Taking a highway bus for long distance journeys is a much cheaper option than the train. For really long journeys there are also overnight buses which will save you one night’s stay in a hotel too. There are two main companies operating highway buses from Osaka. These are JR and Willer Express. The JR Expressway Bus Terminal is on the north side of Osaka Station. JR and other affiliated companies run buses from here. Willer Express have an office and waiting room at the base of the Umeda Sky Building.
JR Highway Express Buses
JR has a very broad range of highway bus services all around the country. From Osaka Station you can travel to central Japan with stops in Nagoya and Shizuoka or the Kanto region with stops in Tokyo and Yokohama.
Buses to the northern Hokuriku region go to Kanazawa, Toyama, and Nagano.
Buses to western Japan go to Kobe, Arima Onsen, Okayama, Hiroshima, and Izumo.
The service heading south to the island of Shikoku stops at Tokushima, Takamatsu, Matsuyama, and Kochi.
At Osaka Station’s Expressway Bus Terminal there is a JR Expressway Bus Ticket Center where you can get information about these services, pick up timetables, and make bookings.
Willer Express are a reputable company and their buses are quite comfortable. They have bus stops at various locations, but the main Umeda office and bus terminal is on the 1st floor of the Umeda Sky Building’s East Tower.
Willer Express run buses to a range of destinations around Japan. Services to the Kanto region include stops in Shinjuku, Shibuya, Tokyo, Tokyo Disneyland, Yokohama, and Kamakura. There are also services to Kinosaki Onsen, Niigata, Hakuba, Nagoya, Shizuoka, Hiroshima and Matsuyama. Services to the island of Kyushu stop at Hakata and Kokura. Prices vary widely according to the season, the service, what kind of seating you choose, and when you book your seat. However, if you book early and choose the cheaper seats, Willer Express can often be a cheaper option than JR. Willer Express also has an English website where you can check for routes, prices, and book seats.
The Willer Express Japan Bus Pass
If you plan to travel with Willer Express for several journeys around Japan, a Willer Express Japan Bus Pass is a good deal. You can use the pass on all long distance buses on the Willer Express network for three days or five days of your choice within two months of purchase. The three day pass costs 10,000 yen and the five day pass 15,000 yen. This bus pass can only be used by temporary visitors to Japan and has to be purchased online via the Willer Express website.
Article and original photos by Michael Lambe. All rights reserved.