今日は! お元気ですか？Konnichiwa! Ogenki desu ka?
This edition of Misshoggy 101 is really just a diary of her struggles in Japan with public transport and taxi. It has episodes of hilarity and confusion, but nonetheless she managed to get where she needed to go.
Let us begin with Misshoggy holding a scorecard of Foreigner vs. Taxi Driver from three years ago. Being ripped off in the Philippines, haggled like no tomorrow in Georgia, surprised by the honesty of the Armenians, and complete distrust in Malaysia, interestingly she had no intent to keep score with Japanese driver. They are close to perfect and taxi war is well prevented in Japan.
It was very discombobulating that the vacant sign is red while the occupied sign is green in Japan.
Taking a taxi:
With the amazing Japanese public transport system, only take one if it is your last resort because it is not cheap in Japan, with base fare starting at 650 yen (~AUD 7.90).
You can easily find them at train stations and look out for 空車 (vacant) sign.
Once you hail your taxi, DON’T OPEN THE DOOR! The door will be opened for you, remotely by your beloved taxi driver. You are not supposed to touch any part of the car, from my trusty sources. They would do all your suitcase lifting too! It was quite a shock at first but the service is something unworldly. You’ll get used to it, eventually, as you need to do is ride the ride.
From what I heard, they don’t do those dodgy metre tampering, don’t worry. And don’t forget that toll will be also add to your eventual fare.
The tricky bit here is communication. The chances of your taxi driver speaking English are quite low. So it is best to write down the address on a piece of paper or have a map ready. Or in my case, have the taxi driver talk to a local friend via a lengthy humorous phone conference.
Your overall taxi fare will be metered. However, I have no idea what the increments are. You can estimate your taxi fare on Taxi Fare Finder to help with your budgeting.
Taking the Train:
Unlike most metro system in the world, Japan’s railway system can be confusing at first. They are made up from different companies. Moreover, subways and inter-city trains are actually two very different stations that you would assumed.
For example, the Osaka JR station is actually not connected to the Osaka subway system and you actually have to walk around to look for the actual train line you want.
It was really a head spinning activity, when all I had was the ability to read but not speak Kanji (Sino-Japanese characters). A whiteboard would have been convenient at this point, for writing Kanji as a form of communication.
Also, unless you have an ICOCA (local resident) card, you would also have to navigate the Japanese (in)famous ticket machines. They would usually look like this:
Beware: If you have a JR pass, it is only valid on JR lines and linked buses. Not subways.
Don’t panic though. Here’s a brief know-how to tackle these machines!
- Look at the fare chart above you. It is usually in both English and Japanese. But keep a Japanese version of your destination ready, just in case.
- Choose the fare and amount of tickets you need on your screen.
- Insert notes/coins on bottom right of the machine.
- Ticket(s) will shoot right out from the machine.
- Change would be given after the transaction.
Last but not least, one last tip before going on your train journey. You would notice some Δ and Ο on the platform. Those markings are indications of where your train door is going to be. From what I remember, it could very be an indication of the type of train it is going to be, whether if it was going to be a rapid service or a normal service. Check your overhead display to confirm.
- Do let the outgoing passengers out first. Squeezing is a thing during boarding, especially at peak hours. Here is my assumption: as the trains in Japan are very punctual, squeezing is very efficient in making sure everyone is on board just in time.
- Do not be too alarmed by the intrusion of your personal space. Japanese trains can be quite crowded, and there are going to be a lot of bumping.
- No hogging two spaces on the train.
- No talking on the phones.
Japanese don’t look kindly to the latter two. It’s considered selfish. They won’t say anything, but they will stare till you feel it at the back of your neck. Just saying.
Hope this is helpful in navigating Japan. Next time, Misshoggy will explore the lingo of Japan etiquette, of greetings and foods.
ではまた! Dewa mate! See you later!
Japanese Taxi, courtesy of tofugu.com
Japan ticket machines, courtesy of Randomwire