Thursday, July 08, 2010

Da trains an' da transport in Japanland

As mentioned, our first train trip was from Narita to Tokyo, and I was so zonked after being awake for so long, I did not take in the trip well.

During a subsequent trip, and another after that, I realised just how fast Japan's trains are, even just suburban ones. I sat in what always seems to be a sideways seat, feeling the acceleration of the train. Ok driver, cut the power, you are going fast enough. No, the train just kept right on accelerating. I can't say the trains are as smooth as Melbourne, but boy do they hammer along. I would not be surprised if they get up to 100kmh, perhaps more between stations, especially the limited express trains.

This indicates to me that the tracks are very good, the staff well trained, signalling is good, there is a lack of cross tracks tracks or merging tracks. For Melburnians, almost every suburban station I noticed was around the size of South Yarra, some being more like Richmond.

The disadvantage of this is there is a good bit of walking involved to change trains, and sometimes changing stations at the same location due to two companies having trains servicing the same area. Invariably the change involves escalators, stairs or lifts. Ramps seem to be seldom used. Direction signs for changing, entering or exiting were very good in the areas we were in.

Tokyo does have touch card system, but it did not seem very popular. Mind you, we were only at Tokyo Station once and perhaps the travellers from there use it more. Most people seemed to have periodical tickets but many also paid as they went by buying their tickets from a machine. From this I suggest that all ways of paying are not very differently priced.

Stations were well staffed, as was pretty well every business in Japan. The numbers of staff per customer made it feel a bit third world, but of course it isn't. It is Japanese culture to give very good service.

I believe temporary immigrant workers are used in Japan, but for us, they were well hidden away.

We struggled enough with working out the train system, so we ignored the buses. From what I could see from the outside, there was little English used.

The taxis were first class and spotless, although some quite old. I amused to see plenty of Nissan Cedric cabs still running around.

Motor traffic was generally slow in greater Tokyo, but as much for there being so many traffic lights. We never saw huge bank ups of cars like we do in Melbourne. Japanese politeness extends to the roads.

I suggest that if you are literate in Japanese, unlike us most of we foreigners, you have a wonderful above ground and subway train system and you only have motor car because you earn enough money to have one, unlike your average Japanese.

Here are a couple of easy ideas Australia could pick up. Each station sign has in smaller text the preceding station and the next station. Such a cheap idea to implement and I found it ever so useful. The photo is not a great example. Most stations had a clearer sign.

While on the subway system from Ginza to Ueno, again I had no confidence that we were even going in the right direction. This helpful indicator reassured me. I snapped it with my phone. The indicator shows station names, direction of travel and which station you are at or have departed. Looking at the photo, we are travelling in a certain direction and about to stop, because the bar is red for the next station. There is a wealth of train information there.

And I have to add a quirk. When standing in a train, Japanese people face out of the train, not inwards. If they are standing at a door, they move close to the door and look out, even if there is nothing to see, such as on the subway system. That is when they are not using their mobile phones for whatever reason. No one dares to speak on a mobile phone in public.


  1. Trust me to catch on the last item only, but no one speaks on their phone? So there's no version of the old: "Hi Shaz. Yeah I'm on my way home now. No, I said I'm on the train on my way home. Yeah! What are you cooking for tea? Righto. I'll see you in a couple of minutes then." ? That's freaky... What about iPods, anyone listen to their iPod way too loud?

  2. All quiet Mutant. Only once to I hear music from buds and unlike in Melbourne, it worked when I snapped around to see who the offender was and he then lowered the volume.