Japan Transportation System

Transportation in Japan is modern and efficient, serving a population of over 100 million people.

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 Railway companies, once 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. Japanese trains are also famous for always being on time. Five stations (Shinjuku Station, Ikebukuro Station, Shibuya Station, Umeda Station, and Yokohama Station) serve more than 2 million passengers each on an average day, making Japan the most railway using nation per capita.

Total railways of 23,670.7 kms include entirely electrified 2,893.1 km of 1,435 mm standard gauge and 89.8 km of 1,372 mm narrow gauge, all of which is electrified. About the half of 20,656.8 km 1,067 mm gauge and 40 km of 762 mm gauge track are electrified.

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

Japan has 1,152,207 km of highways with 863,003 km (including 6,114 km of expressways) paved and 289,204 km of unpaved ways (1997 est.). A single network of high-speed, divided, limited-access toll roads connects major cities on Honshū, Shikoku and Kyūshū. Hokkaidō 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. The Japan Railways Group companies operates 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 ton-kilometers in 1990. The freight handled by motor vehicles, mainly trucks, in 1990, was over 6 billion tons, accounting for 90 percent of domestic freight tonnage and about 50 percent of ton-kilometers.

Japan has many airports. 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; other major traffic hubs include Osaka International Airport (Itami Airport), New Chitose Airport outside Sapporo, and Fukuoka Airport. There are an estimated 14 heliports in Japan.

The two main airlines are All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines. Other passenger carriers include Skymark Airlines, Skynet Asia Airways, Air Do and Star Flyer. United Airlines and 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.

Waterways are about 1,770 km; seagoing craft ply all coastal inland seas.

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

Japan has 662 ships of 1,000 GRT or over, totaling 13,039,488 GRT or 18,024,969 DWT. There are 146 bulk ships, 49 cargo, 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, 9 short-sea passenger, and 60 vehicle carriers.

Ferries connect Hokkaidō to Honshū, and Okinawa Island to Kyūshū and Honshū. They also connect other smaller islands and the main islands. 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 pipeline for crude oil, 322 km for petroleum products, and 1,800 km for natural gas.