The railway is the premier means of public transport in Japan, and one of the best railway systems in the world. The JR network is the national railway system, and is very extensive, while there are some smaller ones owned by private companies, as well.
The JR operates various types of trains, such as the Shinkansen, which is the most popular and the fastest, running at 300 kph, the Nozomi and Mizuho, which operate mostly on the islands of Honshu and Kyushu, respectively, and stop only at major cities, the Hikari and Sakura, and the Kodama and Tsubame, which stop at every station.
Some of the railways operate 24 hours a day, even providing overnight trips, but most do not, usually stopping at midnight. Train schedules can be found on all train stations, and are also available at major hotels.
Ticket booths can be found at the major train stations, where tickets can be purchased from railway employees. There is also the option of buying train tickets through a machine, which is more popular and considered more efficient, though most machines only offer instructions in Japanese.
If you wish to make use of this means of transport, it is recommended that you get a Japan Rail Pass, which allows you to travel on nearly all trains on the JR network as many times as you like within a certain period.
Seat reservations can be made at the JR office on all major stations, as well as on the internet.
There are both intercity and long-distance buses, as well, with the latter often traveling overnight and offering more legroom, though these are, of course, slower than the Shinkansen. The Willer Express, the largest bus operator in Japan, also offers a bus pass, though this only entitles holders to two bus trips per day and not on the same route.
Getting a taxi is also an option, since taxi cabs abound all over Japan, and are completely safe. Take note, though, that these can be expensive, and very few Japanese taxi drivers can understand, much less speak English. If you are used to opening and closing the passenger door of a cab in your own country, you might want to refrain from doing so, since the driver can do this automatically in Japan.
If you wish to enjoy the country scenery or simply want more intimate journeys, you can also rent a car at car rental outlets located in the major Japanese cities, particularly near the major train stations.
If you plan on driving, you need to obtain an international driver’s license or a Japanese driver’s license. You also have to keep in mind that the Japanese drive on the left, like most European nations, and that toll fees for long-distance travel can be quite costly. Most road signs on major roads are in both Japanese and English.