understand japan

How to use the city bus

How to use the city bus
Your Japan Rail Pass not only covers travel on the Bullet Train, but on JR buses too. Find out how to use the bus system with or without a pass here.

Your Japan Rail Pass not only covers travel on the Bullet Train, but on JR buses too. You can find out exactly which routes are covered here.

Which buses are covered by JRPASS

The Japan Rail Pass covers JR local buses. You will see the JR logo on the bus and bus stops. Sadly JR highway buses can no longer be used with the Japan Rail Pass. Before boarding a bus please ensure that you can see the JR logo on the bus and make sure that it is not a highway bus.


JR local busses are available in following cities:

JR Hokkaido area:Sapporo and surrounding area, Fukagawa, Samani.
JR Tohoku area: Aomori, Iwate and Fukushima. There is an English guide and time table available in English from here.
JR East area: Fukushima, Tochigi, Ibaraki, Chiba, Nagano and Gunma.
JR West area: Kanazawa, Kyoto, Shiga, Fukui and Fukuchiyama.
JR Chugoku area: Hiroshima, Higashi Hiroshima, Yamaguchi and Hikari area.
JR Shikoku area:Kochi and Ehime.
JR Kyushu area:Fukuoka, Saga, Kagoshima

Boarding, riding and paying

Taking the bus in Japan is cheap and convenient, while bus routes in popular areas will cater somewhat for the English-speaker, off the beaten track you should familiarise yourself with the Kanji of your destination. How you take the bus in Japan is different to in the west, so here’s a heads up:

  1. Enter the bus at the rear, take a ticket from the machines on either side of the door
  2. An electronic display by the driver shows the next stop and fares (English is not always catered for so familiarise yourself with your destination Kanji)
  3. To determine your fare match the number on your ticket to the display, your fare in ¥ is displayed under your ticket number and increases the longer you ride the bus
  4. When your stop is approaching, press the illuminated yellow とまります button to alert the driver, these can be found on the backs of seats or along the walls
  5. Check your final fare on the display, if you do not have the correct change use the change machine by the driver to change notes into coins
  6. As you leave the bus drop your ticket and the correct fare* into the transparent box by the driver
    *(If you have a Japan Rail Pass, instead of paying show the driver your Pass)


In some cities there will be a flat rate per journey, for example Kyoto is ¥200. You won’t need to take a ticket when you board, but you still pay at the front as normal.

There are exceptions to this system, such as the Tokyo Metropolitan buses on which you enter through the front, pay a flat rate at the beginning and alight from the rear.

photo Hideyuki Kamon & Sarah

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