The nearest and most convenient airport to Okazaki is Centrair, located on a manmade island just off the coast of Tokoname City in Ise Bay. The new airport considerably increases the number of direct flights into Nagoya. It is of course possible to reach Okazaki from other major airports such as Narita (Tokyo) or Kansai (Osaka) by using the train system.
To get to or from Nagoya airport you can either use the airport bus that departs from JR Okazaki and Meitetsu Higashi Okazaki. The airport bus is clearly marked, and for 1750 yen will deliver you via the Tomei expressway to the domestic or international terminals. The trip takes approximately 80 minutes (allow more during peak hour or holiday seasons). You do not need a reservation for the bus, and as Okazaki is the starting point you will always obtain a seat. The bus departs approximately once per 90 minutes, check the timetable at JR Okazaki or Meitetsu Higashi Okazaki.
An alternative to the bus from Okazaki (useful during peak travel seasons such as Golden Week, Obon, and New Year when the expressway is often congested) is to take a train from JR Okazaki or Meitetsu Higashi Okazaki to Kanayama, and transfer there to an airport bus departing the Meitetsu Bus Center. In peak seasons this is faster (and slightly cheaper), though if you have a lot of luggage it is difficult to make the transfer.
3 train lines service Okazaki. These are the JR Tokaido line, the Meitetsu Honsen, and the Aichi Kanjo Line. The trains are clean, frequent and easy to use for inter-city travel. They are not quite as useful for intra-city though, for this you need to use the bus system. The two major stations are the JR Okazaki station (which is also the terminus of the Aichi Kanjo Line) and the Meitetsu Higashi Okazaki station. Another station that you may use is Naka Okazaki, a small station near Okazaki Castle and the Haccho Miso factory that is useful as a place for changing between the Meitetsu and Aichi Kanjo lines.
JR - The main Tokaido line traverses Okazaki. For those living in the south of the city, it is the most useful line for travelling to Nagoya or Toyohashi or connecting with the Shinkansen lines. The area around JR Okazaki is a little run down due to reconstruction, but has excellent bus links. A ticket to JR Nagoya from JR Okazaki costs 620 yen.
Meitetsu - The Meitetsu Honsen passes through the middle of Okazaki and is the most useful line for those living in the center or north of the city. The Meitetsu bus center at Meitetsu Higashi Okazaki station is the main hub for the bus network, and the area around the station has many shops and bars. A ticket to Shin-Nagoya from Higashi Okazaki costs 660 yen.
Aichi Kanjo - This smaller line opened in 1988 and connects Okazaki with Toyota and Seto in the north. Trains are less frequent (about once per half hour), but it is the best way to get to locations such as the Toyota Production Plants in and around Toyota. In 2005, the Aichi Kanjo Line was the best public transportation to the World Expo site in Seto.
Shinkansen - Although the shinkansen line traverses Okazaki, there is no station. If you live in the south of Okazaki you can easily connect to the shinkansen at Toyohashi, Mikawa Anjo or Nagoya using JR Okazaki station. If Meitetsu Higashi Okazaki station is more convenient to you than JR, connect to the shinkansen at Toyohashi or Nagoya. For domestic travel, using the shinkansen is more convenient than flying for most destinations.
Short term visitors should get Japan Rail Pass if they want to travel to locations besides Okazaki. This is a service that JR railways provides exclusively for overseas tourists. It is quite useful as all Japan Rail pass holders are able to travel on most bullet train and local services within Japan upon receiving it.
The two major bus services are operated by Meitetsu and JR (using the respective stations as hubs). When you get on a bus use the rear door to enter, and take a ticket (which will have a 1 or 2 digit number written on it) from the machine next to the steps. The only time you don't take a ticket is when you are boarding a bus at the beginning of the route. Above the driver you will see an electronic panel. Look at the number on your ticket, and then at the panel. As the bus proceeds along its route, the fares will be updated after each stop (at the same time that an announcement in Japanese will be made of the name of the next stop, and what shops, businesses etc the next stop is convenient for). When you hear the name of your stop announced, press the "stop" button. If you Japanese language skills are limited, the best bet is to sit at the front of the bus (on the left) and tell the driver your destination - they are a friendly bunch and will let you know when you have arrived.
To pay for your fare, place the ticket and exact change into the machine to the driver's left. If you do not have exact change, please note that there will be a machine providing change (up to 1000 yen notes). It's best to change your money before you reach your destination, so as to not inconvenience other passengers. If you are using a route on a regular basis, it is possible to buy discount tickets and pre-paid cards at the major stations.
Japan has one of the most widespread and convenient rail systems in the world but there are many occasions when even the train can't take you where you want to go. When this happens, and the trusty bicycle is not an option then you have to take to the road in a car or on a motorbike.
