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Japan is truly timeless, a place where ancient traditions are fused with modern life. Making sure you know exactly how to get around the major cities, as well as the less populated areas of Japan, will mean you have an easy and fun experience.
Most of Japan's larger cities are serviced by subways or trams, buses and taxis, and many locals rely entirely on public transport. In Japan’s most populated areas, including Tokyo, Yokohama and Osaka, most tourist attractions are in walking distance to many hotels and other attractions.
To get between cities, your best options are to fly or take a train.
Flying is ideal for faster commutes as well as to get between islands while the train is ideal for travelling between major cities on the same island, for example between Tokyo and Osaka.
Bus: Almost every Japanese city has a bus network. Tokyo for example has two bus options, the public Toei Bus which operates throughout the city as well as sightseeing buses such as the Tokyo Shitamachi, Skybus Tokyo and Skytree shuttles which travel between major tourist areas.
Subway: Subway systems operate in Fukuoka, Kōbe, Kyoto, Nagoya, Osaka, Sapporo, Tokyo and Yokohama. They are usually the fastest and most convenient way to get around the city. The Tokyo metro area and Kansai metro area are further linked by a network of JR and private rail lines. Stops and line names are posted in English.
Ferry: One of the most pleasant ways of travelling around this island nation is by ferry. Some routes include Tokyo-Tokushima and Osaka-Kitakyushu. Details and booking options can be found on A Ferry.
IC cards are prepaid travel cards with chips that work on subways, trams and buses in the Tokyo, Kansai, Sapporo, Niigata, Nagoya, Okayama, Hiroshima and Fukuoka metro areas. Each region has its own card, but they can be used interchangeably in any region where IC cards are used; however, they cannot be used for intercity travel.
Bus: City buses often have a flat fare. All buses have change machines near the front door.
Train: If you plan to zip around a city in a day, an unlimited-travel day ticket is a good deal; most cities offer them and they can be purchased at station windows. If you plan to spend more than a day or two, then getting a prepaid IC card is highly recommended.
Taxi: Cab fares are fairly uniform throughout Japan and all cabs run by the meter. Flagfall (posted on the taxi windows) is around ¥600 to ¥710 for the first 2km, after which it's around ¥100 for each 350m (approximately).
Getting to and from the airport: The best transport from Japanese airports are trains. They are quick, convenient and go to most locations.
Best apps for getting around: Hyperdia Hyperdia is the absolute must-have app for train travel in Japan. Whether you’re hopping on the subway for a quick jaunt between Shibuya and Tokyo station, or going long haul with a journey up to Aomori or down to Fukuoka, Hyperdia will tell you when to leave, which trains to take and what time you’ll arrive.
Useful train maps for helping you navigate your way around Japan include the Tokyo metro map, and Tokyo JR rail map.
You can find more extensive maps, including those in Osaka and Kyoto on the JR Pass website.
Japan's high speed bullet trains, also known as Shinkansen trains, offer visitors an experience like no other with speeds reaching up to 320 km/hr.
The main Shinkansen lines with bullet trains include Tokaido, Sanyo, Tohoku, Joetsu, Nagano and Kyushu.
The minimum age for driving in Japan is 18 years, and you will need a Japanese driver's license or an International Driving Permit in order to rent and drive a car.
Japan's leading car rental companies are Toyota Rent a Car, Nippon Rent-A-Car, Orix Rent-A-Car, Times Car RENTAL and Ekiren. Hertz and Europcar are also available in Japan.
Taxi: Transit stations and hotels have taxi stands where you are expected to queue. In the absence of a stand, you can hail a cab from the street. Otherwise, you can pre-order a taxi to pick you up.
Uber: The ride-sharing service Uber is available throughout Tokyo and can be used to get to and from the airport.
Make sure your arrival is smooth and easy by knowing what airport transfers are available.
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