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The Commute

Everyday is an adventure when you leave your apartment

One of the big changes with moving to Japan was to adjust from driving everywhere to using public transportation. The thing is, in Japan, public transportation is nothing like it is back home, in either Toronto or Halifax. It is massive. We can get anywhere we want by taking a train and walking or riding a bike. They do have buses which I assume would make it quicker to get somewhere off the train, but we haven't braved them yet (we know trains and subways can only go one way, buses can go anywhere!)

This is a map of the subway and train lines that run through the Kansai area (Osaka, Nara, Kyoto, Kobe). There is a blue post mark by Juso. You should be able to see it and it should give you an idea of the massive area it covers. There is a website that you can check train schedules, but I don't remember what it is.


So this is a running diary of me going to work on Sunday.

I have to be to work at 11:20 Sunday morning, the problem is I never remember how long it takes me to get to work. So I always leave at 10:30 and pray to some higher power that I will make it on time.

I start my commute here:

Commute - Juso.jpg

Juso Station. We discovered that you can buy preloaded train cards, so you don't have to stop every time and buy a new ticket. This always makes things faster. All you do is slide your card in the machine and it marks what station you got on at and when slide your card through at the other end and it takes the money off. They also have it timed and the gates are big enough that it spits your card out at the perfect time and you don't have to break your stride to take it back.

Cultural/tech note: all the little train tickets have magnetic strips in them. They're only good only for one trip. A hole is punched in the card at the start, and so when you slide the ticket into the gate at the other end, it takes the ticket from you. I've been told that they reuse them by refilling the holes. We don't let them reuse our train cards, though, because they have cool pictures on them. I don't know how many we've collected.

These pictures are from up on the platform. Juso is where the trains split to travel there different ways, either to Kobe, Kyoto or Takarazuka. It is very easy to get anywhere we want from here.

Commute - Juso 2.jpg Commute - Juso 3.jpg

When we first got here and had to go to work we never knew which of the three train lines came first. It took us a week to learn that the first train came to whatever platform we were not on. But, don't worry, we did figure out which train came the most often.

The train ride into Umeda takes about 5 minutes. It's a nice view because we have to cross over the river. Umeda is one of the huge centres in Osaka. This is where the Hankyu Line, the JR (Japan Rail) and a few subway lines all meet up. There is always a lot going on here and it is always busy.

Cultural/tech note: the first moving walkway and automated ticket machines were built in Umeda station in the 1960s.

This shot is from the platform in the Umeda station. Keep in mind there are two trains behind mine.

Commute - Umeda.jpg

Once I get off this train, I have to switch train lines from the Hankyu to the JR. The JR is government run and the Hankyu is privately run. The only problem is I only make this switch once a week and I am always half asleep when I do it. I always make it there, but I never remember the best way to get there. I usually end up going up over on overpass to switch train lines. On my way I pass Yodobashi camera (take a look at the Electronics post about this place).

Commute - .. Camera.jpg

Commute - JR.jpg

This shot is from the platform where I catch my train. It is always packed here and I only take this train on Sunday mornings. When I got on my train today I counted 66 people in my car and the train is 8 cars long. The thing is, the seats were full but there was tonnes of standing room. During rush hour the trains and subways have men that walk up and down outside the trains and basically push you on to see if they can squeeze someone else on the train. I was trying to figure out how many people the train could carry, but I couldn't remember calculus and then I realized it was Sunday morning and I was tired. Needless, to say I have no idea how many people can fit on a train.

Once I get off in Kyobashi, the first thing I do is look to see what time it is. That way I know if I have to run to my school or not. I've had to do this before and your day usually doesn't get any better.

On my way to school I always pass this bicycle parking area. This will give you a little idea of how many people have bikes.

Commute - Bikes.jpg

Once I am done work, I get to do this all over again. My biggest problem is getting out of the JR station. I'm only there once I week, so I have never learned where to go. The only landmark that I have identified is this place:

Commute - Waffles.jpg

They make waffles. There is one corner I always turn around and the smell of fresh waffles always hits me. It is such a nice smell. I convinced Courtney that we could have chocolate waffles for supper. I forget what my reasoning was, but they were good.

On the overpass, when I am heading back to the other train line they always have these bands set up. I'm not sure where they get their electricity but they have a good time. There are usually about 3 bands playing on the overpasses at one time. I think this guy was singing "We Will Rock You"... it wasn't too bad.

Commute - Bands.jpg

Then it's back to Umeda. It took a while, but we've finally started to figure out where everything is and Courtney figured out that if we boarded the train at pillar #15, it will let us off right by the exit in Juso. Which means no walking on the other end.

This day I was meeting Courtney, but I was there early. So I stopped here and watched the end of a Sumo match with a lot of other Japanese people. They have these big TVs, basically Jumbotrons, setup in one of the main areas and they use them for advertisements, sports and other events.

Commute - Big Man.jpg

Then that's the end of my day.

When we first got here we saw people running for trains and running everywhere. We had no idea what was going on, but we knew that we probably weren't going to run for trains. For me this lasted maybe two weeks. Then I started to run for trains. There is nothing worse than running for a train, getting to where you want to be, thinking you got on in time and then sitting there for two or three minutes.

I'm not sure what it is, but when I head out on my commutes I feel like I am racing someone. I don't know who exactly it is that I am racing, I don't know if it is the hoardes of school children in their matching uniforms, all the business men in their matching uniforms or the little old ladies on the trains (by the way I usually win this one. You'd be surpirsed at how spry some of these little old Japanese people are). Funny story about this. I was on the train one day and when we pulled up to the station I got up to jockey for position (I wanted the coveted pole position by the door). So I passed the gaggle of girls in 3 inch heels (I knew for damn sure they'd be slow). But then I got boxed in by two little old ladies and the seats and I couldn't go anywhere. I was starting to get pissed that I was stuck behind this lady when the doors opened. And, BAM, Like a bat out of hell she was gone. I was so surprised I just stood there. But don't worry I caught up and passed her when we she took the escalator and I ran down the stairs. I couldn't handle that blow to my ego if she beat me to the ticket gate.

My other goal everytime I leave here to go to work is to have the "perfect" commute. For me this is, I don't have to break my stride when I go through the ticket gate. The train is there when I get to the platform and it leaves as soon I step on (and maybe, I get a seat, but that's secondary, for Court it's necessary). And if I have to transfer trains this happens all over again. The train is there when I show up and leaves when I get on. The only down side is when this happens your commute is cut in half so you have more free time on the other end. But, this doesn't happen very often, it's always a nice surprise.

Posted by agc_cwm 07:34 Archived in Japan

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