Travel to Tokyo
Flying to Tokyo
Japan's national airline is Japan Airlines; other airlines include All Nippon Airways, Jetstar Japan and Peach Aviation.
From London - 12 hours; New York - 14 hours; Los Angeles - 12 hours; Toronto - 13 hours 20 minutes; Sydney - 9 hours 30 minutes.
Travel by road
Heavy traffic makes travelling by car in Japan's urban areas a slow and frustrating experience. Fortunately, excellent public transport means you rarely have to bother with this, but if you plan on exploring remote country areas, then hiring a car makes sense.
Driving in Japan is not as daunting as might be expected - drivers are generally disciplined and courteous and major signs are in both Japanese and English. Expressways are toll roads that link the main cities, although the tolls themselves are pricey.
Traffic in Tokyo drives on the left and the legal driving age is 18 years for a car and 16 years for a motorbike. The speed limit is usually 100kph (62mph) on expressways and 40kph (25mph) in built-up areas. An International Driving Permit and valid national licence are required, along with at least six months' driving experience and insurance. Driving after drinking any alcohol is illegal and penalties are severe.
The Japan Automobile Federation (JAF) (tel: +81 570 008 139; www.jaf.or.jp/e) provides an English-language ‘Rules of the Road' booklet. JAF Road Service offers 24-hour breakdown assistance for both members and non-members. In the case of an accident, you must inform the police (tel: 110).
Emergency breakdown services
JAF (tel: #8139, in Japan only).
A number of companies offer a comprehensive network of long-distance bus services, although few have websites or telephone lines in English.
Comfortable overnight coaches with reclining seats serve destinations such as Kyoto, Osaka and the cities of northern Honshu. Coaches leave from terminals outside Shinjuku Station and Tokyo Station.
Willer Express (tel: +81 50 5805 0383; www.willerexpress.com/en) can help you organise tickets for highway and night buses.
Time to city
From Nagano - 3 hours 30 minutes; Sendai - 4 hours 30 minutes; Nagoya - 4 hours; Osaka - 6 hours 30 minutes.
Travel by Rail
Japan's rail network is a traveller's dream: efficient, clean, punctual and futuristic.
As long as you steer clear of rush hour and public holidays, travelling by train in Japan is almost a highlight in itself. The Shinkansen, or bullet train, certainly is. Shinkansen run to northern Japan, Niigata on the Japan Sea, Nagano in the central Alps, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima, and Fukuoka on the southern island of Kyushu. The Tokaido-Sanyo line hits most of the stops on the golden route.
The Japan Railways Pass (www.japanrailpass.net) soothes some of the pain from the high prices. Valid for seven, 14 or 21 days, it offers unlimited travel in specific areas of Japan, although you must buy it before you arrive.
Japan Railways (JR) operates most services to and from Tokyo, including the Shinkansen. The popular Tokaido-Sanyo line is operated by JR Central (http://english.jr-central.co.jp/index.html). Trains in Tokyo and northern Japan are operated by JR East (tel: +81 50 2016 1603; www.jreast.co.jp/e/index.html). Buy tickets at individual stations or through tour operators.
From Hiroshima - 4 to 5 hours; Kyoto - 2 hours 15 minutes; Nagano - 1 to 2 hours; Fukuoka - 4 hours 40 minutes.