Transportation Overview

The History of Vehicles in Japan

Image of a palanquin
Photo:A palanquin

Vehicles in Japan have a long history, starting with human-powered baskets and rickshaws, some of the most primitive forms of transportation.
Later, vehicles powered by animals such as horses and cows were developed.

Because Japan is an island nation, the technology of ships was especially prevalent, and during the WW2 era, Japan built the largest battleship ever seen, the "Yamato."

Even today, Japan is a leader in advanced automotive technology, with many of the world's most popular automobile manufacturers.
The "HondaJet," a small business jet, and the new maglev train scheduled to start operating in 2027, are likely to change the future of transportation.

When visiting Japan, there are many places where you can experience vehicles unique to Japan.

Popular Vehicles in Japan [Cars & Automobiles]

Image of a Nissan vehicle

Japanese cars and automobiles are mainstreamed in Japan's tourism industry, including buses, taxis, and rental cars, but Japanese cars are loved around the world for their high quality.
There are many other Japanese car manufacturers in addition to the world-famous major car manufacturers such as Toyota, Nissan, Honda, and Mazda.

Popular Vehicles in Japan [Motorcycles]

Image of a Suzuki motorcycle
Photo:A Suzuki motorcycle

Like automobiles, Japanese motorcycle brands are popular all over the world.
The four major Japanese motorcycle manufacturers are Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, and Kawasaki, all of which have a global fan base.
The Super Cub, sold by Honda since 1958, is one of the world's most popular motorcycles, with total global production exceeding 100 million units.

Popular Vehicles in Japan [Buses]

Image of a city bus
Photo:City bus

Bus tours allow you to see the scenery of Japanese cities while sightseeing.
There are many bus tours for foreign tourists, and you can easily get around Japan's sightseeing spots.
If you purchase an unlimited-ride ticket, you can get on and off the bus at any place you want, so you can enjoy sightseeing according to your own plan.
Please note that payment methods vary by region.

Popular Vehicles in Japan [Taxis]

In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of taxis that offer tours of cities in various languages.
In addition to providing city tours, they may also provide information on history and events, and introduce you to hidden tourist spots that you won't be able to find in a guidebook.

Popular Vehicles in Japan [Rickshaw]

Image of a rickshaw

You can enjoy rickshaw rides in Asakusa, Kamakura, and other tourist spots with rich Japanese history, and you can enjoy a memorable experience unique to Japan.

Popular Vehicles in Japan [Yakatabune]

You can also enjoy dining on a yakatabune, a boat derived from Japanese aristocratic culture, and visit popular tourist destinations.
Tours to learn about traditional Japanese culture and history are also popular, and you can enjoy a different view of Japan from the sea or rivers than you can by walking the streets.

Popular Vehicles in Japan [Rental Cars]

If you have a driver's license that is valid in Japan, you can drive or rent a car in Japan.
In this way, you can enjoy sightseeing at your own pace.

Popular Vehicles in Japan [Public Road Carts]

Image of a public road cart
Photo:Public road cart

Public road carts are just like go-karts at amusement parks, but with directional indicators and headlights, and they are able to run on public roads.
They became popular when tourists to Japan posted pictures of themselves in cosplay costumes on social networking sites.
Using these public road carts, you can drive around cities such as Shibuya and Akihabara.

Popular Vehicles in Japan [Shinkansen]

Shinkansen (bullet trains) are the main form of long-distance travel within Japan.
You can also make reservations online from abroad, making it very convenient when traveling.

Popular Vehicles in Japan [Trains, Subways & Steam Locomotives]

Image of the Hanzomon Line
Photo:Hanzomon Line

The most surprising thing for visitors to Japan is the punctuality of the trains and subways.
You can enjoy sightseeing in Japan at a relatively low price, and also be on time!

Popular Vehicles in Japan [Airplane]

Almost every major city in Japan has an airport.
In recent years, low-cost carriers (LCCs) have increased their routes, making it possible to travel long distances within Japan at low prices.

Popular Vehicles in Japan [Carriages and Palanquins]

In some places in Japan, you can enjoy horse drawn carriages and palanquins, which were used as the main form of transportation in Japan in ancient times.
There are also tours that will take you to some of Japan's most popular tourist attractions, so you might see something different if you take a ride on one of Japan's historical transportation systems.

Popular Vehicles in Japan [Ropeways, Lifts & Gondolas]

Image of Amanohashidate​ cable car & lift
Photo:Amanohashidate​ cable car & lift

Some mountainous and small mountain attractions have ropeways, lifts and gondolas.
It's a great way to save time and enjoy a more comfortable trip than walking.

Popular Vehicles in Japan [Elevators & Escalators]

Most high-rise buildings in Japan are equipped with elevators and escalators.
Please be aware when using them, as different regions and locations have their own etiquette. One example is that in Tokyo, people stand on the left side when using an escalator, whereas in Osaka, people stand on the right.

Popular Vehicles in Japan [Bicycles]

In some tourist areas, bicycles can be rented out to tourists.
It's a great way to see the sights at your own pace without being tied down by time.

Popular Vehicles in Japan [Maglev Train]

The Chuo Shinkansen is a maglev train line currently under development with a goal of opening by 2027.
It is planned to connect Shinagawa to Nagoya in 40 minutes.
In Yamanashi Prefecture, there is a facility where you can see and experience the maglev train under development.

COOL JAPAN VIDEOS is a site that introduces the charms of Japan through popular videos related to Japanese vehicles!