Catching a city bus in Japan can be confusing for any non Japanese speaking person. As the bus system is mainly used by locals, all of the signs on the bus may be only written in Japanese. In contrast, the subway system does use a mixture of both Japanese and English, hence the reason why the subway is favoured by tourists.
The majority of bus companies in Japan are privately owned with the one exception being Tokyo’s Toei bus. The Toei bus operates differently to most other lines, and you are charged 200 yen per ride when you board the bus, instead of paying a distance based fare. The Toei bus is convenient for most metropolitan parts of Tokyo.
The way most private buses work in most parts of Japan is you get on at the rear door of the bus and collect a ticket from a machine. When you want to get off the bus you proceed to the front door where you place your ticket in a machine next to the driver, this calculates the fare depending on how many stops you have travelled, you then pay the driver the fare displayed on the screen.
In larger cities like Tokyo or Osaka, there is remarkably little need for many tourists to use a bus as the train system is fast and has stations just about everywhere you may want to go. Once you are out into the suburbs or even if visiting smaller towns you may have no choice but to tackle using the bus, but at least there will be plenty to see once you are on your way. A good tip would be to have a map and keep an eye on where you are going to avoid getting lost.