Topics include Transportation, Things to Do, Dining Scene, For Foreign Visitors & more!
There are various modes of transportation available in Japan, when travelling. Understanding these various modes may help you plan or draft out your itinerary better. Each of the transportation modes may serve your different needs / purposes during your trip:
Walking, by far, is the best mode if you wish to explore the vicinities within a city area. Of course, it is the cheapest because it does not cost any money. However, if you are moving from prefecture to prefecture or city to city, this will not be a good idea as the distance is too long for you to walk. TIP: If you are travelling within the city, ensure you have a map (or GPS map) and compass with you in case you cannot understand Japanese words.
Bus / Tram, is the next cheapest solution. These are buses running within each city. Usually the cost of buses may start from 100 yen onwards, depending on the distance that you travel.
TIP: Try to carry small change if you intend to take buses. Check out the local city's bus web site before your trip to get familiarised with the bus stops. The bus system generally is pretty straight forward. You collect a bus ticket from the entrance (Please take note that bus entrance is in the middle / towards the back of the bus, and not the one facing the driver. The door that is near the bus driver is actually the exit), and then proceed to take a seat or stand in the bus. There are no bus buzzers in the bus that you can press to signal to stop the bus, naturally the bus driver will stop at every bus stop even if the bus stop is in a remote area. When you reach your destination, simply drop the ticket into the reader at the bus exit and the driver will inform you how much yen to pay. Otherwise you can do your own calculation if the bus has bus stop leader board that display each bus stop and their cost.
Japan also has a large network of Highway Buses for inter-city travel, including passes which are often more economical than a JR rail pass.
City Bus Ticket
Ferry. There are 2 types of ferries: 1 is for sightseeing (kanko) and 1 is for transporting from the main island (Honshu) to Hokkaido or other smaller islands. Prices vary from at least 1,000 yen onwards and depends on where you are heading to. TIP: Try to check for the ferry schedule and book the ferry ticket for cruise or travel before your trip. It helps than getting to the ferry terminal and realise that there is no ferry scheduled for the day.
Rail / Train: Japan is renowned for having a complicated railway system. Basically there are several categories of rails / train in Japan that you need to take note:
TIP: For travellers who like to move from prefecture to prefecture and may require taking the Shinkansen, you may wish to get the Japan Rail Pass that is allow to be purchased by foreigners not residing in Japan (you require to purchase the exchange order for the Japan Rail Pass from your own country and then exchange for the Japan Rail Pass while in Japan). It includes all the train types (except for some special trains), and even the Shinkansen. Seat Reservation is free as well for the Japan Rail Pass. If you are travelling from prefecture to prefecture by Shinkansen, suggest that you go for Reserved Seats and reserve them the moment you reach Japan as the reserved seats are sold very fast so that you can be guaranteed a seat and that it does not disrupt your travel itinerary. Refer to http://www.japanrailpass.net/eng/en00... for more information.
Japan Rail Pass Front Inside of Japan Rail Pass
This pass made a visit to Japan so easy and pleasant--you zip through the stations, you get reservations on trains and, in some cases, even the chance to sit in "green" cars--those with comfortable seats and plenty of room. And, if you're smart, you sign up when you first land in Tokyo, so that you can take the train into the city and back out when you leave the country. Travelling from Tokyo to Takayama with no thought as to cost, and a layover in Kobe for a great steak dinner is only one of many stops, to make with little concern about catching the next train.
Cab / Taxi: This is by far the most expensive type of transportation. Meters usually start with a base fee ranging from 550 yen (Hokkaido) to 700 (Tokyo) yen and increments in blocks of 100 yen. For more information please refer to http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2021.html.
TIP: Taxis are good if you are taking it from the nearest train station to your destination.
Hyperdia - Essential Travel Site
Planning train rides across Japan can never be easier if you use the HYPERDIA
Hyperdia also offers an APP for iPad/iPhone that you can download and use it on the road.
Like the Deutsche Bahn DB site for Europen rail traveling, Hyperdia offers almost all inclusive train routes / time tables / rates, with the exception that you cannot buy the actual tickets from their site. However it offers extensive information for all Japanese rail companies (JR or private lines), free of charge.
If you read Japanese, however, jorudan.com is a much better route finder overall.