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Cheap Travelling in Japan

Updated on March 2, 2013

Yokoso! Japan

Have you ever been thinking about going to Japan? It's quite easy if you have a lot of money to spend, but this case you wouldn't search for ideas to cut some costs, I suppose. Or maybe, you have already been in Japan by your own, but you couldn't visit places you wanted to, because of your budget? If you said "yes" to any of those question, this article is written for you!

I've been to Japan few times, have Japanese relatives and even used to live there for a while. No doubt Japan is unbelievably beautiful country and very attractive destination for travel. No, seriously it really is! I'm 100% objective in this statement. I like to travel and I know what I'm saying. Of course, it's not a country of the perfectness in every corner and you will probably experience "the unexpectable" and it may surprise you how Japan really looks, but there are so many wonderful places to go, that you will surely forgot any disappointing ugliness seen in the country of cherry blossoms.

I hope you're now in the mood to go there even today! Well... I am!


Kiyomizu-dera temple in Kyoto
Kiyomizu-dera temple in Kyoto | Source

But, how to make it cheap!?

Sorry, I promised you to write something about "the cheapest way to travel in Japan" and not to ensure you, that your decision to go there is probably one of the best things you've ever came up with!

Well then... The cheapest way is to use bus whenever possible. But not any bus, the bus! My apologies for being so enigmatic. I can explain!

I found some great service, but It's necessary to have some knowledge of Japanese to use it. So, most of the travelers don't even know about it! But, I'm going to guide you through whole process, so you don't need to worry if you don't know a single word(but you would better learn some before the trip!). This service is called "Bus sagasu", what literally means "to search a bus". Here is the link:

As you may noticed, it's all in Japanese(told ya!). If you know, you can't already use it! But, if you're more like "where should I click to open this **** link", then scroll down. By the way, don't hesitate to click on Japanese characters, I promise it's totally safe! Seriously, click on it and explore the site even if you don't know Japanese. There is no use to read whole article if you find this site looks suspicious at the end. But I think it looks absolutely legitimate, even though it's all about ubelievably cheap transport(in comparison to ordinary bus service). And maybe I should warn you in this place about some inconveniences. There are:

  • You have to follow instructions in Japanese to buy a ticket.
  • You have to use pay machine in "convenient store" to pay for a ticket.
  • Departure is usually from some minor terminals, that may be little difficult to find, so you would better ask everyone possible and show them the ticket if you're not sure!
  • Most of the connections are night ones(but maybe it's not inconvenience, personally this is what I prefer).
  • The buses are not the most comfortable, but I would't complain, especially regarding the price.

If you're still into it, then keep reading. Below I pasted screenshot of the website with English explanation.

Bus sagasu home page



You can click directly on "LowPrice" or "PopularRoutes" section, but if want to make custom search you should do following:

  1. Choose the region of Japan you want to departure from. If you are in Tokyo it would be 「関東」(Kantou) as it is by default.
  2. Then you should precise from where you would like departure. First two are: Shinjuku station and Tokio station. You will probably use one of this, but there are also other prefectures from you can choose.
  3. Below you can choose your destination, but there also you won't choose particular city, but only region(inconvenient, isn't it?). So for example if you would like to go to Kyoto it will be 「近畿」(Kinki).
  4. Continuing previous example, If you chose Kinki region, now you can either choose first option 【大阪駅」(Osaka station) and visit Osaka city or go to 「京都府」 what is Kyoto.
  5. Last steps are easy ones, so no need to explain(I hope).

Oh, and "Night and express bus" tab is the same as "Home", but mentioned just in case.


The easiest step

What you really need to do now is to sort offers by price from the lowest one and choose the one you like. As you probably noticed, offers include simple view of scheduled time in every destination, so maybe you will want to consider it while making your decision. There are also some colour marks like 「女性安心」、「トイレ付」 and so on, what means "women traveling alone don't need to worry" and "bus with toilet", but maybe it isn't so important. Well, what did they do to protect you from molesters!? I don't get this part, but if you believe, that there are some measures that can help, then choose bus with 「女性安心」 mark. When you will decide, simply press the button with a price(it took me few clicks to work out hot to move on!).

Choose the date!

