During my first trip to Japan in 2008, I bought a 7-Day Japan Rail Pass–JR Pass which currently costs 28,300 yen/US$ 367.90–and took the Shinkansen from Fukuoka to Tokyo, stopping in the Kansai region for sightseeing.
While the Shinkansen was speedy and comfortable, I decided not to buy the JR Pass during my last trip to Japan in October for four reasons
- JR Pass is really expensive even for one person, imagine splurging for two.
- We were in Japan for a 10-day trip and the JR Pass came in only 7-Day, 14-Day and 21-Day form so it wasn’t economically wise.
- We only planned to visit the Kansai region. If we were travelling a lot farther, I might have gotten the JR Pass or flew.
- By travelling by bus at night, I could save on accomodation but still get to my destination. My cheapest accomodation during the trip was my Tokyo stay at 5,300yen a night while Kyoto’s was 7,980 yen.
While buying the cheapest return trip bus tickets (4,300 yen one way) on Willer Express would cost less than 10,000 yen. I decided to use the bus pass to buy the most expensive seats it could get on a night bus.
That “most expensive” seat turned out to be on the RELAX series which includes a toilet. At 5,000 yen one-way, it would mean that my mom and I had not wasted our bus pass. (I also think we could change our dates more freely with a pass than without.)
The bus company also a blanket that didn’t smell. (Unlike my Malaysian bus trip. haha)
Cons of night bus travelling
Travelling long distance on a bus does have its down side. You have to be at the bus stop–most likely in the middle of nowhere like the one in Tokyo or the terminal in Kyoto–in the middle of the night.
My bus to Kyoto was scheduled to leave at 11.30pm, a time which I want to curl up in bed with a heavy blanket. As we checked out early in the morning, we had to brush our teeth in the public toilet and were feeling pretty grimy by the time we got to Tokyo.
Comfort may be minimum. My friend who also took WIller told me of her terrible experience trying to hold her bladder and sitting on a hard seat.
Luckily, the bus pass got my mom and I really comfortable seats at the back–but not the most back where seats are narrower and cheaper–and there was a loo!
The bus driver would mumble into his microphone for a long long long time to inform the passengers of its destination etc. My mom thought he was chanting some religious script. Ha ha
When we got to the meeting points, we found out that there were a lot more buses leaving for the same destination (and by the same company). We were given a card with out bus’ number.
The employees would call out the bus number in Japanese when it arrives. Just be sure to ask them if yours has come or not.
Find out how I used Kyoto as a base to explore Kansai.