Japan — Transportation
Japan Taxis and Car Rental
Taxi service in Japan is regulated, metered, reasonably priced, and can be hailed easily on the street. Many drivers speak some English, but having a map definitely helps. Scams are virtually non-existent as suited drivers are ultra professional and must open the door for you. Misuzu Taxis (+81-03-346-336) covers the Tokyo area.
Car rental is easily arranged with reliable internationally-known firms and is useful for exploring remote rural areas where bus service is sparse, but in general the trains can get you anywhere you need to go without much hassle. Driving in Japan is generally a pleasant experience, although Tokyo’s rush hours do get crazy and are best avoided. An International Driver’s License is required for US visitors.
The island nation has a good system of coastal ferries, although it’s not for visitors in a hurry. Destinations served from Tokyo include Tokushima as a route to Kobe, Kitakyushu, Kagoshima and Shibushi for Okinawa, with a ferry from Oarai, to the north of Tokyo, running to Tomakomai on Hokkaido. On the Japanese coast, a ferry runs from Otaru on Hokkaido to Maizuru. Ferries also connect with many small, offshore islands and an Inland Sea route runs from Kobe to Ota and Beppu.
Japan Trains and Buses
Famous for its impressively efficient bullet trains, the high speed Shinkansen travel at 149–186 mph across a network of almost 1,500 miles and are a convenient way to get between Japanese cities. The Tōkaidō line is the world’s busiest passenger line and has carried over 6 billion commuters since its introduction. The most popular route runs from Osaka to Tokyo and offers a staggering 13 trains per hour.
In addition to the Shinkansen, extensive regular rail lines run across the country operated by a number of companies. Long-distance train travel is normally by express service and comparable to the time and cost of a domestic flight. Slower services are the more economical way to get around Japan if you have extra time to spare. Long-distance buses are the cheapest way to travel and are a good way to see the sites. Large cities boast comprehensive bus services, but have no information in English, so taxis are the most viable alternative if a subway station isn’t nearby.