(original photo by MIKI Yoshihito; CC BY 2.0)

Inter-city Travel by Highway Bus

Inter-city coach transportation by “highway bus” (or “kosoku bus,” 高速バス) is an
attractive budget option for long distance travel in Japan. Highway bus fares can be significantly cheaper than airplane or shinkansen tickets, and routes between major cities and tourist destinations are plentiful. Because of their reasonable prices, highway buses are very popular for domestic travel in Japan.

Most coaches have wide, reclining seats with window curtains, and large suitcases can be stored in the bus luggage compartment until arrival at the destination. Food and drink are allowed, and many have on-board restrooms. Buses may also make quick stops for restroom breaks at major rest stations / service areas, where souvenir goods and refreshments are available for purchase (be sure not to get stranded here). “Night buses” are sleeper buses with service that runs through the night, allowing you to arrive at your destination in the morning and eliminate the need to stay in a hotel.

Reservations are made in advance through internet websites or by a travel agency. Make sure to confirm the location of bus terminals and stops before completing your reservation (as these are occasionally located in inconvenient areas along the highway). You should arrive at the bus stop at least 10-30 minutes prior to the scheduled departure time.

Although there are numerous highway bus companies to choose from, most websites are in Japanese only and foreign tourists may find them difficult to use.
Here are some highway bus companies and websites that allow reservations in English:

For short term tourists, Willer Express also offers a reasonable “Japan Bus Pass” deal.
VIP Liner specializes in night buses and has coaches equipped with various facilities and types of seating.
Nohi Bus offers transportation services based around the Takayama area.
The Nihon Bus Association website also offers information about Japan’s highway bus system in English.

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