The most iconic form of travel in Japan is probably the ultra-modern, high-speed shinkansen bullet train. These bullet trains are extremely convenient for traveling long distances and if you're trying to see a lot of Japan during your trip rather than just staying in one region. However, since they compete wth air travel, they are not as cheap as the simpler trains and ferries. Wikipedia accurately lists shinkansen's advantages over air travel as "scheduling frequency and flexibility, punctual operation, comfortable seats, and convenient city-center terminals... Shinkansen fares are generally competitive with domestic air fares." However, shinkansen is often cheaper and, for the reasons just mentioned, definitely more convenient even in cases where prices are similar.
The shinkansen network covers virtually all of Japan with Okinawa Prefecture, the relatively small and far-off southernmost island chain, and the northern tip of Hokkaido, the northernmost major island, being the only exceptions. One of the more impressive things about the shinkansen network is that it encompasses underwater tunnels which connect the major islands of Japan; that's how the nation has been able to bypass air and watercraft in order to bridge together its otherwise more isolated parts. Something about the idea of being able to ride a bullet train underwater is so insanely cool.
If you do want to travel by air, however, maybe because you really want to see Okinawa and the ferries would take too long, then of course Japanese airlines are as legitimate as anywhere else in the world. JAL (Japan Airlines), Jetstar, and ANA (All Nippon Airways) tend to be the big three, but a number of other smaller airlines such as Peach, Skymmark, and Vanilla Air also exist. Prices and routes can of course be compared online in English!
Other useful info:
-Google Maps should really be your best friend when trying to figure out travel in Japan. Whether you're trying to get around within a city or trying to get from one major island to another, Google Maps can give you good comprehensive info about your options for travel outside of air travel. It's really simple to use once you get the hang of it- just enter your starting location and where you want to to go (you can also alter the desired departure/arrival times and edit preferences for modes of vehicle transport) and a list of alternative routes will pop up along with their total costs, travel times, etc.
-The JR Rail Pass: Taken from the official website at jrailpass.com- "It is the most cost-efficient way to travel all over Japan for a limitless number of trips, restricted only by the selection of a time-frame. Choosing between 7, 14 and 21 days of JR Pass validity, you will be able to access any part of Japan and also have the opportunity to enjoy the world-famous Shinkansen bullet-train and travel with 320 km/h." Basically this pass allows you to travel freely and limitlessly within and across Japan for a flat rate for either one, two or three weeks. It is well worth the money if you hope to see a lot of Japan during your trip, but it can only be purchased before arriving in-country, so purchase it beforehand!
-Pasmo and Suica cards: These are the two forms of subway cards which are used in Japan which also work for most of the buses and above-ground train lines as well as being usable at many vending machines and convenient stores and so forth. There's really no difference between the two though tourists often wonder and they can be purchased at any station upon arrival in Japan. You normally will have to deposit 500 yen for the card and can then begin loading money onto it as you please.
-Renting a car: This is doable and of course viable as a form of travel in Japan, but you have to make sure that you acquire your international license before arriving in-country or else it will be much more expensive. Usually you can receive the international certification in your home country at your local DMV for a small fee and without even having to take any sort of test... be careful if you'll be driving on the opposite side of the road compared to what you're used to though...
Well, that wraps up this post! We hope it's been informative and we're pretty sure it will be useful if you'll be visiting Japan at any point in the future. It's been a long one but Japanese transportation can actually be quite confusing and multi-faceted for all its convenience due to the wide range of options and information available. Feel free to contact us with any further questions or inquiries as there's a lot of pertinent information which didn't make it in to this post! Don't forget to follow us on our other platforms and watch for further posts regarding Japanese culture, lifestyle, travel, food, and so forth!