While in Japan, we’ve been relying solely on public transport, which we’ve used quite a lot. A very good travelling tip for Japan, is to acquire a Japan Rail Pass. With this pass you can travel on all JR Lines, which pretty much run through the whole country, as well as the inner cities. The pass comes in three types of duration; 7 days, 14 days, and 21 days. However, you must purchase what is known as an Exchange Order before you come to Japan. The Exchange Order must then be traded for the Japan Rail Pass at a JR Office at a Japanese train station. We bought our Exchange Order at a travel agency in Denpasar, Bali. It’s a bit spendy, we paid $600 for the 21 day-version, but that included some service fee for the travel agency. It was worth it though, as I’ll come back to later. Here’s what the Exchange Order look like:
And here’s the Japan Rail Pass:
The network of public transport in Japan is the best I’ve ever experienced. Trains, subways, and buses are going with high frequency, and the precision is amazing! After staying here a month, only once did I experience that a local train was delayed by a few minutes, the rest have been on time, and there’s been zero cancellations or stops. With the amount of people depending on the public transport system here, having downtime on the train or subway is not an option, it would create utter chaos. The bonus of having a well-functioning system of public transport, is that it really takes the pressure of the roads. Even in a massive city like Tokyo, traffic flows smoothly, and there are no traffic-jams like we have in Oslo, for example. I reckon the Norwegian Ministry of Transport ought to make a field trip to Japan, and bring a thick notebook to learn how it’s done.
The ultimate public transport is the Shinkansen, the Japanese bullet train, travelling at a speed up to 300 km/ h. It’s a very comfortable way of travelling, and they are seldom crowded, but this is probably also because they are quite expensive. Since we’ve used the Shinkansen to travel from Tokyo and many hours south down to Kyoto and Osaka, back up to Tokyo, and then later down to Kochi and back to Tokyo again, we’ve really got value for money for our Japan Rail Passes. Here’s a pic from the Shinkansen:
As mentioned in earlier posts, there’s a certain language barrier here in Japan. Few people speak English, and sometimes, you’ll only find signs in Japanese. When trying to find your way and the map looks like this, you kind of lose progress…
However, if you wander around the station you’ll probably find a map in English eventually, or a member of the staff who speaks enough English to guide you in the right direction. Or you could always ask Google, providing you have internet access.
When we travel, we certainly don’t travel light. We’re bringing a lot of gear; backpacks, bags, cameras, and surfboards. We certainly get some looks as we go around, and finding space on the sometimes crowded subway or a bus, can be “interesting”.
However, our stay in Japan has now come to an end, tomorrow we fly to the Philippines! Pretty excited about that, and hopefully we’ll find a lot more waves than we have here in Japan. The lack of waves is pretty much the only downside to our stay here in Japan though, we’ve had a really good time here.
I’m also curious to see what the internet quality is like in the Philippines, with regards to keeping this blog updated. I guess we’ll find out – the adventure continues 🙂