Self drive, flight, train, or bus

What is the best option to move around central Japan at a slow pace for a couple plus a young toddler? Bus and train!

Renting a car will be the most convenient. No rushing for bus/flight schedule, no hauling of luggages (and kid) around, and no loitering around with luggages in between room check out/in. Is it cost effective? I trust the rule of thumb of renting car only for more than 3 adults..

Flying is also expensive for us because airlines are charging our 3 year old toddler while the rest don’t.

Shinkansen is fast and not too expensive, compared to flight or self drive. But time is not much a constraint to us, and we could save on transport by planning route wth short distances from one hotel to the next.

Apart from moving from one place to another, we are also looking for day trip transport. It’s worth some time looking at tourist pass from train and bus operators.

Nagano to Kanazawa

Hokuriku Shinkansen is the best deal, average duration of about 70 mins with price of 8960. E.g leave at 13:18 pm, reach 14:26. Shinkansen timetable.

highway bus may be available, but japanese site:



From Tokyo to Nagano

Since we’re targeting a specific area, JR EAST offers a good price for a period of 2 weeks. The Nagano + Niigata pass covers most of the central area we’re planning to go, and most importantly the first leg from Tokyo to Nagano.

(Nagano, Niigata area)
Pass Type Domestic Sales International Sales
Flexible five-day pass (any five days within 14 days of issuance, including the day of issuance) Adults
(12 and older)
(6 to 11)
(12 and older)
(6 to 11)
18,000 yen 9,000 yen 17,000 yen 8,500 yen


Kurobe alpine

wp-1487060515038.jpg The alpine takayama matsumoto tourist pass from JR CENTRA for the visit to  the Kurobe alpine. It includes the transport through the alpine route plus unlimited JR train and bus rides within the nearby areas. ¥17500 looks attractive when compared to the price of alpine route –  a round trip between Tateyama Station and  Kurobe Dam will be ¥15760.







The one way package offers good value, considering that it’s expected to spend about 7 hours to get from one end to the other.

Including transfer and sightseeing times, it takes about 6 to 7 hours to pass through the Alpine Route from Tateyama Station to Ogizawa Station. For return trips such as those between Tateyama Station and Kurobe Dam, about 8 to 9 hours is required. At peak periods, it may be better to set aside another 1-2 hours.

From JRRail :

Total trip time is about 2 hours for Ogizawa to Tateyama. But you will walk on the trail and enjoy alpine view and fresh air. Official site recommend to spend 6 hours for Ogizawa to Tateyama one way trip.



img-baggage02_newIf we were to do one way, we’ll need settle our 2 large size luggages. Luckily, baggage delivery is available at a reasonable cost. Since we’re planning to go from west to east (Toyama -> Nagano) the cheapest is ¥1300 to deliver luggages at Dentesu Toyoma on the first train 9:30 am (must be the first train..) and collect them at Shinano Omachi train station by 6 pm.

Pass, for night bus

For our return leg to Tokyo,  which probably would be a long distance somewhere from the western region of Japan, we might be able to save night accommodation by traveling overnight.  Willerexpress offers “Japan bus pass” to all non Japanese passport holder.


Choose any 3, 5, or 7 days within two months, and travel within Japan (excluding Hokkaido and Okinawa) with unlimited ride pass.

Bus within Nagano Prefecture –

Airport to Hakuba

Simplyscreenshot_2017-02-25-22-48-43-217.jpeg the most direct method to the ski resort, with 3 stops within the resort. Total 6 hours.

screenshot_2017-02-25-23-55-12-209For the fastest way and of course more expensive way, is to take the NEX (¥3020, 50 mins) -> Shinkansen (¥8300, 90mins) -> alpico (¥1800, 65 mins). Total about 4 hours.

Anotherscreenshot_2017-02-26-00-06-18-547 hybrid way, is to take bus from Shinjuku to Nagano. Cheaper by ¥5000 but slower by close to 3 hours.