The challenge of taking the local bus in Japan may be very daunting to people living in Japan for the first time. However, taking on the challenge of taking the bus in Japan will likely make life in Japan even more convenient, simple, and fun.
Try taking the bus in Japan
Japan’s public transportation is extremely developed. The vast railway network and bullet train are often what comes to mind. In particular, trains are a major way to get about in all of Japan, but the train lines are not able to go everywhere. In such cases, it is convenient to take the bus. Furthermore, some regions have a low frequency of buses in a day, so please be careful.
Passengers must board from the door at the front or back of the bus. When getting on the bus, take a ticket from the machine on the inside immediately. After that, please find a vacant seat. Please take a look at the electronic display near the driver. It shows the next stop. At popular tourist attractions, English, Chinese, and so on may be displayed on the display, but they are not displayed on most buses. If you are worried that you may not be on the right bus, when you board the bus, ask, “Does this bus go to 〇〇? (このバスは〇〇に行きますか？)” We also recommend telling the driver your destination when boarding the bus.
Before boarding the bus, it is important to know the Kanji for the destination that you want to go to. When you are close to your stop, press the button that lights up in red or yellow near your seat. This will let the driver know that the bus needs to stop.
For most buses, the fare is paid when alighting. In most cases, the fare changes according to the distance traveled. Please check the number written on your ticket on the display next to the driver. If you need small change, there is a change machine near the driver. Lastly, drop the bus fare and the ticket that you received when boarding into the clear box beside the driver. After that, you can alight from the bus.
Some buses in Tokyo, Kyoto, and so on charge a fare upon entry. In this case, instead of a flexible fare that depends on your time of boarding, you will have to pay a fixed fare. Most buses that operate this way are to be boarded from the front and alighted from the back.
Convenient IC cards
IC cards can be purchased on buses and trains, convenience stores, and some vending machines, and are indispensable for life in Japan. They are particularly convenient for taking the bus. Also, if using an IC card, you will receive a slight discount on the official fare. When boarding or alighting the bus, or both of those times, tap your IC card on the sensor.
Japanese bus etiquette
Abide by the etiquette when taking the bus. For example, talking on the phone is prohibited inside the bus. Turn off your mobile phone or switch to silent mode. When using earphones, adjust the volume so that it does not bother the people around you.
Please do not press on the seat in front of you with your feet or knees. Do not leave your belongings or other items on the seat next to you or the aisle. Also, please take your trash with you. Do not walk around when the bus is moving as it is dangerous.