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Transport in Japan

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Title: Transport in Japan  
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Transport in Japan

A JR East E5 series shinkansen train

Transportation in Japan is modern and highly developed. Japan's transportation sector stands out for its energy efficiency: it uses less energy per person compared to other countries, thanks to a high share of rail transportation and low overall travel distances.[1] Transportation in Japan is also very expensive in international comparison, reflecting high tolls and taxes, particularly on automobile transport.[2]

Japan's spending on roads has been large.[3] The 1.2 million kilometers of paved road are the main means of transportation.[4] Japan has left-hand traffic. A single network of high-speed, divided, limited-access toll roads connects major cities, which are operated by toll-collecting enterprises.

Dozens of Japanese railway companies compete in regional and local passenger transportation markets; for instance, seven JR Group companies, Kintetsu Corporation, Seibu Railway, and Keio Corporation. Often, strategies of these enterprises contain real estate or department stores next to stations. Some 250 high-speed Shinkansen trains connect major cities. All trains are known for punctuality.

There are 176 airports,[5] and the largest domestic airport, Haneda Airport, is Asia's busiest airport. The largest international gateways are Narita International Airport (Tokyo area), Kansai International Airport (Osaka/Kobe/Kyoto area), and Chūbu Centrair International Airport (Nagoya area). The largest ports include Nagoya Port.


  • Rail 1
  • Road 2
  • Air 3
  • Waterways 4
  • Pipelines 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Yamanote Line, Tokyo

In Japan, railways are a major means of passenger transportation, especially for mass and high-speed transport between major cities and for commuter transport in metropolitan areas. Seven Japan Railways Group companies, state-owned until 1987, cover most parts of Japan. There also are railway services operated by private rail companies, regional governments, and companies funded by both regional governments and private companies.

Total railways of 27,182 km include several track gauges, the most common of which is 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in) narrow gauge, with 22,301 km of track of which 15,222 km is electrified.[6]

Fukuoka, Kobe, Kyoto, Nagoya, Osaka, Sapporo, Sendai, Tokyo, and Yokohama have subway systems.

Most Japanese people traveled on foot until the later part of the 19th century. The first railway was built between Tokyo and Yokohama in 1872 and many more developed. Japan now has one of the world's most developed transportation networks. Mass transportation is well developed in Japan, but the road system lags behind and is inadequate for the number of cars. Road construction is difficult because of the high areas of population and the limited amount of usable land. Shinkansen are the high speed trains in Japan and they are known as bullet trains. About 250 Shinkansen trains operate daily. The fastest shinkansen trains are the JR East E5 and E6 series trains, which operate at a maximum speed of 320 km/h (200 mph). Shinkansen trains are known to be very punctual. A train is recorded as late if it does not arrive at the specified time. In 2003, the average delay per train on the Tokaido Shinkansen was 6 seconds.[7]


Mount Fuji seen from the Chuo Expressway

According to Japan Statistical Yearbook 2011, Japan has approximately 1,203,600 km of roads made up of 1,012,000 km of city, town and village roads, 129,000 km of prefectural roads, 55,000 km of general national highways and 7,600 km of national expressways.[8] The Foreign Press Center/Japan cites a total length of expressways at 7,641 km (fiscal 2008).[9] A single network of high-speed, divided, limited-access toll roads connects major cities on Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu. Hokkaido has a separate network, and Okinawa Island has a highway of this type. In the year 2005, the toll collecting companies, formerly Japan Highway Public Corporation, have been transformed into private companies in public ownership, and there are plans to sell parts of them. The aim of this policy is to encourage competition and decrease tolls.

Road passenger and freight transport expanded considerably during the 1980s as private ownership of motor vehicles greatly increased along with the quality and extent of the nation's roads. Bus companies including the JR Bus companies operate long-distance bus service on the nation's expanding expressway network. In addition to relatively low fares and deluxe seating, the buses are well utilized because they continue service during the night, when air and train service is limited.

The cargo sector grew rapidly in the 1980s, recording 274.2 billion tonne-kilometres in 1990. The freight handled by motor vehicles, mainly trucks, in 1990, was over 6 billion tonnes, accounting for 90 percent of domestic freight tonnage and about 50 percent of tonne-kilometres.

Recent large infrastructure projects were the construction of the Great Seto Bridge and the Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line (opened 1997).

Although road fatalities have been decreasing due in part to stricter enforcement of drink driving laws, 2004 still saw 7,358 deaths on Japanese roads.


