Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Japan Trip IX: Public Transportation

I feel like a full third of my waking time in Japan was spent on the train system. And while I think I could have possibly found my way home if I got lost somehow (depending on where I got lost), I'm grateful that Lindsay was able to navigate is through all the stops, switches, and transfers to get where we needed to go.

How non-Japanese speakers get about in Tokyo is beyond me.

That said, the trains were incredibly convenient. Tokyo and the surrounding cities are massive, yet with a few train stops it seems like you can find yourself within walking distance from anywhere you might want to go.

The trains and train stations are very well-kept, too. I don't have a whole lot of experience with other train stations, but other people in our group compared the Japanese stations very favorably to the US ones, and I have to admit that they did seem very clean.

This was particularly interesting, since there were very few garbage cans around. There were maybe some recycling bins near vending machines, but those were often specifically for the types of things you'd get out of those machines: drink bottles, cans, and the like.

In fact, trash cans were rare no matter where you were, yet you rarely saw trash in the streets either. Clearly Japan has an incredible grasp of its trash production.

Anyway, traveling by train was fairly cheap, and you paid by loading up a card called a Passmo card. You would use this card to enter a station and again when you left at your destination. The system would calculate your fare by figuring out where you entered and where you left, then deduct from the card accordingly. Very handy! Plus, you didn't even need to take the card out of your wallet or anything: you could simply wave whatever contained the card over the card reader, and it would detect the card through things!

The Passmo card had other uses as well. For instance, many vending machines, stores, and restaurants used them, too! You could basically treat it like a debit card: loading it up like cash and pressing it to readers all over the place to pay for things.

Which is particularly interesting since, like I said before, Japan is generally a cash-based place, with few readers around for more traditional cards, like our American debit and credit cards. The Passmo is just cooler to use than our kinds of cards, though. Imagine not having to actually open your wallet to buy things!

Actually, that sounds a little dangerous. Convenient, though.

Anyway, in all the train rides we only got crammed in like sardines a couple of times, which was pretty good. There was usually standing room only, though.

Also, I was doped up on Dramamine most of the time. I forgot to take my medicine a few times early on, but I eventually got better about remembering. Having a day ruined due to motion sickness sucks.

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