Sunday, February 6, 2011

8 Unmistakable pleasures of Japan, No. 7. The Trains

Concurrent with my list of complaints about Japan, I present 8 things I loved about Japan.

    Okay, I know, I went all whiney on them last time, but there were times when they were the best things in the world. Of course, not to say they couldn't do with improvement. Let's not forget that Japan's Shinkansen are no longer the fastest trains in the world. But they're working on improving. Japan's JR just announced that it is working to build a 500kmph connection between Tokyo and Kyoto.
    That said, they are on time. Like crazy on time, always on schedule. We rode a fair number of trains in Japan, and not one we were on broke down, not one was late. One day, toward the end of our time in Japan, we made three connections at the last stop on the line, with less than ten minutes to spare between the scheduled arrival and the departure of the connecting train. We made every one with minutes to spare. Honestly, as much as I was annoyed at trying to read stops in Kanji (and, though the stops were announced over loudspeaker, you know how those loudspeakers are for sound, besides which the announcement was always in the middle of a sentence, making it hard to pick out what the station name was. That said, if I looked for the expected stop time on (use this if you're going to Japan. Seriously.) I could navigate Japanese trains blindfolded, had I an accurate enough talking watch.
    Several times, I was reassured I was on the right train by the time it pulled out of the station. I wasn't sure until it pulled out on the first second of the minute it was supposed to leave. Though you might know no Kanji, if you could find a train that is supposed to leave the station at the exact time your train leaves - and it was the only train leaving at that time, it's the train you want.

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