Japan currently (2012) has 98 airports.[10] The main international gateways are Narita International Airport (Tokyo area), Kansai International Airport (Osaka/Kobe/Kyoto area), and Chūbu Centrair International Airport (Nagoya area). The main domestic hub is Tokyo International Airport (Haneda Airport), Asia's busiest airport and the world's 4th busiest airport; other major traffic hubs include Osaka International Airport, New Chitose Airport outside Sapporo, and Fukuoka Airport. 14 heliports are estimated to exist (1999).

The two main airlines are Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways. Other passenger carriers include Skymark Airlines, Skynet Asia Airways, Air Do, Star Flyer and Fuji Dream Airlines. United Airlines and Delta Air Lines, formerly Northwest Airlines, are major international operators from Narita Airport.

Domestic air travel in Japan has historically been highly regulated. From 1972, the three major domestic airlines (JAL, ANA, and JAS) were allocated certain routes, with JAL and ANA sharing trunk routes, and ANA and JAS sharing local feeder routes. JAL also had a flag-carrier monopoly on international routes until 1986. Airfares were set by the government until 2000, although carriers had freedom to adjust the standard fares starting in 1995 (when discounts of up to 50% were permitted). Today, fares can be set by carriers, but the government retains the ability to veto fares that are impermissibly high.


There are 1770 km of waterways in Japan; seagoing craft ply all coastal inland seas.

The twenty-two major seaports designated as special important ports by Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism include Chiba, Fushiki/Toyama, Himeji, Hiroshima, Kawasaki, Kitakyūshū, Kobe, Kudamatsu, Muroran, Nagoya, Niigata, Osaka, Sakai/Senpoku, Sendai/Shiogama, Shimizu, Shimonoseki, Tokyo, Tomakomai, Wakayama, Yokkaichi, and Yokohama.

Japan has 662 ships with a volume of 1,000 gross register tons (GRT) or over, totaling 13,039,488 gross register tons (GRT) or 18,024,969 tonnes deadweight (DWT). There are 146 bulk ships, 49 cargo ships, 13 chemical tankers, 16 combination bulk, 4 with combination of ore and oil, 25 container, 45 liquefied gas, 9 passenger, 2 passenger and cargo combination ships, 214 petroleum tankers, 22 refrigerated cargo, 48 roll-on/roll-off ships, 9 short-sea passenger, and 60 vehicle carriers (1999 est.).

Ferries connect Hokkaido to Honshu, and Okinawa Island to Kyushu and Honshu. They also connect other smaller islands and the main islands. The scheduled international passenger routes are to China, Russia, South Korea and Taiwan. Coastal and cross-channel ferries on the main islands decreased in routes and frequencies following the development of bridges and expressways but some are still operating (as of 2007).


Japan has 84 km of pipelines for crude oil, 322 km for petroleum products, and 1,800 km for natural gas.


  1. ^ Phillip Y. Lipscy and Lee Schipper, "Energy Efficiency in the Japanese Transport Sector", 2013, Energy Policy 56:248–258
  2. ^ Phillip Y. Lipscy, "A Casualty of Political Transformation? The Politics of Japanese Energy Efficiency in the Transportation Sector", 2012. Journal of East Asian Studies 12:3
  3. ^ Japan's Road to Deep Deficit Is Paved With Public Works, New York Times in 1997
  4. ^ Chapter 9 Transport, Statistical Handbook of Japan
  5. ^ [1] The CIA World Factbook
  6. ^ The CIA World Factbook
  7. ^ The Japan Times: "Tokaido Shinkansen Line fetes 40 years" (2 October 2004). Retrieved on 27 April 2009.
  8. ^ Chapter 12 Transport - Microsoft Excel Sheet, Statistical Handbook of Japan
  9. ^ Facts and Figures of Japan, 14: Transport, Foreign Press Center/Japan
  10. ^ [2]

External links

  • Hyperdia - Travel planning tool supporting English and Japanese
  • Jorudan - Travel planning tool supporting English and Japanese
  • Toei Transportation Information - English information on Toei bus, subway, and trolley services and multilingual maps
  • Domestic aviation in Japan: Responding to market forces amid regulatory constraints
  • Japan Automobile Research Institute (JARI)
  • Roads In Japan, from Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) - English and Japanese website, link refers specifically to 5 PDF chapters - as well as a reference chapter - on road history, statistics, maps, construction and advanced road technologies in Japan (graphics throughout, 41 total pages).
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