Budget Bus Guide


Buses are a great way to get around Japan, usually from city to city or in the countryside.  Around a big city like Tokyo though, trains are more convenient and cheap.  The big exception is Kyoto, where it’s best to get the bus.

How to ride a local bus

Most local buses these days allow the use of Suica pre-paid cards or other such cards. See the train guide for more information.  Some others don’t, so check our tips below:

Budget travel tips

  • How to ride a bus depends on the bus company, so it’s best to stand behind Japanese tourists and copy them!
  • In the countryside there is often no English signage, so get someone to write the Japanese characters for your destination, then show this to the bus driver when you get on.
  • Make sure you bring enough money when taking a countryside bus as there will probably be no ATMs around that work with foreign cards.

Highway Buses

If you are traveling from one city to another (such as Tokyo to Kyoto), you should consider using highway buses rather than the Shinkansen or Japan Rail Pass.  Highway buses are much cheaper, and there is also the Willer Japan Bus Pass for multiple journeys. Flights are usually cheaper when traveling from one island to another.

Highway Bus Companies:

Willer Express

Budget buses to/from most main cities, such as Kyoto or Osaka.

Reservation Website (click link at the top for English)

JR Bus Kanto

The biggest bus company, often with the best prices.  As the website is only in Japanese, it’s best to reserve at a main JR (national rail) station such as Kyoto or Osaka or ask you hostel/hotel to reserve it.

Reservation Website (Japanese only)

Keio Highway Buses

Cheap buses to Mount Fuji, the traditional city of Takayama and budget skiing/snowboarding area Hakuba.

Reservation Website (English)

Nohi Bus

Buses to Takayama, from major cities like Kyoto or Tokyo.

Reservation Website (English)

Japan Bus Lines

A great site for searching an booking routes all over Japan.

Reservation Website (English)

Get more with the Super Cheap Japan book

Even with all these tips, it can be quite stressful planning a bus trip in Japan with all the passes and discounts available. My book will show you how to travel cheaply in this amazing country in a simple, easy-to-read manner with lots of itineraries.

Published by Matthew Baxter

Japan travel writer and onsen addict