Express buses are one of the cheaper ways to travel than the Shinkansen when visiting multiple prefectures such as Tokyo and Osaka on a trip to Japan. Among them are the night buses that run from night to early morning. The appeal is that you can move while you sleep, so you can use your time effectively and keep costs of spending the night down. Therefore, this time, we will introduce the features of night buses, how to ride them, and precautions, focusing on the route between Tokyo and Osaka, which is often used by tourists visiting Japan.
What is Japan's "night bus"?
A night bus is a bus that departs from evening to night and arrives at the destination by early morning the next day. Most of the time they drive distances of about 50km or more. General night buses have 3 or 4 rows of seats. Because it travels long distances on expressways, consideration has been given to adopting reclining seats so that you won't get tired even if you ride for a long time. In addition, facilities and services such as toilets, free Wi-Fi, and electrical outlets differ depending on the bus company and vehicle. However, night bus fares fluctuate daily, and depending on the time of year, the range of fluctuations will be even greater, so be sure to check the fare carefully.
What are the pros and cons of night buses?
As one of the options when traveling across prefectures, we will introduce the advantages and disadvantages of night buses that you should know.
Advantages of night buses ①: You can travel to your destination at a low cost
One of the attractions of night buses is that they are cheap. For example, on the Shinkansen between Tokyo and Osaka, a one-way fare for a regular car reserved seat starts at around 14,000 yen. On the other hand, in the case of a night bus, it costs about several thousand yen one way. During the off-season, you may be able to ride between Tokyo and Osaka for around just 2,000 yen. In addition, you can save on accommodation costs by allocating the night to travel. By the way, off-seasons include January and February, excluding the New Year holidays season, when there are relatively few users, and weekdays excluding the day before a holiday. Conversely, busy seasons include the year-end and New Year holidays, Golden Week, and Obon holidays in mid-August. The period that is not included in either is the normal period.
Advantages of night buses ②: You can choose multiple places to get off
Many destinations have multiple stops, and one of the advantages of night buses is that you can choose where to get off. For example, if your destination is Osaka, you can choose where to get off, such as Umeda, Namba, or Universal Studios Japan (USJ). You can use the luggage carrier of the bus, so you don't have to carry your luggage and change vehicles from the Shinkansen or the airport.
Disadvantages of night buses ①: Long travel time
One of the disadvantages is that the required time will be longer depending on the destination. There are also long-distance routes that take more than 14 hours, such as between Tokyo/Shinjuku and Fukuoka/Hakata. From Tokyo to Osaka, it takes about 3-4 hours by Shinkansen, but about 7-10 hours by night bus. Since you cannot stand up or change your posture significantly while traveling, it is necessary to choose a comfortable vehicle and exercise during breaks.
Disadvantages of night buses ②: Fares may fluctuate significantly
Even though it is a cheap means of transportation, the fare may fluctuate significantly during busy seasons such as the year-end and New Year holidays, Golden Week, and Obon holidays. It can double as compared to the off-season. Weekdays or days with discounts are recommended.
3 recommended night bus companies that run between Tokyo and Osaka
Many night bus companies operate between Tokyo and Osaka. Here, we will introduce three companies that are particularly attractive, such as the large number of buses, the protection of privacy, and the comfortable waiting space, as well as their representative night bus series. The price varies depending on the seat, but for all three companies, 4-row seats cost around 3,500 to 4,000 yen during off-season, around 4,000 to 4,500 yen during normal season, and around 9,000 to 10,000 yen during peak season. The price is different depending on whether the toilet is attached or not.
Recommended night bus that runs between Tokyo and Osaka ①: WILLER EXPRESS
WILLER EXPRESS operates 23 routes and 417 buses every day. It is a company that provides customer-friendly transportation services with cutting-edge technology and hospitality. It puts effort into the development of original design seats and vehicles that pursued comfort, and introduced them one after another. There is also a reservation site that supports five languages, including English, traditional Chinese, and Vietnamese.
