04 June 2012

Japan IV - Toyko, a Transport of Delights...

A short post here and unfortunately, one without any pics as of all the hundreds (probably over a thousand images) taken on the trip, I neglected to take a few of the urban transport network in Tokyo.
If you recollect, I mentioned that when we arrived, the Narita express wasn't running that morning so we had to use JR slow line into the centre of Toyko and then change trains for Ikebukuro.

Imagine...a twelve hour flight, we're tired, sweaty, washed out and both feeling like a bit of chewed string.  It's hot and I could do some serious damage to a cold beer as well as being somewhat apprehensive (to put it mildly) about getting round Tokyo...remember it's a big place.

...but "no, so sorry, the Narita express is not running this morning"  Deep bows..."you need to take the JR line into Toyko and change trains, so sorry"  More bows.

We had by this time exchanged our vouchers for the JR Railpass, a wondrous little document that you simply waived to the staff at a station gate to gain access to a JR train which could take you anywhere in Japan.  In theory, I could have spent the whole three weeks travelling the complete length of the country on the Shinkenasan...and then do it all over again!

Like all the Japanese who wear a uniform, the JR staff were impeccably turned out (complete with white gloves) and were unfailingly helpful and polite.  We were directed to the appropriate platform ('track' to the Japanese) and it was during this little adventure that I made my first surprising and pleasant discovery.

As well as each JR line being colour coded, all signage was in Japanese (naturally enough) and English, so that once we'd arrived at Toyko central, it was a fairly simple and straightforward process to follow the light green signs for the JR Yamanote line, which is rather like the Circle line on the London underground...it just goes round in a big circle so that most of the major centres of interest in Tokyo can be reached using only this line.

Even better, all the JR trains had announcements on board in English, so there was no doubt where you were, or what the next stop was going to be.  As well as that useful feature, all the platform signs were in English as well, with the next station along the line indicated with a big, green arrow.

There are many, many JR lines running throughout Tokyo so that provided you know where you need to go, it's a simple task to pick the right colour line and hop on board.  As well as the overground JR lines, there's also an extensive subway system which is privately owned and operates in much the same way as the London Underground previously mentioned...

...except that it's a very unpleasant place to be during the rush hour periods.  We were advised that under no circumstances were we to go anywhere near in the 'busy' periods...I even saw one of the professional pushers on the Maranouchi Line, whose unenviable job is to cram as many heaving salarymen into the carriages as is humanly possible.

Getting around this vast metropolis was one of the things that had caused me considerable angst prior to the trip...I'd spent quite some time at home poring over maps wondering just how the hell we were going to navigate from point A to B, but as it turned out, it was one of the easiest parts of the entire holiday.

Much, much more could be written about Tokyo, but time and your patience won't, I'm afraid permit it...so the following installment will find Alyson and I leaving Tokyo for Nagano, in the Japanese Alps.

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