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Conveniences at the train stations and platforms
Japan is also famous for having a lot of vending machines dispensing everything from snacks, softdrinks and beer to toys and electronics, and even shirts and underwear! At the train stations there are also many vending machines in addition to the kiosks that are basically convenience stores. Here are a couple of vending machines and the garbage disposal bins beside them.
Vending machine at a Tokyo Metro platform
Vending machine and telephones behind a kiosk at a JR Line platform
Within the larger stations, there are also restaurants or eateries for those wanting a quick meal but happen to have already gone past the turnstiles. These are not your typical holes in the walls or fast food types. Instead there are also full service restaurants or cafes. Then there are food courts where commuters may have a good variety to choose from like the Tokyo Food Bar that I found at the JR Akihabara Station.
This food bar is very much like the food courts we find at malls. These offer a variety of selections for the hungry commuter. The signboards show the menus of establishments inside the food bar.
Getting reacquainted with the JR lines in Tokyo
My recent trip to Tokyo allowed me to re-charge the wife’s and my Suica cards. We got these when we were in Japan in 2008 and rode mainly Japan Railways (JR) trains between our hotels and various destinations in Tokyo, Yokohama and Kamakura. I also used the JR Keihin Tohoku Line for trips between Saitama and Yokohama during the weekends when I would hear Mass at Yamate and then go around Minato Mirai, Shibuya, Ueno or Akihabara. It was easy for me to get reacquainted with commuting with the JR trains. It’s probably because it was so easy commuting in Japan and nothing much has changed in terms of the transport system. This is proof of an efficient public transport system and one which I have also used in Singapore and Hong Kong. Hopefully, we can have at least a bit of this efficiency in public transport and commuting in Metro Manila.
JR East railway map for Tokyo Metropolitan area and environs (available for download in the internet)
I found an improved/renovated JR Akihabara Station when I was in Tokyo in July.
Ticket machines at the JR Okachimachi Station are bilingual. One just has to press the button for English translation/option.
Turnstiles at a JR station
Coin lockers at a JR station allows travelers/commuters to leave their things while going around for business, shopping or other purposes. A traveler heading to the airport, for example, who wants to do some last minute shopping may want to leave luggage using the larger lockers so he/she won’t have difficulty moving about.
There are small restaurants and shops around JR stations. This one is a ramen shop frequented by commuters with a ticket dispensing machine to expedite orders. One purchases tickets for meals and drinks using the machine and presents the tickets to the staff inside the restaurant.
I hope to be able to go around my old haunts in Yokohama the next time I’m in Japan. Perhaps I can take a few photos then about transport in a country where I spent some significant time over the past years.
Walking around Ginza
The Ginza District in Tokyo is one of the most prominent areas for both shopping and offices. It is reputed to be upscale as many of the world’s top brands such as LV, Chanel and Hermes have big shops here aside from the more recognizable Japanese shops like Matsuzakaya and Mikimoto. From a transport perspective, it is a very accessible area with metro lines having several stations here and the district being a few minutes walk from the JR Lines. Sidewalks are wide and therefore a boon to pedestrians and cyclists. There are no jeepneys, tricycles or pedicabs here that are used in the Philippines as modes for almost door-to-door transport and for short travel distances. Instead, you have to walk between buildings and metro or JR stations or bus stops.
Cyclists making a turn at an intersection in Ginza.
Taxis patiently wait for pedestrians to cross before making a left turn (Japan’s using the right hand drive system) – you will hear no horns from motorists as they give way to pedestrians and cyclists cross the streets unlike Metro Manila and elsewhere in the Philippines where motorists will run over people despite the latter having the right of way.
Vehicles crossing a busy intersection in Ginza. Turning vehicles position themselves for the turn phase of a signal in anticipation of the green light and would give way to crossing pedestrians including stragglers who made the cross at the last instance.
Navigating in Ginza – newcomers can get lost in any city and especially something as large and seemingly complicated as Tokyo. Fortunately, we now have map apps in our smart phones and we can more easily determine the way to our desired destinations. This is a friend and his daughter consulting the map on our way to our dinner venue.
This fuzzy photo was taken as we crossed the street to get to the Higashi Ginza subway station where we parted with some of our company. The bright building at the center of the photo is the Kabuki Theater.
Access to the Hibiya Line’s Higashi Ginza Station – note again the wide sidewalks.
A quick shot of a street in Ginza with buildings and signs all lighted up.
The lights and signboards reminded me of Shibuya (remember the movie Lost in Translation?) and Shinjuku, in other parts of Tokyo. I was not able to go there on my recent trip but will surely go next time I’m in Tokyo.
Another look at a street as we crossed it to reveal a long line of buildings with the shop and store signs lit up.
A large electronics store, Bic Camera, near the JR Yurakucho Station. Japan is well known for electronics and Tokyo is dotted with a lot of electronics stores selling the latest gadgets and appliances. Of course, there is the Akihabara “electric town” where there are stores and shops everywhere selling the same plus games and collectibles for hobbyists. But that, as they say, is another story to be told in a future post.
Wide pedestrian crossing at the JR Yurakucho Station. The area is host to many offices and generally has high pedestrian volumes.
Getting reacquainted with the Tokyo Metro
After almost 5 years since my previous trip to Japan, I was excited to go around Tokyo during our free time after our meetings. With all the information available online now, it is quite easy to do a desk review of public transportation in Tokyo. Since our hotel and meeting venue were near subway stations, it was practical to know about the metro lines near us. Whenever I was in Tokyo, I always took the trains whether it was by subway or by Japan Railways (JR) lines. There are two companies operating the subways in Tokyo. One is Toei and the other is Tokyo Metro. I seldom, if ever, used the bus or taxi preferring to walk between train stations to/from my meetings or appointments.
Tokyo subway map downloadable from the internet
One can purchase tickets at the station using these machines. These have bilingual features so you only need to press the button to have the interface in English. Maps overhead provide guidance about stations and fares.
Subway turnstiles where passengers enter and exit for the platforms
Information on transfer stations and the cars nearest the stairs. This information is helpful so passengers can easily position themselves in the car to minimize transfer time from one train to another.
“Manner mode” sticker on the subway train near the door advises passengers to refrain from making calls while on the train. This is considered rude and annoying to fellow passengers.
Metro line information overhead at the train doors include a line map and a message board announcing the next station in Japanese and English.
One can also purchase special tickets or passes from the stations. Ticket vending machines may also have the capability to issue the popular Pasmo or Suica IC cards that can be used in almost all transport modes in Tokyo and other cities. Information on these cards are easily found in the internet. There are also online route or travel planners that people can use to plan their trips. One such tool, which I recommend, is Hyperdia, which provides information on lines, transfers, travel time and fares.-