Travelling from one place to another may seem daunting at first, especially when you do not speak the language of that country. For first-time travelers to Japan, here is a brief and simplified guide on how to get from the capital, Tokyo, to one of the more rural areas, Akita.
- By plane (from Haneda Airport)
Domestic air travel in Japan is one of the most expensive, but quickest ways, to get from one point to another. In Japan there are two main airlines: ANA (All Nippon Airways) and JAL (Japan Airlines). ANA provides five flights a day from Tokyo to Akita; departure times are 7:55, 9:55, 13:45, 17:40, 20:15, respectively. A round-trip ticket usually costs 24,890 yen, while a regular one-way ticket costs 27,890 yen. Special discounted fares known as tokuwari are available, which range between 17,490 to 18,490 yen.
JAL on the other hand, provides four flights a day, each departing at 7:25, 11:20, 15:15, and 18:55. The prices for a roundtrip ticket and one-way ticket are the same as ANA, while their special discounted fares can cost a little more, between 17,490 to 19,490 yen. Both airlines also offer special discounts for purchases made 28 days or 21 days in advance (tabiwari 28 and tabiwari 21).
Flight duration is about 65 minutes. Coincidentally, AIU(Akita International University) is only 5 minutes by car from Akita Airport. Once you land in Akita, there are limousine buses running between the airport and Akita Station. It takes roughly 35 minutes to get to the city, and costs 930 yen one-way.
- By train
Trains are one of the most convenient and scenic modes of transport in Japan. Bullet trains, known as shinkansen, in particular are popular among travelers and train enthusiasts. The best way to get to Akita is to take the JR Akita Shinkansen “Komachi” from JR Tokyo Station. The ride is approximately 4 hours, with stops at Omagari, Kakunodate, Lake Tazawa, and Akita. The train runs hourly from 6 am to 8 pm, although some trains only operate on the weekends or on specified days, so it is important to check the timetable carefully.
For tourists, the JR (Japan Railways) East Pass is a good value deal, especially if you plan on visiting neighbouring areas in the Tohoku region. The pass is available for anyone holding a non-Japanese passport on a short-term or tourist visa, whose stay does not exceed 90 days. The price is 22,000 yen for adults 12 or over, and 11,000 for children, ages 6 to 11. This is a 5-day pass valid for any 5 days within a 14-day period, starting with the date of purchase. It allows unlimited rides on all JR East train lines, including shinkansen lines.
There are two ways of purchasing a JR East Pass. One way is to purchase an exchange order online in advance, which you can then redeem after your arrival in Japan. Another option is to purchase it in Japan at a travel service or information center that sells JR East Passes (Narita and Haneda Airport, or most JR East train stations). You will need to present your passport, but need not decide which days you will be travelling at this point.
- By overnight bus
Overnight buses are the cheapest ways to travel in Japan, although somewhat of a challenge if you are not used to them. Buses usually leave the night before between 7 to 10 pm, and arrive at your destination early the following morning. A few rest stops will be made along the journey, but otherwise the ride is very long.
Bus tickets between Tokyo and Akita can range anywhere from 3,900 yen to 9,000 yen, depending on the company and date of purchase. It typically takes eight and a half to ten hours to get to Akita from Tokyo. For first-time tourists, Willer Express is recommended, since their website is foreigner-friendly and they provide comfortable seats at reasonable prices.
Here are the major bus companies that offer routes between Tokyo and Akita, and their final destinations.
- Willer Express: Shinjuku – Yokote, Omagari, Akita
- Shuhoku Bus: Tokyo – Odate and Noshiro (Northern part of Akita)
- Akita Chuoukotsu: Shinjuku – Akita
Some bus companies can have very confusing bus stops, so be sure to check the location beforehand and arrive with plenty of time to spare. If you are travelling on a budget and do not mind getting a little lost, then night buses are for you.
* Flight times and prices may vary and are subject to change. Make sure to review each website when planning your trip.