Let’s just face it – Japan is an odd place. Yes, it is one of the most developed countries in the world, yet most of the infrastructure, especially public transport and points of sale look rather dated. Plus there are so many quirky things, you need to walk around with your eyes closed to not get amused.
Here is an example how to use a bus in Beppu, a city in Southern Japan.
Step one. Get on the bus from the middle door. Take a ticket with a number of the bus stop. Take a seat.
Step two. Buzz when you are ready to get off. Keep your ear out for real-time announcements by a very friendly bus driver.
Step three. Walk up to the driver, present your stamp ticket and exact change. Total fare is shown on the screen above, depending on which stop you got on. All drivers wear white gloves and freshly pressed uniform. I remember one of my bus drivers back in Auckland, New Zealand, who stopped at a local bakery if we had time at a big stop and got something greasy to go. It is a far cry from that.
Moving on to the high speed trains, subway and JR (like a subway, but owned by a different company). You are advised not to use your mobile phone. If you think about it, it does make sense. Hundreds of people are crammed together for a long journey during a morning or afternoon commute. Add a few people talking on their mobiles at the same time, and it becomes even more unbearable. On the inner city trains, there is a special compartment for taking phones, again, for comfort of the other passengers.
Inside a subway carriage in Tokyo
There are women-only carriages, attached to the end of the train during the morning rush-hour. Used to prevent sexual attacks on young girls and harassment from male population in general.
Temperature differs from carriage to carriage. The same thing (apparently) is noted in South Korea. Most carriages are air conditioned, i.e are freezing cold in summer. But there is a section in the middle which is marked as “mild”, which isn’t as cold. For the last 7 months I though it was due to luck that sometimes temperature feels a little warmer.
Getting on the train at busy station is somewhat a sport. Unfortunately, I have never experienced it to a full extend. However, there is a notable technique, used even during mildly busy times. You have to enter the carriage backwards, holding on to a panel above your head. Give a little push with your bum and back, and if you are lucky, you can squeeze yourself inside.