Get on the Bus
By Kei. Hamilton
It is possible to live in Tokyo and rely completely on the train system and taxis to get around. This is especially true if you live and work within walking distance from the nearest train station, and all of your daily living and shopping needs can be met in between. As such buses are often overlooked as an easy means to make moving about more convenient. Still, however, as the announcements and signage are mostly in Japanese, the experience can be stressful unless you are tagging along with someone who knows the ropes and can show you the way.
Bus services in the Tokyo area are abundant and reach places by road that are often inconvenient by train. As with trains and even taxis, PASMO and other cards can be used for payment, by simply pressing it against the designated spot as you board, or otherwise a machine by the driver will accept cash and can exchange \100 and \500 coins and \1,000 notes. As you board, if you are uncertain if you’re getting on the right bus, simply ask the driver if the bus stops where you want. When your stop is announced, which, these days is usually by a polite recording, press the button located on a handrail to signify the driver to stop. In most all cases the driver will remember and make an announcement to assure you.
Costs and systems may vary depending on the bus company, but usually payment is in advance, and there may either be a flat fair or distance-based fair. Bus companies also have discount systems including passes, multiple tickets, prepaid cards, and a discount service for the elderly. Fair for children under 12 years old is usually half while children under six are free if accompanied by an adult (the first child is free, additional children are charged).
Toei Bus Website
Airport Limousine Bus
When arriving to Japan by Narita or Haneda international airports, the Airport Limousine Bus is for many people the best and most practical way to get to their hotel or a convenient location in central Tokyo. The familiar orange and white buses have been an endearing welcome home to residents since the 1950s. Although travel times can vary, unlike the trains, the Airport Limousine bus is fairly reliable excepting extreme traffic conditions. Costs, timetables and other useful information about the service are available in English on the company’s website.
Airport Limousine Website
JR Bus Kanto
JR East Japan Railway Company offers a bus service, JR Bus Kanto, from Tokyo to a variety of major cities located in all major areas of Japan, including Kanto (greater Tokyo), Tohoku (northeast), Koshin (Nagano), Hokuriku (Ishikawa), Tokai (Shizuoka and Aichi), Kansai (Osaka area) and Shikoku. A timetable in English is available on the company's website.
JR Bus Kanto Timetable
People from all over Japan and indeed the world take the Hato Bus Sightseeing Tours, which feature time-honored visits to the great shrines, temples and Japanese gardens of Tokyo. Hato Bus tours combine a variety of memorable activities, including stops for traditional Japanese foods, shopping excursions, and cruises in picturesque areas. Tours are available in English and Chinese.
Hato Bus Website
Sky Bus Tokyo
Skybus Tokyo Tour is a double-decker, open-top bus that let's you see a lot of the city in about an hour. Especially in nice weather, the seemingly endless spectacle of architectural achievements (and failures) great and small alone is worth the price of the ticket. The driver maneuvers the outsized vehicle beneath low-lying signage through tiny backstreets and down major highways to all of the major landmarks including the Imperial palace, the infamous Ginza district, Rainbow Bridge and Odaiba, Tokyo Tower and Tokyo Skytree (the world’s tallest tower), Asakusa and more. In December the tour goes to all of the key spots in Tokyo decked in spectacular Christmas lighting.
Tokyo Sky Bus Website
Marunouchi Shuttle Bus
If you're in the area near Tokyo Station covering Marunouchi, Otemachi, Yurakucho and Hibiya, you can catch a free ride every 15 minutes on the Marunouchi Shuttle between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. A 40-minute route makes stops at the Shin Maru Building in front of Tokyo station, the posh new Palace Hotel, the historical landmark MY PLAZA building in front of the Imperial palace, the edge of Hibiya Park and more. Similar services are available in Odaiba (Bay Shuttle) and Nihonbashi (Metro Link Nihombashi).
Marunouchi Shuttle Route
Marunouchi Shuttle Site (Japanese)
Tokyo Bay Shuttle Site (Japanese)
Metro Link Nihonbashi Site (Japanese)