Wednesday, April 30, 2008


One of the delights of traveling in Japan is the amazingly efficient network of subways and trains. We found that finding our way around the various subway and train stations was not the horror story we expected. Most stations have plenty of English signage, so if you can read a map, you’re OK.

Not that reading the Tokyo subway map is easy, mind you. Check it out (click on the image to embiggen):

Tokyo Subway Map
Tokyo: Just a wee bit more complicated than New York City.

The voice announcements on the Tokyo subway are - believe it or not - easier to understand than their muddled, half-garbled counterparts on the New York subway. And that’s the announcements in Japanese. In English? Even better.

As long as you can tell Asakusa from Akasaka and keep your Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Shimbashi straight, you can get around in Tokyo. The subway in Kyoto was even easier to deal with.

When it came time to travel from city to city, the superexpress trains, AKA the shinkansen (“bullet trains”), were a delight. Using our seven-day Japan Rail Pass, we had unlimited rides...all we had to do was show our passes at the ticket office to get reserved Green Car seats. Sweet.

On one memorable day, we employed no fewer than nine different modes of transportation, not counting our own two feet. Starting out in the morning:
  1. Taxi from Hotel Ra Kuun (just up the road from Motohakone) to Motohakone.
  2. Boat from Motohakone/Ashinoyu to Togendai.
  3. Ropeway (gondola lift) from Togendai to Shouzen.
  4. Funicular (cable car) from Shouzen to Gora.
  5. Switchback railway from Gora to Hakone-Yumato.
  6. Rail from Hakone-Yumato to Odawara.
  7. Shinkansen from Odawara to Tokyo station.
  8. Subway (Maronouchi Line - Ginza Line) from Tokyo station to Shimbashi station.
  9. Monorail (Yurikamome line) from Shimbashi station to Daiba station.
All of this while schlepping our luggage, too, and without counting the evening journey from our hotel in Odaiba to the Asakusa Kannon shrine, Shibuya, and then back to Odaiba. Footsore? You betcha.

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