You wouldn’t think that taking the bus should be one of the more confusing parts of your trip around Japan, but if it is the first time you board a public Japanese bus you may be surprised by these 5 things:
- Wait for people to get off the bus
Always wait for other passengers to get off the bus before you enter. It might take a lot longer than you think, because you pay when you leave the bus, not when you enter.
- Enter the bus
You can read many places online that you should always enter the bus through the back-door in Japan. However, my experience is that often I actually had to enter through the front door, so you may want to pay attention to this – it’s usually written next to the door. When you enter remember to take a little paper ticket from the payment machine which is typically located next to the driver, and don’t lose it! This will be the key to pay your fare later. You never pay up-front – you pay when getting off.
- Japanese busses talk
Seriously Japan. Your busses talk! Expect the information system of the bus to be constantly reminding you about all sorts of things in a high pitched Japanese woman’s voice. Don’t be alarmed if you don’t understand a word.
- Always exit through the front door
You are required to leave the bus through the front door. This is to let you pay before you leave. Usually the people waiting to get on the bus are as polite as you were and paitiently wait for you to finish your payment. If not, the bus driver will usually politely let them know that they must wait.
- How to pay
On the little paper ticket you got when you entered the bus you find a number. This number corresponds to the tariff “zone” where you got on. When you look up through the bus you will see a display above the wind shield. Find the number on the display which matches the number on your ticket, and there is your fare! The number will increase as the bus moves along the route, so unless you frequent the same route, you won’t know the price until shortly before the bus stops. Remember to have your money ready! You can usually only pay cash and only with coins and 1000 yen bills. You can’t break your bigger bills on the bus! The machines lets you break a 1000 yen bill into coins, but that’s it. Once you counted your pieces, drop the money and your ticket into the machine and you are good to go!
If you find yourself in an old bus, the fare display may look more like this