If you’re planning your first visit to the Setouchi region from overseas, just the idea of traveling to your destination from your home country may feel overwhelming. While getting to Japan from Europe or America undoubtedly involves a long-haul flight, the good news is that your options to reach Setouchi from Japan’s international airports are quick and convenient. Here are some information and tips to reach various destinations in Setouchi stress-free.
Getting to Japan from Europe and America
The first step on your journey to Setouchi is to arrive at one of Japan’s three international airports, which all offer convenient access to destinations in Setouchi. These are Narita and Haneda International airports in the Tokyo area and Kansai International Airport near Osaka and Kyoto.
Fortunately, many of the major international airports in Europe and America have direct flights to these three Japanese airports, or at least flights requiring only one transfer. The table below lists several major airports in the U.S., the UK, France, and Germany, along with the estimated flight times and number of transfers between them and Japan.
Depending on what time your flight arrives in Japan, it may be necessary to stay overnight at a hotel upon arrival. You might also choose to take a rest and freshen up before the next leg of your journey. All three of Japan’s international airports have several hotels nearby, and even have hotels on-site (although Narita’s is a “capsule” hotel, not a standard room). Be sure to stay near the airport to avoid being stranded, because in Japan trains stop running around midnight or earlier.
Reaching Setouchi from the Major International Airports in Japan
Once you’ve landed in Japan, there are three main options to reach Setouchi efficiently: domestic flight, Shinkansen bullet train, or local train. The airport you arrive at and your final destination will strongly influence the choice that is best for you.
The following table gives you an estimate of the travel times between the major train stations and airports in each of Setouchi’s seven prefectures from Japan’s three international airports. These are just estimates of travel time and do not take into account the schedules by which the flights or trains operate.
Tips for Getting to Setouchi
While the idea of traveling within Japan may at first seem daunting, domestic travel to most places in Japan, including Setouchi, is actually convenient and straightforward. Here are some tips to make your travel within Japan easier and perhaps even save you some money.
Hint #1 Book a hotel near the airport.
Check your arrival and transit time in Japan in advance to decide if you will need or want to stay overnight in a hotel near the airport before traveling to Setouchi. You might also need to do the same on your return back home. Reserve your hotel room in advance to ensure a worry-free situation as you begin and end your holiday in Japan.
Hint #2 Use the Japan Rail Pass.
If you plan to travel around Setouchi by Shinkansen bullet train or visit other cities in Japan via Shinkansen, a Japan Rail Pass is nearly always a good deal. The Japan Rail Pass allows you to take the Shinkansen bullet train and other Japan Rail (JR) operated lines. You can find more information about the Japan Rail Pass online, including how to decide if the pass is right for your itinerary.
Hint #3 Rent a car.
Thanks to Setouchi’s geography of cities and islands connected by bridges, visitors can often drive a rental car around the Setouchi region. Hiroshima and Ehime prefectures, Okayama and Kagawa prefectures, and Hyogo and Tokushima prefectures are connected by bridges (expressways), so you can easily set the start and end points depending on the length of your trip. For example, it is possible to start in Yamaguchi Prefecture, visit Hiroshima, cross the Shimanami Sea Route to Ehime (Shikoku), Kagawa, and Tokushima Prefectures, and pass through Hyogo Prefecture.
Hint #4 Take a domestic flight to save time.
If your time is limited, consider taking domestic flights rather than trains. This is especially true if your destinations are on Shikoku, which cannot be directly accessed by bullet train. Or conclude your Japan trip by flying directly to your departure airport from one of the airports on Shikoku, which will save you a lot of time and maybe even an overnight stay in an airport hotel.
Given Japan’s modern and efficient railway infrastructure, you will find that domestic travel in Japan is easier than in many other countries in the world. With so many convenient options, don’t let the idea of traveling to Setouchi from your home country discourage you from experiencing the region’s incredible scenery and welcoming people.