The first thing you'll notice is that the Japanese drive on the left side of the road. For people who come from Australia, UK, and many other countries in the region this poses no problems, but for everybody else this can take time to get used to. Driving in Japan is generally very safe and the majority of drivers are careful and courteous though you have to be constantly on the look out for cyclists with a deathwish when turning left at traffic lights.
Driving in Japan can be quite expensive for a number of reasons. The price of gasoline is higher than the US and is on a par with prices in Europe. Toll expressways in Japan can be costly unless there is a group of you to split the cost between (a trip from Okazaki to Tokyo costs almost 7000 Yen) but have the advantage of being more direct and less congested than regular roads. Major road signs are in English as well as Japanese so it is easy to find your way around on the major roads, but all Japanese maps use Kanji for the place names (no furigana) so if you plan to travel around Japan by car or motorbike it would be a good idea to get hold of a bilingual map of Japan (these can be obtained from any international bookstore such as Maruzen in Nagoya or from internet book stores such as Amazon.com).
Cars can be rented with the relevant license, your passport and a credit card. Again car hire can be expensive but if the cost is split between three or four people then it can work out much cheaper than going by train. Car rental runs from around 8,000 yen per day depending on the type of car and the type of car insurance chosen.
At busy times and in large metropolitan areas driving is best avoided and most people take the train. In smaller cities such as Okazaki it is wise to leave your car at home if you intend to travel during rush hours (7.30-9.00am and 4.30-6.30pm). An alternative to the car, and one which is not only cheaper but in some cases quicker than travel by car is to travel by motorbike.
Scooters (gendoukitsukidensha - or gentsuki for short), are the preferred mode of transport for many young Japanese because they are cheap to run, and often more convenient than a car to use. You can buy a second hand scooter cheaply (from 30,000-70,000 Yen depending on the year and type of model) and if you already have an International Drivers License or a Japanese Driving License then you're ready to go. No special insurance is needed for a scooter up to 50cc.
Rules of the road
You are unlikely to exceed 40kmh on a regular basis but for the rare times that this occurs a knowledge of the speed limits can be useful. The speed limit in residential areas is 40kmh (though this can vary depending on the place) and on the expressways is usually 100kmh, sometimes 80kmh. Whilst many drivers do exceed these limits there are police patrols and hidden cameras (especially on the expressways) that keep a check on speeding vehicles. A speeding ticket in Japan will normally result in a large fine (10-20,000 yen) or in some cases a temporary loss of your license.
Drinking and driving in Japan is not tolerated and the drink-drive level is zero percent. Even a glass of wine or a beer can result in heavy fines or the loss of your license if you are stopped and checked. If you cause an accident you may lose your license permanently.
To drive a car in Japan you must be 18 years or over and for a moped/scooter or motorcycle it is 16 and above.
For most foreign residents of Okazaki, bicycles are the easiest and most common form of transport. Cheap, reliable, healthy etc, for journeys of 15 minutes or less they are usually also faster than the alternatives.
Bicycle registration - a bicycle should be registered in your name. Ask the shop to do this for you. If you are buying a second hand bicycle from another foreigner, ask for the registration papers and then visit a shop and have it re-registered.
Road rules - are the same as for cars, though wherever a sidewalk does exist you should use it. There are some bicycle lanes beside major thoroughfares such as Route 248, please use them and be aware of pedestrians.
Bike lights/profiling by police - when riding a bicycle at night you are required to have a light (at front). Please be aware that the chances of local police stopping you (and asking for proof of registration, identification etc) are much higher if you don't have a light affixed - a nuisance if you are running late. Even if you have a bicycle light, random checks are not unusual, so make sure the bike is registered in your name and that you have identification (or your alien registration card if you are a resident) on your person whenever riding.
Taxi fares are a little expensive, but are extremely useful at times. Flagging a cab is not as easy as it could be, so its often best to take a cab from a taxi rank such as those at JR Okazaki station, Meitetsu Higashi Okazaki station, the AEON Shopping Center etc, or book one by telephone. If language is a barrier, please note that hotels, restaurants and most businesses will usually be willing to call a taxi for you. The main taxi companies are:
Meitetsu Okazaki Taxi
Sidewalks in Okazaki are often shared by pedestrians with bicyclists. Usually there will be markings on the bitumen if a bicycle lane is designated. On streets too narrow for sidewalks, walk on the right hand side of the road wherever possible (ie against the flow of traffic). As a general rule Japanese drivers are fairly bicycle/pedestrian conscious, however please be aware that because of traffic conditions and tight corners it is sometimes difficult for drivers to see you - so its a good idea to look over your should before crossing a road. At night it is often a good idea to carry a small torch to make it easier for drivers to spot you.
Hitching a lift is not common in Japan and is not encouraged, particularly for single female travellers.