Now you have to consider, if the date you have chosen before was really important for you. When I was buying the ticked I was more interested in low price, than exact departure date, but I had a lot of time. If you don't have it, I recommend to book it earlier. However, you have to complete your payment within even few days, depending on departure day I think. I had only 3 days to pay! This information is included in confirmation mail, but I will explain it later.

Back to the departure day, you can choose anything clickable, but dates with numbers mean how many available seats have left. For example, 「残り5席」 means "only 5 seats left". But as long as you don't travel with whole your family, you shouldn't worry about it. Worse thing, if there are 「残り1席」 and you want to go with your girlfriend(yes, take her to Japan!).

Ok, choose the right date and lets move to the next step.


Many details...

On the above screenshot you can see, that there are necessary some details. It seems that it's ok to do one reservation with friends that intend to get off the bus in some other place than you. I just don't understand why you have do declare men and women separately... Maybe it's that antimolester measure!? God only knows... When you finish whit it, press "add to cart button"(sounds obvious, but don't forget it's all in Japanese[just in case you haven't seen the website yet]).

To create or not to create an account?

The next step is just the confirmation of your reservation, so there isn't anything to explain. The more important is the next page, when you have to create account or submit your personal data only once if you don't plan to use the service in future or you just prefer this way.

Let's say you don't want to create a new account, so just enter your e-mail in the blue box(?). You will probably have to click on the confirmation link in the mail you receive soon after submitting your e-mail address.


Do I have to lie!?

If you clicked on the confirmation mail, you should be redirected to the personal data form. And bad news is that if you don't have Japanese address, you will have to cheat a little bit. For example you can't write postal code of any other country than Japan. It's because this service is for Japanese and not for foreign tourists. Well, while purchasing a ticked I had my Japanese address, but I think it's all right to write there your hotel's address. However, you probably wouldn't do it if you're going to pay via credit card, would you? That's why I recommend to pay in one of the local stores, so called "konbini".

What is more, you also have to type your name with Japanese characters in fields below your name written in the alphabet. It may be really a pain, but I found some useful page for this task. Unfortunately it generates "Katakana" word that you need as a picture, so you can't just copy and paste, but it also displays how you can type it using Japanese keyboard. Well, you have to do some work if you want to save some on ticket... Sad, but true. Here is the link:

Well, you don't have to do it perfectly. It's made for Japanese customers, so anyone would say a word if you write there something absolutely irrelevant, but you have to type something to finish the form.

Of course, you have to fulfill the rest of obligatory fields.

At the end of the page, you can choose if you want to pay by credit card or cash. I assume you had to lie in the address field, so you will want to pay by cash. You can do it when you will buy your favorite "onigiri" to have something to it in a bus! So, just choose it and press a big, red button below.


I have to pay until...when?

There are very important information. I mentioned it before, but here are the details of until when you can complete your payment. It is:

  • Until 23.00 4th day from reservation if departure is 8 or more days after.
  • Until 23.00 3rd day from reservation if departure is 7-3 days after.
  • Until the 23.00 next day if departure is 2 days after.
  • Until 2 hours before departure if it is the same day as reservation.

So, you don't really have too much time...

Oh yeah, we're almost there!

When you finish with this form and then confirm your reservation you should receive confirmation mail with purchase details. You can print this mail or just write down reservation number. You will need this number as well as your telephone number to finish your purchase. Below you can see the mail I received:

To pay, you can go for example to Family Mart store(not restaurant) and pay by cash using some fancy machine. You can find instruction or this website or just ask some employee(they are eager to help you and practice some English! Maybe...):

And finally!

If everything go well, cashier will hand you cool, brand new ticket with big, red stamp. Don't loose it! You will have to show it while entering the bus(well, not necessary, but keep it just in case). And maybe you should know, that before you enter the bus, you will be asked what is your destination and what is you name(I'm not sure if in that order, but when if asking guy will be looking at some list, then probably he wants to know your name). Here is my ticket:

So, as you see, you should be a little bit earlier than the time of departure. In confirmation mail it says 30 minutes before departure, but on the ticket it's only 15 minutes. However, it's better to come earlier, I think.

Ah, and smoking is forbidden!

This instruction may looks complicated, but it's quite easy when you go through it and you can save some money. I'll paste some more pictures I took in Japan to motivate you! So, have a nice trip!

Some arbour in Nara city

Heian shrine in Kyoto

Katsuragawa river near Kyoto


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