- Official site: https://travel.willer.co.jp/
|Boarding location (example)||Bus Terminal Tokyo Yaesu||Kajibashi Parking Lot at Tokyo Station||Busta Shinjuku (Expressway Bus Terminal Shinjuku)||Bus Terminal Tokyo Yaesu|
|Drop-off location (example)||Universal Studios JapanⓇ||WBT Osaka Umeda||WBT Osaka Umeda||WBT Osaka Umeda|
|Basic fare||5,500 yen||6,000 yen||7,600 yen||11,000 yen|
*The basic fare varies depending on the schedule.
Recommended night bus that runs between Tokyo and Osaka ②: West Japan JR Bus
There are three types of night buses that run between Tokyo and Osaka: "Dream Lurie", "Grand Dream", and "Seishun Eco Dream", all of which have toilets. There are cheap seats to luxury seats, and the most luxurious seat is Dream Lurie's "Precious Class". It is a seat where you can stretch your legs and roll over. In "Dream Lurie" and "Grand Dream", you can create a private space by pulling the curtains. Equipped with an air conditioner with an air purifier, you can enjoy a clean and comfortable bus trip.
- Official site: https://www.nishinihonjrbus.co.jp/express/
|Seishun Eco Dream (青春エコドリーム)||Grand Dream (グランドリーム号)||Dream Lurie (ドリームルリエ号)|
|Boarding location (example)||Tokyo Station Yaesu South Exit||Busta Shinjuku (Expressway Bus Terminal Shinjuku, Shinjuku Station)||Tokyo Station Yaesu South Exit|
|Drop-off location (example)||Universal Studios JapanⓇ||Universal Studios JapanⓇ||Osaka Station JR Expressway Bus Terminal|
* Various discounts are available from the amount on the right
|4,000-9,700 yen||6,000-11,000 yen|
Advanced class: 10,000-13,500 yen
Precious class: 13,000-18,500 yen
Recommended night bus that runs between Tokyo and Osaka ③: VIP LINER
One of the attractions of VIP LINER is that it has waiting spaces called "VIP Lounges" in major cities such as Tokyo, Osaka, and Namba. You can spend a comfortable time with a free drink before boarding in the evening or after getting off early in the morning. The time when you can use the lounge for free varies depending on the lounge, so it is recommended to check in advance! Another feature is the announcement of "all at once full reclining" when the lights are off. All the passengers can recline at the same time, so you can recline the seat without feeling the courtesy to ask the people behind you first.
- Official site: https://vipliner.biz/
|Aqua Star (アクアスター)||102 (102便)||Grancia First (グランシアファースト)|
|Boarding location (example)||Busta Shinjuku (Expressway Bus Terminal Shinjuku)||Bus Terminal Tokyo Yaesu||Tokyo VIP Lounge|
|Drop-off location (example)||Universal Studios JapanⓇ||Osaka VIP Lounge||VIP Villa Namba|
|Basic fare||Starting from 4,500 yen||Starting from 6300 yen||Starting from 7,300 yen|
Where can I buy a night bus ticket?
If you want to take a night bus, the next step is to purchase a ticket. Here's how to buy tickets.
Purchasing a night bus ticket at the ticket counter
If you want to discuss something you don't understand before purchasing, you can make reservations and purchases at manned sales counters at Tokyo Station or Shinjuku Station in Tokyo, or Umeda Station in Osaka.
Purchasing night bus tickets online
Not only can you reserve and purchase night bus tickets from the official website of each bus company, but there are also websites where you can search multiple companies and routes at once. There are also websites such as "JAPAN BUS LINES" and "Kosokubus.com" that are available in English and Chinese, making it easy for visitors to Japan to use.
The flow from reservation to boarding is 3 steps.
- STEP 1: Search for a bus with vacant seats based on your destination and schedule, and select the date or fare for the bus you want to board.
- STEP 2: Enter necessary information such as number of people, seats, payment method, etc.
- STEP 3: Check the reservation details on the confirmation screen, enter your credit card information, and press the purchase button to complete
The night bus not only allows you to travel long distances at a reasonable price, but also saves on accommodation fees because it travels during the night. Moreover, if you can rest on the bus, you can use the time for sightseeing effectively. Therefore, when choosing a night bus, consider the comfort of the ride first.