Are you planning a trip to Japan? Have you considered taking a night bus? Welcome to our guide to travelling on those underappreciated vehicles. We will answer all of your questions, even the ones you didn't know you had, and put you at ease before your journey!
Why a night bus?
Night buses (夜行バス yakou basu) are a convenient way of getting to the right place at the right time. They combine the two key parts of every journey: travel and accommodation. It means that you can cut costs, save time, and make the most out of your trip! Night buses are especially recommended for long and medium distances, for example sleeping your way from Tokyo to Hiroshima (over 500 miles)!
Don’t worry about the language, all main night buses have information provided in English throughout your journey. Booking can also be done using English language websites such as Willer and kosokubus.com.
Night buses allow you to easily get off the beaten path and travel to places all over Japan – ever dreamt of going to the northern coast of Japan but got put off by the number of train transfers? You can take a night bus there without a worry and all the uncomfortable bag dragging!
Currently if you are travelling by a bullet train you need to reserve a special seat on top your ticket that will allow you to carry a larger piece of luggage with total dimensions between 161-250cm . However, choosing a night bus for you longer journey, you don’t have to think about the size of your bags at all!
What should I do with my luggage when I arrive? You can find many affordable coin lockers all over Japan. They are located by all main bus and tran stations. Head to your nearest coin lockers and leave your bags there! If your accommodation isn’t too far away, you can also try bringing your bags before the check-in time and leaving them for the day.
Many bigger cities will also have temporary luggage depots, like the one under Tokyo station. If you've come prepared with an overnight bag or backpacking bag, pack the essentials for your explorations into the bag you're taking with you and leave the rest of your stuff in your suitcase at the depot - they charge by the day but the rest of your luggage will be waiting for you safely in your suitcase upon your return!© Willer, Inc. Are night buses safe? Yes, very much so - they've been especially careful throughout the global pandemic. Passengers taking Willer buses have their temperature measured before boarding, then need to use the provided hand sanitiser, and have to wear masks while being seated in a socially distanced way. On top of that there is a tall partition between each seat to give you additional privacy, the air inside each bus is exchanged every 5 minutes, and their buses have antivirus devices! © Willer, Inc. Aren't buses cramped? Not in Japan! You can book a bus with additional leg space and even two seats per row! Just book your desired seat and make yourself comfortable... All female-identifying passengers can also book a special section of the bus which is specifically dedicated to women. It can put some solo travellers at ease and expand their travel options! © Willer, Inc. Are you worried about not being able to take a shower and look your best on pictures? Don’t forget about Japan’s bath culture: with public baths called sento (some are open 24/7) that will not be an issue! Just head to the local sento and start your day with a splash!
Bus companies offer bus passes similar to the famous Japan Rail Pass! For example Willer’s bus pass allows you to take up to three buses a day (excluding Hokkaido and Okinawa) for three, five or seven days. However, those days do not have to be consecutive and the journeys can be taken anytime within two months! The five day bus pass can be used any day of the week and costs 15,300 yen (around £111). In comparison the seven day Japan Rail Pass costs 33,610 yen (around £244) which might not be the best option for people who aren't planning to travel all over the country. There are also other regional passes for areas such as Kyushu , Hokkaido, and Tohoku.
Book your journey online. You can usually book your night bus up to around three months in advance. Print out your ticket just in case or save it on an electronic device.
Find your boarding location, and confirm the bus number. Make sure to double check where exactly your bus departs from and give yourself enough time to carry your luggage to the bus stop! Night buses are so popular sometimes many buses from the same company leave a bus stop at the same time so confirm the number of the bus you are queuing for!
Show your ticket to the bus driver, get your temperature checked, leave your luggage, and board the bus!
Sit back and relax. Make sure to listen to all of the safety announcements and always check the screen for additional information!
Time to take a break! Night buses have many stops on the way at amazing facilities, like the glorious Michi-no-eki, that allow you to stock up on snacks, check out the local souvenirs (!), and even take care of your hygiene at sento baths. Write down your bus’s number before leaving or take a picture of the number plates. Sometimes having a few buses heading in the same direction might be confusing!
Wait, we already arrived? Collect up your belongings, make sure you haven't left anything, and start a new day in an exciting off-the-beaten-track part of Japan!