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8 November 2017


i've already touched on the fact that a lot of things in japan shocked me, but one thing that didn't - something that is something of a legend told time and time again from folk visiting japan, and the one thing we were totally expecting from our time in the land of the rising sun, was the efficiency of their trains. we'd all heard such amazing things about their public transport system, and we were looking forward to trying it ourselves - especially that babe of a bullet train, which is literally so fast that it makes your ears pop and your belly go funny, and you seriously cannot walk down the aisle when it's at top speeds. and i'm here to tell you this: there are a many lesson that transport for london could learn from japan rail. like:

much better merch

none of that "baby on board" and "mind the gap" nonsense here - in japan, they have whole flippen convention dedicated to their network of trains, and the merchandise is so cuuuute! we stumbled upon this train con by accident, and it was honestly the most fun hour of our lives. there were some insane queues of people, waiting to meet - oh, i don't know, train drivers or something (i guess!), while we were queuing up to have our picture taken in full ticket inspector costume. hilarious. oh, and at most train stations there are Y100 vending machines (duh) that have the most adorable enamel pins in them, depicting the different types of trains in that area. tfl: get better merch.

lovely staff who go the extra mile

we were never stuck for info inside a station, as the staff were more than willing to help us out before we got to that point. we could be looking at the subway map and pointing at different things when someone would come over and ask where we were trying to go. on the (very) rare occasion we (accidentally) bought the wrong fare ticket, the guards at the other end were very forgiving and let us through with a smile. once, when katy and i were russsshing for a very soon airport train and basically jumped in with seconds to go, a staff member jumped in after us, checked our tickets, and escorted us off, and to the right place. honestly, tfl: get better staff.

more room for more people

so, there's a shit-ton of people in japan, and equally, a shit ton of of trains. but, to counteract the amount of passengers getting on a carriage every few minutes, you know what they have? bigger carriages. wider. longer. with more room to sit and stand comfortably, without having to stick your face in the armpit of the person next to you. they even have bag racks - imagine that! somewhere for you to put your bag so it doesn't get its own seat, or take up standing room on the floor! more room for more people, seriously, tfl: it's not rocket science.

train announcements in multiple languages

surely this one is a no-brainer. we live in london - one of the busiest cities in the world, and one visited more than twenty million tourists from around the world every year, yet.. all the announcements on the trains and inside the stations are made in english, and only english. in japan? you get at least two: japanese and english, and in bigger stations (major cities), you get even more. it's only welcoming, and polite, no? come on, tfl: be better at humanity.

one pass for everything

thanks to the the japan rail pass*, visitors can access unlimited transport options for a period of 7, 14, or 21 days. we opted for the 7 day pass as we thought that was the most economical way to travel, and meant we had loads more options when it came to exploring the country, as well as planning our day trips. one pass to access them all? amazing idea! sure, there are some places you can't use the pass - like the regional subway trains and the super fast shinkansen trains, but you make up for that fact that you can access things like ferries and boats, and tourist busses across the country. as far as i know there is nothing like that in the uk - other than a monthly travel card for residence, but nothing to allow tourists freedom of travel when they visit our wonderful country. seriously guys: be better at value for money!

clearly marked platforms

imagine arriving to a platform with your ticket marked coach c, seat 15f, and knowing exaccctly where you needed to stand to board. on top of that, imagine the platform itself being clearly marked as to where people boarding should stand and wait, and where those getting off the carriage will be exiting. imagine the platform telling you which carriage was quiet, which was smoking, and which was for ladies only? just imagine that.. tfl: it's not that hard, mateys.

women-only carriages

oh yes, it's a real thing. marked out in pink and decorated all cutesy just for that added patronising factor, but take my word for it when i say: it's worth being patronised for. it's not a matter of safety, it's not a matter of sexism, it's a matter of comfort. the pastel pink women-only carriage is less crowded, more spacious, and just incredibly comfortable in general. i know there were mutterings on the internet about tfl bringing this in, and i am here.for.it. 

no eating or drinking on board

because of the no eating while you walk thing, and also the no bins anywhere thing, because of the no littering thing, you're not allowed to eat or drink on the subway. which is excellent, as it means no tuna fish sandwich smell, no whopper in a bag smell, and no delicious coffee being drunk next to me before i'm even awake smell. it makes the journey easy breezy, and totally bearable. take note, tfl: ban the burgers.

but.. their busses are pretty terrible

if there's one thing tfl have actually got nailed, it's the public busses. in kyoto, we used a bus instead of walking to our next destination. it was a mistake for three reasons: 1. in japan they board the bus at the back, and exit from the front; 2. in japan you pay for your ticket as you exit the bus (via the front door); 3. in japan, you have to board at the back and then walk to the front when it's your stop to pay your fare. past everyone else who's boarded before and after you. on a narrow bus. i mean, it's just illogical; well done tfl, turns out you're doing something right after all!

*our passes were provided courtesy of japan experience. all thoughts are mine, natch.

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