With the holidays and vacation season now in full swing in Japan, today I have a recommendation for a great activity to try at least once during your time in Japan.
That activity is…taking a night bus.
Night buses go to almost every big city in Japan, and they can get you from point A to point B at a much more attractive price point than the shinkansen or a plane.
The basic premise of the night bus is that it’s a bus that departs in the evening, and arrives at its destination the next morning (sometimes very early). That means that, rather than wasting your vacation time traveling, you can hop on a night bus and let someone else do the driving while you sleep…
In some rare cases, if you get on the “right” bus, it can be more of a party atmosphere than a place to catch a few Z’s. Whether that’s a good or bad thing for you will depend on how you look at it (and how much you enjoy drinking/schmoozing/not sleeping).
I’ve taken the night bus on 5 different occasions, and on two of those trips, I found myself in an exciting bus full of partiers. I was a little more tired the next day, but the fun more than made up for it. If you have business or a job interview at your destination however, this might be a lot less fun for you. The 23-year-old-single me loved it, but I imagine the married and 34-year-old me of today would like it a lot less.
For those that want to avoid these possibly more rowdy buses, avoid traveling during the peak vacation season and Friday and Saturday night if at all possible. There is often a huge difference in Friday bus atmosphere as opposed to Tuesday bus atmosphere.
Another good point is that, lucky for us, most night buses realize that a large number of their passengers will be foreigners. As a result, it’s relatively easy to find a bus suiting your needs online by doing a Google search in English. Obviously searching in Japanese will yield more results, but it’s nice to have that other option if your Japanese isn’t up to par just yet. If you want to give it a shot in nihongo, search using “夜行バス” to peruse the plethora of relatively easy to navigate sites.
Aside from the potential for fun times and the ease of getting a ticket, the best part of the night bus is the price. While planes and shinkansens are faster, they are also considerably more expensive. So while a shinkansen trip is also a must-do at some point during your stay in Japan, a trip on a night bus can be a semi-regular experience for you, to help you fully enjoy all that Japan has to offer while also saving a few yen.
So don’t spend another boring weekend cooped up in your apartment, bringing you one step closer to Japan Burnout. Next time you have some free time or business in a large city in Japan, hop on a night bus and let the good times, work times, or sleep times roll.