A Guide To Using Tokyo's Local Buses

A Guide To Using Tokyo's Local Buses


Many people think that using buses in a foreign country is difficult, but this isn't necessarily the case in Japan. After reading today's article on Japanese buses, you'll soon be able to make full use of this convenient transportation option.

Translated by Greg


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Many of you probably think that using the bus system in a foreign country is a difficult and complicated procedure. However in Japan, bus stops are easy to spot and provide you with all the necessary information to help you get to where you want to go, making buses an attractive method of transportation.

Today we explain how to ride the bus with skill and confidence, so that the bus becomes a convenient method of getting around town for you.

Waiting at a Bus Stop


This is a typical bus stop in Japan (some stops might look slightly different than this one), where buses will properly stop according to schedule. At the bus stop, it will show where the bus is headed for and all the stops along the route. But even at the same bus stop, the final destination for buses can differ, so please be careful. Next, we'll explain how to read the bus timetable at the bus stop.


In most cases, the bus timetable is divided into three columns as in the above photo. This indicates the bus service on weekdays, Saturdays, and holidays (including Sundays). When reading the timetable make sure that you're looking under the correct column.

Also, let's make sure to lineup for the bus in the proper order according to who arrived at the bus stop first.

Inside the Bus


When taking a bus in one of Tokyo's twenty-three wards, you board the bus at the front door and pay the fare when you first get on the bus. Also, when traveling by bus in one of Tokyo's twenty-three wards, you pay a flat fare.

In other words, you pay the same fare regardless of how far you travel. But please note that even though it's a flat fare, in Tokyo this cost can differ depending on the route. The bus fare can be in cash or by IC card. However using an IC card is more economical because fares are slightly discounted.

You can get an IC card made for you easily and quickly at any train station, and it can be used for both the train and bus, and also when shopping. So how about giving an IC card a try? For information on getting your own IC card please refer to the following article on Suica cards.


An electronic display above the driver shows the name of the next stop in Japanese, and in some cases, also in English.

In a Japanese bus there's a special button for passengers, usually located on the wall of the bus. When your stop is announced, press this button to alert the driver.

The announcements are made only in Japanese, so for those worried about going past their intended stop or getting off at the wrong stop, it's best to let the driver know where you're headed when you first board the bus.

When the bus pulls up to your intended stop, remain seated until the bus comes to a full stop, then exit from the back door which is located near the middle of the bus.


Smoking is prohibited inside the bus. Also please refrain from talking on your cell phone and while on the bus set your phone to manner mode. For passengers bringing on a baby carriage or using a wheelchair, you can secure them in the designated wheelchair area. When the bus is crowded, please follow the driver's instructions.

Taking a Bus Outside of Tokyo's 23 Wards


When taking a bus in Tokyo outside its twenty-three wards, or in a city other than Tokyo, please note that the procedures are quite different.
The fare is paid when you get off the bus and the fare depends on the distance traveled.

First board the bus at the back door. If paying by cash, you first need to take a numbered ticket from a small machine beside the door, and for those using an IC card, simply touch your card to the IC reader. The number on the ticket corresponds to the stop where you boarded the bus.

When getting off, match the number on your ticket to the fare shown in yen on the electronic display at the front of the bus. Then put the ticket and the correct fare into the box by the driver. If using a card, once again touch the card to the IC reader near the driver and your transaction is complete.

When traveling at night, please keep in mind that most local city buses generally don't operate late into the evening. However, on weekdays some main routes run buses until late at night so this can be convenient. These buses are designated with an owl caricature (photo above) on the front sign where the bus destination is shown. Please note that the fares for these late night buses are different from the daytime buses and tend to be fairly expensive.

Other Information That's Worth Knowing


Distinguished by their green color, Toei buses offer free Wi-Fi service on board with a connection time of up to three hours. During that time you can connect as many times as you want, so it's very convenient for looking up information on our smarphone or other device. On your phone or tablet's Wi-Fi setting, 1) select Toei_Bus_free_Wi-Fi, then 2) press the connect to internet button, then finally 3) register on the user entry page (registration procedure is only required once) and you'll be able to access Wi-Fi.

Convenient. Safe. Comfortable. On your next trip to Japan how about enjoying a relaxing ride aboard one of Tokyo's many buses?

Read Also:

Toei Transportation
Getting Around In Japan: How To Use Trains, Buses And Taxis

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