Airfare to Japan is probably the single biggest cost for most travelers. But there is also the cost of getting around once you are in Japan. One favorite solution for travelers is the Japan Rail Pass, but that is still too expensive for some travelers. So what are the other options beside the high tech and pricey bullet train for exploring?
Special Domestic Air Fair Budget : $110 - $150 USD (One Way)
Japanese air carriers offer special fares for domestic flights in Japan.
Examples: ANA; JAL
Low Cost Air Carriers Carriers (LCCs) Budget: $50 to $100 USD (one-way)
Japan has recently seen the rise of low cost air carriers for domestic travel. While the fare may vary by the day, the trick is to travel during the weekdays and you can sometimes find fares as low as $50!
Examples: Air Asia; JetStar Japan; Peach Airlines
Highway Busses Budget: $30 to $100 USD
For the best savings check out the overnight busses which usually leave around 8pm and get you to your destination by the next morning. Not only are they cheap but you also don't have to worry about hotel costs for that night! Many companies offer busses with lay-flat seats and at seat entertainment.
Examples: Keio Bus; Willer Express
Local Busses & Tourist "Round" Busses Budget: Free to $10
Many popular cities and areas offer small busses or hop-on hop-off shuttles that stop at the most popular sites. They can be a convenient and cheap way to get around city areas. Most offer discounted 1 day passes for travelers.
Examples: Kyoto City Bus; Narita City Round Bus; Takayama Roundtrip Bus
Rental Bikes Budget: Free to $10
Bikes are a popular way to get around and enjoy many cities in Japan. Not only are the popular with the locals but there are many places that offer cheap hourly or daily rentals for visitors. Some places even offer multiple bike return locations.
Examples: Tokyo Bike Rentals (PDF)
Transportation Passes Budget: Varies
Many cities and transportation companies other than Japan Rail also offer passes ranging from inner-city day passes to multi-day multi-region passes. The sometimes take a bit of research or asking around to find, but if you will be doing a lot of traveling at one time it may be worth it. Most passes can be bought at local Tourist Information Centers or right at the Train Stations.
Examples: Kyoto Useful Tickets; Tokyo Discount Tickets
Don't forget to ask JNTO about getting to or around a particular area.