Highway express buses can be a cheap option if you are traveling long distances in Japan. For really long journeys there are also night buses. Of course, if you can sleep on the journey, this will save you both time and the cost of one night’s stay at a hotel. However, if you are a light sleeper and find the bus seat uncomfortable, then you won’t be able to sleep and will arrive tired at your destination.
There are a variety of companies offering highway express bus services from Kyoto Station. Two bus companies have offices near Kyoto Station where you can make enquiries and book tickets in person. These are JR Bus on the north side of the station and Keihan Bus on the south side.
You can get information about JR Bus directly from the Bus Ticket Center in front of Kyoto Station’s north exit. JR Bus has the broadest range of express bus services. Buses for the Kanto region stop in Yokohama, Tokyo, and Tokyo Disneyland. Buses for the Hokuriku region stop in Kanazawa and Nagano. There are services for Nagoya, Shizuoka and Shirahama. There are also services for several cities in Hyogo, and Okayama Prefectures including Kobe and Tsuyama. Travelers headed west can visit Hiroshima, Tottori and Izumo. The service for the southern island of Shikoku stops in Tokushima, Takamatsu, Matsuyama and Kochi. Most JR Buses depart from the north side of Kyoto Station.
Keihan Bus have a ticket office on the first floor of the Avanti Building which is directly opposite Kyoto Station on the south side. Keihan Bus have services for many of the same destinations as JR Bus, including Tokyo, Wakayama Prefecture, Shikoku and western Japan. They also have an express service for Kitakyushu and Fukuoka on the island of Kyushu. Bus prices vary by the date of travel, so to find the best deal you will have to check with both JR Bus and Keihan Bus to see which is more economical at that time. Keihan buses depart from the north and south of Kyoto Station, so it is a good idea to check the departure point in advance.
Willer Express Bus
Of the many companies offering highway express bus services, only Willer Express has an English website. If you wish to book online then that is your only choice. Willer Express are a reputable company and their buses are quite comfortable. They have bus stops on the south side of Kyoto Station, and at other locations in the city. Willer Express have bus services to a number of destinations. These include Yokohama, Tokyo and Tokyo Disneyland in eastern Japan, Niigata in the north, and Hiroshima in the west. South bound Willer Express buses also depart Kyoto Station for Matsuyama on the island of Shikoku, and Kokura and Hakata on the island of Kyushu.
The Willer Express Japan Bus Pass
Willer Express also have a discount bus pass that can be an economical option if you intend to make several journeys by bus. The Japan Bus Pass can be used on all long distance buses on the Willer Express network for three days or five days that you choose within two months of purchase. The three day pass costs 10000 yen and the five day pass 15000. This bus pass can only be used by temporary visitors to Japan and must be purchased online on the Willer Express website.
Article and original photos by Michael Lambe. All rights reserved.