Japan has without a doubt one of the best transport networks in the world.
If you travel by plane, train, bus or even metro you will be amazed by their reliable comfortable and clean transport system.
Find below all the information necessary to travel around the land of the rising sun during the world cup’s 9th edition.
Your flight to Japan is included in our vacations to follow the France XV (accompanied, independent, and essential vacations). Flights will have a layover, most likely in Asia or the Gulf States, and will land in Tokyo or at the Fukuoka airport, depending on the trip. In Tokyo, you will arrive at the Narita airport or the Haneda airport (you will be informed before departure). It will be possible to take domestic flights, however taking into account the efficiency of the land-based transport in Japan, we would recommend taking the train.
TRAINS IN JAPAN
LThe rail system in Japan is one of the most comprehensive and efficient services in the world. It will allow you to reach the majority of places you will want to visit on your stay.
Several rail services operate in Japan: certain lines are part of the national Japan Railway (JR) and other private companies, the Mintetsu, set up locally. These services are independent from the others, so if you need to transfer from a JR line to a private line or from one private line to another, you will have to buy another ticket.
GETTING AROUND WITH THE JR PASS
The JR Pass is a train deal reserved to international tourists. It is valid for 7, 14, or 21 consecutive days depending on the option you have chosen.
It will allow you unlimited access to any Japan Rail service train with the exception of the Shinakansen NOZOMI and MIZUHO.
This rail service uses high-speed trains (Shinkansen), connecting the main cities of the country, as well as many local lines. You are not able to access the private lines (metro, Kintetsu, Meitetsu…) with the JR Pass. You will have to purchase separate tickets if you wish to board these trains.
ACTIVATING YOUR JR PASS
To use the Pass, you will need to exchange the coupon – that will be included with your travel documents – at a JR station in Japan, and there pick your beginning date. Think to activate your pass on a convenient date so that your long journeys are included in the validity period. ATTENTION : If you decide to activate your JR pass immediately, it does not take into account the time of activation. Whether it be 8:00am or 8:00pm, this will be counted as Day 1 of activation, and the next day will be Day 2.
On domestic lines you do not need to reserve tickets. You simply need to present your JR Pass to the station officers, who will be at the entrance to the platforms, and board the train.
The High-speed train lines (Shinkansen) have carriages named “unreserved seats”, which you will be able to board by simply presenting your JR Pass.
ATTENTION: Holders of the JR Pass will not have access to the Shinkansen trains called NOZOMI or MIZUIHO, which are reserved for business travel. Other Shinkansen trains stop at the exact same stations.
The non-reserved carriages might be very full, therefore it may be difficult for two people find seats next to each other, or any seat at all. In this case you are still permitted to board the train and remain standing.
To ensure a seat, we would advise you to reserve in advance. You are unable to do this overseas. To reserve seats, you will have to go to a JR station and inform them of your destination and time, and present your JR Pass. Reservations are free. It is possible to reserve seats for as many trips as you wish at once.
ADDITIONAL TRIPS INCLUDED IN YOUR JR PASS
Narita Airport – Tokyo city centre: Narita Express (reservation required)
Haneda Airport – Tokyo city centre: Tokyo Monorail
Kansai International Airport – Shin-Osaka Station: Haruka Express
Tokyo : Yamanote Line
Osaka : Osaka Loop Line
PLANNING YOUR TRAIN JOURNEY
To predict your itinerary (length, changes, prices) we would recommend using the hyperdia.com website
If you only wish to have the train journeys available with the JR Pass included in your trip, make sure you uncheck the “Nozomi/Mizujo” and “private railway” options.
In a number of Japanese cities, people board the tram or bus by the back door and descend by the front door.
Trips around the city centre usually have a set price which will be displayed in the vehicle. You do not need a ticket; you just have to pay when getting off at the machine, near where the conductor is seated. If you do not have small change, you can exchange a 1000 Yen note for coins on the bus or tram.
Like on the metro, the price for trips not in the city centre is determined by the distance travelled and is displayed on a screen in the interior.
The price for metro tickets and local train lines (JR and private) is calculated by the distance travelled. There is no set price.
To calculate the price, you simply have to refer to the table displayed in the station, in front of the entry gates. Here you will see automatic ticket distributors, where you can choose an English language option. Pick the corresponding price for your trip and insert bank notes or coins. Credit cards and EFTPOS are not accepted.
Once you have your ticket you will be able to go through the gates to access the platform. You will have to insert your ticket at the entry and exit of the platform and the magnetic band on your ticket calculates the distance travelled. It is impossible to commit fraud or pay less for your ticket. If you have gotten the wrong price, you will be able to pay the difference at the machines found at the exit of the platform, by the station officer.
Using a prepaid transport card is a very useful way to pay for trips. Instead of buying multiple tickets, you simply credit your card with however much money you want (20,000 Yens maximum or around 150 €) and it will automatically take off the amount that your trip cost. You can load it as many times as you like.
The card allows you to board metro lines, local train lines and busses with the IC CARD payment system, which covers most cities. There are several different cards which cover different companies and regions. They are all able to be used on the IC network (apart from a few local lines, indicated below).
The card costs 2000 Yen (approx. 15 €) as well as 5000 Yen security cost. If you would like to be reimbursed this security cost as well as any leftover credit, you can return the cards, but only in the region where you bought them.
Each traveller must be in possession of his or her own card. You cannot pay for more than one person on the card. The IC card is valid for 10 years and is unassigned. This means you can use again on a future trip or give it to someone else.
With this electronic payment method, you can also pay for small purchases in convenience stores or vending machines.
SUICA: Tokyo and the surrounding region (JR EAST company)
PASMO: Tokyo (private Tokyo lines)
ICOCA: Osaka to Hiroshima region (JR WEST company)
Taxis are a useful way to get round the city when you are busy, coming home late or to reach places that are far from a public transport stop. The prices can be quite onerous depending on the region you are in. However, a taxi trip can be affordable if you are sharing between 3 or 4 people.
Be aware that most taxis are cars of a standard size which cannot transport 4 people with 4 big suitcases. You will be more likely to find larger vehicles in stations.
TAKING THE TAXI
Signal to the driver in the street, or if you are near a station, go to the taxi stand. You can also ask at the hotel reception to reserve a taxi or use services like UBER, which also exist in Japan. Few companies offer an English service, but with the Rugby World Cup and the Olympic Games in 2020, improvements are expected in this area.
Vacant : 空車 (kusha) signalled in red
Occupied : 賃走 (chinsô) signalled in green
It is preferable to indicate your destination in Japanese, or to have the proper complete address in English. You may also give the phone number of your hotel or the place you would like to get to. Taxi GPS are able to locate an address from the phone number provided.
Very few taxis allow payment with foreign credit cards, therefore it is important to have enough cash to pay for your trip.
Renting a car is the best solution for getting out of the concrete jungle. There are numerous rental agencies in Japan and you can directly reserve online on websites that offer English.
Most GPS built into the cars also have an English option but we would recommend double checking on the rental website.
Finally, please note that they drive on the left-hand side of the road in Japan and that signs are not always translated into English, in less touristic areas.
Please note: owners of a French driver’s licence are not authorised to drive with their international driver’s licence, but have to have an official translation made specifically by the JAF (Japan Automobile Association). To do this, you may go directly to the JAF office in Japan. Please note that the translation may take from one hour to several days to get back to you because these demands are increasingly frequent.
A number of websites in Japan allow you to make a request to the JAF several months in advance, and they will send the translation by post to your home. This translation is valid for the same duration as your driver’s licence.