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Tokyo Transportation

Road

Heavy traffic congestion tends to make travelling by car in Japans urban areas a slow and frustrating experience. Expressway toll roads link the main cities but tolls are expensive at approximately ¥30 per kilometre. Fortunately, excellent public transport makes driving in and between cities unnecessary. Hiring a car can, however, be an excellent way to explore the remoter country areas. Driving in Japan is not as daunting as might be expected: drivers are generally disciplined and courteous and major signs are in both Japanese and English.

Traffic drives on the left and the wearing of seatbelts is compulsory. Both a national driving licence and an International Driving Permit are required. Parking can be difficult to find and is a major expense in cities and larger towns. The speed limit outside built-up areas is 50kph (31mph), 80kph (50mph) on expressways. In built-up areas the speed limit is usually 40kph (25mph). Driving after having consumed any amount of alcohol is illegal and penalties are severe.

The Japan Automobile Federation (JAF; tel: (03) 34 26 24 54; web site: www.jaf.or.jp), provides an English-language Rules of the Road booklet, and JAF Road Service offers 24-hour breakdown assistance for both members and non-members. Should you be involved in an accident you must inform the police (tel: 110).

Emergency breakdown services:
JAF 8139

Routes to the city: Tokyo is linked by the Tomei-Meishin expressway to Kobe, via Nagoya, Kyoto and Osaka, by the Tohoku expressway to northern Japan, and by the Chuo expressway to Nagano and Nagoya.

Driving times to Tokyo: from Nagano - 3 hours 30 minutes; from Sendai - 4 hours; from Nagoya - 5 hours; from Osaka - 7 hours. Note that actual driving times can vary widely depending on traffic conditions.

Coach services: A number of companies together offer a comprehensive network of long-distance bus services. Comfortable overnight coaches with reclining seats leave late in the evening and arrive at their destination early the following morning. Coaches leave from terminals outside Shinjuku and Tokyo stations and bookings can be made at Japan Travel Bureau (JTB; tel: (03) 56 20 95 00) offices all over the city or at large railway stations.

Rail

Japans extensive Japan Railways (JR) rail network provides outstandingly efficient and punctual services and (other than at rush hour and on public holidays) is a pleasure to use. Trains in the Tokyo area and northern Japan are operated by JR East (tel: (03) 34 23 01 11; web site: www.jreast.co.jp), while the Shinkansen bullet trains on the Tokaido line between Tokyo and Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka and Fukuoka are operated by JR Central (tel: (03) 58 18 35 10; web site: www.jr-central.co.jp).

Tokyo has several major train stations, with Tokyo Station being the citys central hub, and Ikebukuro, Shibuya, Shinjuku and Ueno stations serving the suburbs. In addition to the JR network, there are a number of private rail companies operating commuter trains to Tokyos suburbs and an extensive and convenient network of underground lines.All but the smallest stations have coin lockers and newspaper/snack kiosks.

Shinkansen bullet trains and selected express services offer both reserved and non-reserved seats. Some trains also offer first-class green car seats. Reservations for Shinkansen bullet trains and long-distance express services on and around national holidays should be made well in advance.

Long-distance rail travel is expensive, however, the Japan Railways Rail Pass can offer outstanding value for money for those planning to make extensive use of the rail network. It allows unlimited trav