Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Dec: Japan: Trains

Are you ready to get lost?  Are you up to the challenge to see these signs?

Will you be able to locate where you are or going to if you are given less English maps?

I don’t want to confuse myself on getting a ticket each time I use the train, and I need to have a ticket that can be used on all types of trains in Osaka and Kyoto.  Do you have the same issues on mind, ICOCA is the answer!

ICOCA smart card. These rechargeable cards can be used on rail, subway and bus networks in Kansai area, Okayama, Hiroshima, Nagoya (Kintetsu) and Tokyo (JR East). These cards are available at vending machines at these rail stations. ¥2000, including a refundable ¥500 deposit and ¥1500 travel credit. [Reference]

You can get your card from the ICOCA Office at Kansai Airport.  Better if you can prepare for your train routes and compute how much you will spend doing that hop-on and hop-off transfers using their trains.

Don’t worry about adding amount in your card, the machine may look too old but there are English buttons on it.

Watch out for the signs and make sure you enter the correct entrance for your next destinations.

Be alert and try to understand the cryptograms.  There are multitude of lines (high speed, intercity, urban network) and different cars (express limited, etc.) that may stop or non-stop trains that you might encounter so better focus if you don’t want to waste time, energy and money.

There are stations that are found underground (e.g. Namba, Shinsaibashi), but there are also those found above the ground (e.g. Umeda JR, Kyoto Central).  Gear-up if you are planning to go there during Autumn until Spring.  Be careful while waiting since there are no security doors, fast trains may just come by without signals since they are just passing by - the air pressure it has might affect your balance.

Understand which car you are getting into.  Not all cars have interactive guide inside so better read the signs from the outside stations.

Lastly, most of the cars also have crowded advertisements, it may not matter to me because I don’t understand them, but they could be meaningful to the locals.

The rail network in Keihanshin is very dense, with the average number of daily passengers topping 13 million. (See this map of Keihanshin's rail network) [Reference]

I had the same trouble studying their map, that is confusing and will be a real challenge to conquer, but as travelers I know that we can make our way out there.  So good luck and get ready to take those trains!

runaway train, never goin' back
wrong way on a one-way track
seems like i should be getting somewhere
somehow i'm neither here nor there
-soul asylum

Location: Osaka and Kyoto, Japan
Travel Dates: November 27 - December 02, 2012