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Public transport in Japan - statistics & facts

The Japanese public transport system is of crucial importance; it ties together cities and metropolitan areas by connecting businesses with labor sources and households with offices or retail, restaurants and other places of employment and entertainment. Public transportation is an essential aspect of the country’s economy, providing mobility for the entire population.

Japanese prefer railway transportation

Railways are the country’s main method of passenger transport, allowing commuters fast and frequent access to and between major cities and metropolitan areas. Shinkansen, or bullet trains, are high-speed trains, which connect the country from the northern island of Hokkaido to the southern parts of Kyushu. With few exceptions, Shinkansen trains run on entirely separate lines from their commuter train counterparts.
High capacity rapid transit lines link Japan’s suburban areas with its urban centers, allowing individuals to move away from the hustling and bustling city centers to more spacious and affordable accommodation in the outskirts. Japan’s metropolitan areas are notorious for their packed trains during rush hour, commuters in Tokyo in particular face exceptionally cramped train lines when going to and coming from work in the country’s capital.

What are other common modes of public transportation in Japan?

While passenger rail transport is well developed, Japan’s road network is considered insufficient for the number of vehicles in the country due to a high population density and a limited amount of available land usable for road construction. Moreover, the streets of Japan’s major cities are usually narrow, with parking options that are both sparse and expensive. While mini-sized cars, so-called kei cars, are the domestic automotive industry’s response to full mobility in a constrained space, most people rely on public transport or bicycles to get around on a day-to-day basis.
Public buses in Japan usually serve a minor role, primarily transporting bus passengers to and from train stations. Exceptions are long-distance bus services, airport bus services, and buses in areas poorly served by rail transport. Taxi services perform a similar role by supplementing the rail system, especially after midnight when most rail lines cease to operate.
The Japanese archipelago naturally also depends on maritime transportation. Ferries connect not only the four main islands, but also create links between smaller islands and the country’s main harbors. While waterway passenger transportation is predominantly used for domestic travel, aviation is the most common way of traveling abroad. Japan’s main international gateways for passengers are Narita International Airport and Kansai International Airport, while the country’s main domestic hub is Tokyo International Airport (Haneda Airport). With over 85 million reported passengers boarding or exiting planes in 2019, Haneda Airport is ranked the world's fifth largest airport in terms of passenger traffic.

Interesting statistics

In the following 6 chapters, you will quickly find the 31 most important statistics relating to "Public transportation in Japan".


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