Forget Bullet Trains: This 168-Stop Bus Cruise Is Japan’s Best Kept Travel Secret

Japan is renowned for its high-speed bullet trains, but a humble bus route reigns supreme when it comes to distance covered on local roads. The Yagi-Shingu bus line claims the title of Japan’s longest local bus journey without using any highways.

This epic ride covers an astounding 167 kilometers (103 miles) and makes a staggering 168 stops along the way, with the full trek taking approximately 6.5 hours to complete from start to finish.


The Route

Travelers embarking on this marathon bus ride begin their odyssey at Yamato Yagi Station in Nara Prefecture.

From this starting point, the bus traverses the scenic landscapes of both Nara and Wakayama Prefectures, winding its way through mountains, forests, and traditional villages.

After hours of unhurried rural travel, the bus ultimately reaches its final destination at Shingu Station in Wakayama Prefecture.

However, this full route is only operated three times per day, so careful planning is a must for those looking to experience the complete journey.

Highlights Along the Way

Part of the charm of the Yagi-Shingu bus line is the opportunity to disembark and explore fascinating stops en route. At Gojo Bus Center, riders can sample regional delicacies like the delectable kakinoha-zushi (persimmon leaf sushi).

Those seeking relaxation can get off at Hotel Subaru and indulge in the rejuvenating waters of its natural hot spring baths.

For a taste of rural tranquility, a stop at the tiny mountain village of Totsukawa offers a glimpse into a Japan of yesteryear.

Perhaps the biggest highlight is the chance to hike a portion of the ancient Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trails, allowing visitors to follow in the footsteps of countless spiritual travelers throughout history.

The Experience

The Yagi-Shingu bus encapsulates the essence of slow, immersive travel through rural Japan.

Riders are treated to a delightfully unhurried pace, with veteran bus drivers even using an empty can on the dashboard to ensure the journey remains smooth around each serpentine mountain curve.

Adventurers can choose to take on the full 6.5-hour odyssey or hop on and off at different stages to explore at their leisure.

For those daring enough to complete the entire 167-kilometer route in one sitting, the cost is a reasonable ¥5,350 (around $37 USD).

The New Express Option

In 2022, an exciting new option was introduced for visitors seeking a bit more haste – the Yamakaze express bus.

This accelerated service skips a remarkable 77 stops, shaving a full 35 minutes off the transit time to the ever-popular Totsukawa Onsen hot spring town.

While slightly shorter at 163 kilometers, the Yamakaze route is still recognized as the second longest local bus line in Japan after Hokkaido’s 165.5-kilometer Kushiro-Rausu route.

Fear not, purists – riders of the express bus are still eligible to receive a commemorative certificate for completing the full Yagi-Shingu journey.

Yagi-Shingu Bus

The Yagi-Shingu bus presents an unparalleled opportunity to veer off the beaten path and intimately experience the authentic rural charm of Japan’s Nara and Wakayama prefectures.

In an era where sleek bullet trains grab global attention, this humble yet extraordinary bus route reminds us to appreciate the simple joys of a meandering journey through unspoiled landscapes.

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