Japan Travelog: Part 2. Transportation
Above: One of the shinkansen (新幹線), pulling into Fukuyama Station, Hiroshima.
My wife and I each bought three-week Japan Rail Passes. These passes, which can be purchased for one or two-week periods as well, allow access to the entirety of the Japan Railways (JR) system, including several locations where buses and even ferries are part of the package.
Currently, the price for a JR Pass is as follows ( the exchange rate is 110.1079 JPY / 1.00 CAD as of Monday morning, September 25, 2023 Japan Standard Time):
7 days: 29,650 yen ($269.28)
14 days: 47,250 yen ($429.12)
21 days: 60,450 yen ($549.01)
New prices go into effect on October 1, 2023. While this may make it appear less worthwhile, the price increase is only in keeping with inflation from what I understand. In other words, the price has been held down to support foreign tourism to Japan. These new prices will likely cause many tourists to rethink their travel strategies. Our approach has been to travel widely, using the shinkansen (bullet train) as much as possible.
7 days: 50,000 yen ($454)
14 days: 80,000 yen ($726.40)
21 days: 100,000 yen ($908)
It should be noted that you must be a non-resident of Japan to purchase the JR Pass. On the positive side, you can reserve seats on trains that offer reservations free of charge. On the negative side, you cannot take the latest versions of the bullet train, such as the Nozomi.
The train below is called a Thunderbird, which we took to Kanazawa from Osaka. Kanazawa is on the coast of the Sea of Japan and is considerably less travelled to than the major cities of Tokyo, Kyoto, or Osaka. The reserved seating car that we were in had many empty seats although the city of Kanazawa itself appeared quite busy when we arrived on Sunday afternoon.
Japan’s culture of transportation is much more focused on public transit than Canada’s. Although many people have cars, travel for vacation – or business – using the train system is very convenient. The trains are clean and on time and you can find a station just about anywhere you need to go.
Japanese cars are, of course, well-known in Canada. It is amazing, however, how many Japanese cars are never intended for export. I suspect that they are not well-suited to the highways of Canada, especially since speed limits do not go beyond 80 km/h here. However, for this post, I wanted to share something extremely rare. According to the owner of the Mitsuoka Le-Seyde, which we spotted while walking in Kanazawa, there were only 500 made, all in 1990, and perhaps fewer than 50 are still around. I knew nothing about this vehicle until I happened upon the Le-Seyde one of the episodes of The Grand Tour, an Amazon Prime Video successor to the British Top Gear series with the original three hosts.
It is based on the Nissan Silvia S13 which we in Canada may know as the Nissan 240SX.
More common are Japan’s Kei or “light” automobiles, vehicles limited to 660cc engines. These cars are taxed more gently than regular vehicles. The most popular of these little vehicles is the Honda N-Box.
Honda N-Box. (2023, August 4). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honda_N-Box
One of the ways in which cars have been less dangerous to pedestrians is by making the streets narrow and essentially difficult to operate at high speed in urban areas. Two-lane roads are often, by Canadian standards, insufficient for a single lane in Canada. One car will often have to pull over or stop to let an oncoming car through. Pedestrians will walk freely and safely because the drivers cannot go too fast. A related effect is that public transit – trains, light rail trams, buses that travel only on main roads, etc. – is a more viable option than one’s own vehicle. People also ride bicycles and walk much more frequently than we tend to in Canada.
This is the “main street” of the neighbourhood of Tomo no Ura, in Fukuyama, Hiroshima Pref. The red car in the background is a kei car. Notice that the man in the foreground wearing the dark blue shirt is walking down the middle of the street.
The Kidney Walk
On an entirely unrelated note, this past Sunday, September 24, was the annual Kidney Walk, a fundraiser for the Kidney Foundation of Canada. I am usually in Canada to participate in the walk but this year I was walking from afar. Here is a photo of me walking around Kanazawa Castle wearing one of my Kidney Walk shirts. I know that many of my readers were contributors to my walk. Thank you. I am now past seven years living with a transplanted kidney and this trip to Japan wouldn’t have been possible without this miraculous health that I am now experiencing.
Me wearing a Kidney Walk t-shirt at Kanazawa Castle, Kanazawa, Ishikawa pref., September 24, 2023
This is the 216th blog post for Russ Writes, first published on 2023-09-25
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