3. Inter-City Buses

During my two semesters in Japan there were several times that I found it necessary to take overnight bus travel across the country.  This necessity usually arose simply due to the amount of money that you can save by taking a bus instead of either trains, the shinkansen, or flying.

Japan has a large selection of bus companies which can take you to nearly any city that you desire; however, the larger the city of destination, the cheaper the ticket.  Each time I traveled in this manner I used a company called Willer Express.  The company has a very detailed and easy to use English website and even has student discount tickets.

Generally speaking, inter-city buses like these will pick up at a predetermined location where you will have to check in with the driver and load your luggage.  These locations will generally be as close to a train station as possible.  For Kansai Gaidai students in Hirakata-shi, there will very rarely be a bus that actually drops off or picks up in Hirakata.  Only once did I manage to book a bus that stopped in Hirakata, but usually you will have to travel either to Osaka or Kyoto in order to catch the bus.  If you are travelling to Tokyo (or just east in general) then I would recommend setting your pickup/drop-off location to be Kyoto.  This will result in a shorter trip both ways and also a cheaper ticket price (though not by much).

Inter-city (aka Highway) buses in Japan will be a very similar experience to that of say taking a Greyhound bus; however, there are some major differences (all of them positive).  First of all, as with everything else in Japan, the buses run and leave on time (yay!). Secondly, the buses are not “ghetto” in any way, and do not have any of the necessary security checks that occur on American bus trips.  Pretty much anyone that you might notice taking the regular trains and city buses will also be taking the highway buses.  The buses generally will have two or three schedules, one that starts in the morning and one that starts in the evening.  Thus, you will either be on a day bus and arrive in the evening, or you will be on a night bus and arrive in the morning.  Since Tokyo and Hiroshima are about 6-8 hours away from the Osaka area, bring something to do.  I found the cleanliness of the Willer buses to be quite pleasing, and if you decide to invest in a more expensive and luxurious bus (which I did for some of the night trips), the bus is very comfortable to sleep in. (not so much the generic tickets though)

Finally, this website provides excellent information about buses in Japan (and pretty much every other topic you could want information about).
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2366.html

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