Unbelievable prices if you are not in a hurry
Travelling by night bus is the smart way to reach your destination on Japan's countryside if you want to spend your hard-earned money where you are going rather on the ticket that will take you there. It's hard to argue against the speed and convenience of travel with the Shinkansen - Japan's bullet trains. But it does come at a price and a rather steep one. Let's take an example:
We are going to Tajimi a pottery festival in central Japan from Tokyo. The route goes via Nagoya, a metropolis on Japan's East coast on Japan's main island, Honshu. Let's say we travel from Tokyo Station. We get on the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen 08.30 AM, for example, and arrive 10.11 AM. It's a very smooth and pleasant ride, the super fast train swoosh through the landscape. You enjoy the comfortable seat and the ample leg space, as well as the incredible neatly dressed and friendly staff. But the ticket sets us back 11,500 yen (about USD 103 at the time of this writing, check a converter here for the equivalent in your currency). If you are travelling from Tokyo to Nagoya, as in this case, select Tokyo and Aichi (Nagoya) Prefecture, and do a search.
Now, if you are on a budget, consider that this will pay for two nights at a local hotel. Is it really worth it? Well, there is an alternative - night bus. The cheapest rate I have found so far is 1,800 yen (!) from Tokyo to Nagoya. There are English sites for bookings, like this one. You can choose between different comfort levels, so to speak - more space and better seats cost more - but even the cheapest fare will buy you a decent service. Recently I have gone for dirt cheap and have found the service to be OK. The point by going by night is that you will have lots of daytime to spend at your destination. For example, you could leave Tokyo at 10.50 and arrive in Nagoya 05.00 in the morning. Simply put, you spend your sleeping time moving.
The bus will stop a couple of times between Tokyo and Nagoya and you can get off and visit a highway rest area with public facilities, shops, toilets etc. Be sure to check which bus you got off, though, there may be a hundred or more in the parking lot and they all look very similar! Bring load your phone with music or an audio book, and time will pass surprisingly quickly.
The rest of the trip, from Nagoya to Tajimi, takes 37 minutes with a local train, and the fare is 670 yen. You could also go by bus directly to Tajimi, and that will cost a bit more about 4,000 yen, but saves you the trouble and time of changing at Nagoya. Still, you save significantly compared to the Shinkansen + local train cost.
Hint 1: Make sure to go to Kanayama Station when you travel to Nagoya by bus. Less crowded and simpler than Nagoya Station.
Hint 2: A great way to go to Tajimi from the Chubu International Airport is with bus to Kanayama and then take a local train from there.
Hint 3: More info on the cheapest tickets in upcoming post :-)