Know Your Buses in Japan: From Luxury Travel to Everyday Commuting

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  • The transportation system in Japan is an area the country is very proud of. People living in Japan take the train, subway, taxis and buses as their main form of transport and so do tourists visiting the country. Transportation in Japan is also quite efficient and punctual.

    Buses in Japan, along with the train and subway system is the most used means of transportation in the country by many people. Although the bus system is not as punctual as the train, it is still reliable, efficient, safe and clean, making it a key form of transport in everyday life in Japan.

    There are two main categories of buses in Japan, these are the fixed route buses and the tour buses.

    Tour Buses

    Tour Buses are booked by individuals or groups to follow a specific itinerary. These are mostly used by schools for excursions or field trips, by travel agencies as part of their travel package and by travelers both foreign and Japanese who are planning to visit a certain destination in the country.


    A typical tour bus has rows with two seats on both sides with a center aisle. Trips can take over many hours so these buses have comfortable features like reclining seats to give comfort to its passengers. There are also luxury tour buses offering complete features like leather seats and also includes individual TV screens for the passengers. Luxury tour buses are perfect for those travelers with the budget to do so.


    Some Tour Buses are now also offering night bus services taking passengers from one point of the country to another. Passengers using these buses will leave in the night and arrive at their destination the following morning. Night buses are relatively more affordable than taking the train or flying, making it a popular choice for travelers.

    Fixed Route Buses


    Fixed Route Buses are a part of everyday life in Japan to get to and from work, school or any destination. Buses follow a designated route and timetable and the passengers board these buses at certain bus stops by simply paying the bus fare. Passengers are able to pay by two options: either by using their IC Cards like Pasmo and Suica (which can also be used in different bus and train systems all over the country) or by cash (genkin).


    A typically fixed route bus in Japan has two separate doors for boarding and exiting to ensure a smooth flow for passengers. Buses nowadays are also equipped with a number of cameras on board. Passengers can also charge their IC Cards by simply asking the driver.


    Priority Seats


    There are certain features that these buses have too. There are priority seats allocated for elderly people (Yuusenseki 優先席), designated spaces to secure wheelchairs and baby carts, handlebars to grab on to during rush hour, as well as a number of buzzers to signal the driver when your stop is near. The stops are announced and displayed in Japanese and sometimes in English as well which is very helpful for tourists.



    Buses in Japan are quite efficient and there are a number of reasons for that. Passengers are able to find out what time the buses will arrive by checking the timetable at designated bus stops or for a more conventional way, by checking the information on mobile phones. Some bus stops also have displays giving real time information if the bus will arrive on time by the using GPS. There are also dedicated bus lanes which are red and are found in congestion-prone roads helping to prevent buses from getting delayed especially during the morning and evening rush hours.

    Hybrid and Eco-friendly


    Nowadays, Japanese buses have also become hybrid and eco-friendly. Elderly people are able to board buses easily as the buses can now tilt down to one side. Hybrid buses have been used by companies to lower CO2 emissions to address environmental concerns.

    On Demand Bus


    The On Demand Bus is a bus service designed for elderly people. There is no route for the On Demand Bus system as elderly passengers are picked up when and wherever they request and are taken to their destination of choice. The On Demand Bus is requested by either phone, fax, the internet or even using a smartphone application. No fee is required to be paid by the elderly passengers as the bus is operated by the local municipality under the welfare program.

    It was designed by a research team at the University of Tokyo. The research aimed to help a number of government municipalities to launch the On Demand Bus system without having to invest large amounts which is what the conventional buses required. This was made by creating a system that determined the shortest time and route for multiple elderly passengers.


    This kind of system supports the elderly people of Japan by helping them maintain their independence with their personal agendas like going out to shop or going to the doctor. Some elderly people in Japan still want to be able to do things independently as they don’t want to bother their families either – which comes down to the pride that the Japanese elderly people have.

    Personally, living a fair bit away from the train station, taking the bus every day is the most convenient way for me. Japanese buses may not be as spacious as buses from other countries and can get crowded during rush hour but it’s clean and cool as well so you shouldn’t have any problems when you decide to use one.

    For tourists who are planning a visit to Japan, I suggest you take the bus on some of your trips instead of the train. It may take more time to get to your destination, but taking the bus will allow you take in more of the surrounding sights of Japan and it’s daily life.

    HyperDia Route and Timetable Website

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