Sunday, April 5, 2009

{ things I love about Japan #3 }


I admit, the rail system can be pretty confusing but once you get a vague understanding you’re off! Besides its immense size, and sheer number of rail companies the system is really faultless - efficient + clean.

Some personal favourite subway moments:

* English information on board for every station - what lines intersect with each station, which side of the train the doors will open on, what the next stop is, what line you’re on, etc

* Heaters in the seats. So great on a cold day, not sure if they’re cooled in summer but I wouldn’t be surprised.

* Route finders - not in all stations we but we made great use of the one in Shinjuku. It’s a touch screen monitor and you type in where you are going from and to and it will give you a selection of routes on the screen. Select the one that suits best and print it out to take with you. It gives you departure time, rail company, platform number and price!

* Okay time for my favourite! Besides the information above, the voiceovers tell you to ‘not talk on your mobile phone near the restricted seats (for the elderly, pregnant, less mobile, etc), turn your phone to silent and refrain from talking on the phone on the train at all’.

Absolute bliss! In 10 days I recall hearing 2 mobile phones ringing and only once on public transport and when the phone did ring the owner nearly jumped out of their skin with embarrassment. Not once did we have to sit through someone telling someone their most intimate secrets at the top of their lungs.

Don’t imagine that phones weren’t being used, quite the contrary as I think we were practically the only ones not texting or playing a game. It’s just that everyone has a great respect for others and culturally putting others before yourself is the norm so disrupting other people is frowned upon.

A note for those using a Japan Rail Pass - you can use your pass on all JR trains within Tokyo, not just to get around Japan as a whole. There were only a couple of trips we used other rail networks and therefore had to buy tickets. The Pass can also be used between Narita Airport and the city (approx JPY3500 which was about AUD55 when we were there if you buy it as a stand alone ticket).

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