This time my travelling brings me to Japan. It is my second time in Japan, and I was planning to do more than staying in one city. Trying out the public transport that said to have a good network. I planned to travel from Tokyo to Osaka but passing by Nagoya, Takayama and Kanazawa on the way. Well I travelled in winter time, January, so there bound to be much snow. Some of my plans were cancelled or rerouted but overall I ended the journey well and I was safe and sound. Let’s talk more about how get around some cities in Japan.
I am impressed with the subway system in Japan, especially Tokyo. I have been to Hong Kong, South Korea or other cities that has a good subway system. This time I need a while to get used how to take the subway train. Firstly, there are more than one company that operate the train/subway in Tokyo. All stop in a certain place but different station. For example, you use a JR station to stop in Shinjuku, and the station is different than the one if I get on a Metro. Shinjuku is a big area and I get a little bit confused in which station I have to enter or get out. So, you have to remember what railway company you are using to get around easily in Tokyo. Secondly, the map of subway/metro/train is so complicated. Each railway company has a different map and it is not an easy way to get around it. Finally, I am just plain confused with where I get out from an exit.
How many railway company are there in Tokyo?
JR is the one I know the best because of its information is abundance in all the Japan travel exhibition. If I use the JR Pass then I get in and out of the train for free. However, I am not using the JR pass so I mostly buy tickets.
I am using the Metro pass which you can use between 24, 48 or 72 hours in Tokyo Metro lines. The time I spend in Tokyo was only for 3 days so I bought the 72-hour pass. A little cheaper than if I used the JR-pass. Sometimes I have to go with a JR train and for that I use the SUICA card. This SUICA card is an electronic money that you can tap on the way in and out of the station. It is cheaper and I do not have to calculate how much I have to pay for the ticket. There are also Tobu, Keikyu, Keihan and others that I do not know.
How do you pay for tickets?
I pay metro tickets or other city trains/ subways with electronic money that is the Suica. I recharge the Suica in vending machines that you can find in the station. Sometimes I bought tickets in the vending machine. When you do this you have to be sure the price of tickets you want to buy. There are some choices in the vending machine. I mostly use Hyperdia or Navitime-Japan Travel to know the price I have to pay for my journey to a certain station.
For Shinkansen or other more expensive tickets I will use credit card or debit card because I am not keen in carrying a lot of cash with me.
A pass? A suica card?
It will depend on you. You have to use a suitable pass with your itinerary so you don’t buy something that is wasted. In the JR website you can find a lot of different types of pass. For me, I use Takayama – Hokuriku Pass because I traveled itinerary includes Nagoya-Takayama-Kanazawa-Kyoto-Osaka. Remember when using the pass there is Reserved seat and Unreserved seat car in every train. Usually we can ride the unreserved car without booking but you have to queue, first come first serve. If you want to ride with the reserved seat please go to the locket to get your tickets.
A suica card will help you to go through stations from different companies. You do not have to think whether your pass can be used with that train or not. Convenient when I am tired, and do not have the energy to find the suitable station for my pass.
Limited Express Train
Wide Hida Takayama.
I travel from Nagoya to Takayama using this train. I was wandering why it was called ‘wide’ and I got answer when I entered the train. The windows of the train are really wide so we can enjoy the scenery along the way. I start using the Takayama- Hokuriku pass for this train.
Unfortunately, I do not have the experience in using domestic plane except the one from Osaka to Tokyo. And I bought the ticket as one package. I know of some budget airlines when I was searching for the cheapest way from Tokyo to Osaka. Those airlines are Peach Aviation, Vanilla Air (the names made me remember ice cream) and Starflyer are the ones I considered. However, I chose to travel by a night bus (Willer Express) which was at the end canceled due to heavy snow.
Using budget airlines is a choice of fast and affordable transportation to go from one city and another in Japan. From Tokyo to Osaka there are varieties of price from Y4.000 more than Y10.000 depend on the airline, the class, the time and when you book it.
The bullet train or Shinkansen is a transportation you can use if you travel long distance from one city to another. It is fast and has many schedules that can be adjusted with your itinerary. From Tokyo to Osaka you can travel for only 2,5 hours. You can use the All Japan JR Pass to ride this train, but not the Nozomi. The Nozomi is known as the fastest Tokaido/Sanyo Shinkansen and of course the most expensive one and it cannot be used with JR Pass. The experience of travelling with the Nozomi is excellent. It is a very fast (186 mph) but inside the train is very quiet and you do not feel that you are on a moving train. I will suggest travelling with the Shinkansen if you like the feel of traveling inland but it is quite expensive around Y14.000 one way.
There is an alternative called Platt Kodama which has a cheaper price from Tokyo to Osaka, around Y 10.000 one way. You can search for more information from this website, it is worthwhile to check if you want to find cheaper alternative http://www.jrtours.co.jp/kodama/en/.
I traveled from Tokyo Station. It is to book and find schedule of shinkansen from this station. The bus station is also near here if you want to travel by bus instead.
Bus is an alternative if you want to travel from one city to another. It is cheaper than using a Shinkansen but if you have a time constraint then don’t choose the bus. I will suggest using the night bus – you can spend the night in the bus and save some money on accommodation- and you can go to your destination. It is maybe a little bit tiring. I was ready to go on a night bus but the heavy snow caused cancelation.
Bus tickets I bought online. You can choose the type of bus you want and the time and station you prefer to depart and arrive. I choose the one near the train station. From all the bus companies I chose Willer Express because of the type of night bus they provided. From the website, there are a lot of types (photos and information are clear to my knowledge) and for early booking there is a discount. The most important thing as a traveler, I have to know if I can put my luggage in the baggage. It will be inconvenient if I have booked and the bus do not have space for baggage. However, due to the heavy snow the bus was canceled and my money was refunded directly to my credit card. I will try it next time.
For Willer Express this website is helpful for me http://willerexpress.com/en/
Other bus that I searched was the JR Bus.
For a short distance travel, I use highway-busses. I went from Tokyo to Mount Fuji and took a bus from the Shinjuku Expressway Bus Terminal to Lake Kawaguchiko. It takes around 2,5 hours. The price is Y1.750 one way. You can always book online, especially during high season https://highway-buses.jp/
If you want to buy directly at the expressway bus terminal in Shinjuku is quite easy to locate. For a non Japanese speaker like me, I easily get help to book my tickets. There is a interpreter that help me to talk with the person selling the tickets.