Intra-city public transportation In Japan is excellent with extensive subways, buses, and light rail systems. However, you quickly find that while inter-city transportation is very fast using the Shinkansen (bullet-train) which travels at about 300 km/h, it's also very expensive. Here's my guide to getting from Tokyo to Kyoto (400 miles; 600 kilometers) as cheaply as possibly:
- Train: Tokaido line with Seishun 18 ticket ¥2,300 each day (9 hours, 1-3 transfers) - warning: Seishun 18 can only be bought/used during particular periods of the year; otherwise it's ¥9000 if you buy the train ticket normally
- Bus: City Liner - ¥4,300-¥4,500 each way by overnight bus (7 hrs)
- Bus: JR Highway Bus - ¥8,180 each way by "deluxe" overnight bus (7 hrs)
- Train: Shinkansen Nozomi - ¥13,990 each way -- that's about US$130, $260 round trip! (2.5 hrs)
- Car: If you're driving, tolls will be ¥10,050 (according the JH Navigator) + gas will be about ¥8,000 = ¥18,000. It will take you about 6~7 hours each way, depending on traffic. I've never seen anyone (Japanese/female) hitchhike in Japan, so that's not really an option for me.
- Plane: about ¥19,000 each way / Y27,000 round trip. (45 minutes)
Astute people will note that the round-trip plane is slightly cheaper than the train, although getting to the airport adds another Y3000 or so to your bill and isn't any faster. Really astute people will note that it's cheaper to fly to Seoul, Korea from Japan than it is to fly between Kyoto and Tokyo. Go figure!
I'm just about to go to yet another disability protest in Japan, so these were my back of the napkin figures. If you have updated figures or more information, please post them! Well, I'm off to catch the City Liner! :-)
Updated 2005.02.16: Added Seishin 18 information and hitchhiking caveat
Updated 2005.03.16: Added accurate highway tolls (and gasoline guesstimate)