture and let the clear water views of Lake Tazawa and Kakunodate’s awesome cherry blossoms blow your mind away.

8. Are domestic flights easily available for travelling quickly in Japan?

JAL - Japan Airlines
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Mulag used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Given the size of Japan, there are many domestic airports, known as second class airports locally, that offer reliable flights within the country. With the advent of low cost carriers in recent years, travelling by plane is no longer as expensive as it used to be due to fierce competition. Some of the established low cost carriers include Vanilla Air, Peach Aviation and Starflyer Inc, which can bring you to different regions quickly at affordable prices. For foreign travellers, take advantage of special multi-region fares for travelling within Japan if you fly into the country on either All Nippon Airways (ANA) or Japan Airlines (JAL). The ANA Experience JAPAN Fare starts from 5,400 JPY (47.40 USD) while the JAL Japan Explorer Pass is priced from 10,800 JPY (94.70 USD). It is definitely a value-for-money way to take note of when travelling in Japan.

ANA Experience Japan Fare

JAL Japan Explore Pass

Have fun in Japan

Out of the above-mentioned methods to travel in Japan, which is your most preferred mode? There is no hard and fast rule where you should only adopt one way to enjoy the best of Japan. Adopt different ways of travelling that fits your budget, personal preference and of course the cities you are visiting. We hope these travel methods will help you how and where to travel in Japan. Create epic travel memories that you will remember for life!

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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Rachel has forgotten when and exactly how she caught the travel bug. What she does remember is the triumphant feeling she enjoys when she sees the fascinating world out there with her own eyes. She...Read more

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