Japan has a comprehensive network of long-distance buses. They're nowhere near as fast as the shinkansen, but a lot cheaper. Buses also travel routes that trains don't.
Japan Railways (JR) operates the largest network of highway buses in Japan; it tends to be a little pricier than other operators, but is reliable and buses tend to depart and arrive at train stations rather than bus stops elsewhere in the city. You can purchase these tickets from JR train stations.
Cheaper operators with large networks include Willer Express, which offers three-/four-/five-day bus passes. You can book seats on Willer and other buses through the company's Japan Bus Lines service (http://japanbuslines.com).
There are some truly bargain bus deals out there, but note that, while the government has been cracking down, cheaper operators have been known to skirt safety regulations (by overworking their drivers).
Typical long-distance one-way fares and travel times out of Tokyo include the following. Early booking often offers discounts; prices usually rise on weekends.
|Destination||Fare (¥)||Duration (hr)|
Night buses are a good option for those on a tight budget without a Japan Rail Pass. They are relatively cheap and spacious – depending on how much you are willing to pay – and they also save on a night's accommodation. They typically leave at around 10pm or 11pm and arrive the following day at around 6am or 7am.