Wednesday 18 August 2010

Travelling and Living: Locky's Trip to Tokyo (Part 3 -- Trains)

Before I left for Tokyo, friends reminded me that the underground system of Tokyo is one of the most difficult to comprehend in the world. That freaked me out, well, a little.

Then I saw a map similar to this Rail and Subway Map, and I totally understand that this is not just a rumour.

Tokyo Railway Map
from Mappery

Making life even tougher, there are zillions of rules that one must memorise before taking the trains. To name a few -- 3 railway systems make up the Tokyo Subway, , the Toei and the JR East Yamanote Line.

buying the Suica card (equivalent to HK's Octopus, except no personal details are sold),
Suica Card
from Locky's English Playground

finding the right entrance to the right platform,
At the platform
from Locky's English Playground

and finding the fastest train in the right direction,
Searching for the right train
from Locky's English Playground

To do that, I had to continually flip over the map, matching the names of the train lines and the stations at which the trains could reach. Was it really that terrible? Well, no, it is actually really hard to get on the wrong train, but to get on the right one, it was REALLY time-consuming! But after taking a few rides, I found it rather simple in fact, because the tip is, I just needed to ...

  1. pick the train lines that get me to my destinations (probably several), then 
  2. choose the one with the least number of station, 
  3. follow the colours on of the lines (see green for Yamanote line?), know the number (see 5?) of platform, and
  4. ZOOM!!!! I get there at speed of light!!!

After I had understood the rules, I began to appreciate, once again, how detail-minded that the Japanese people are.

You see, there are AT LEAST 6 trains that pass through each station at the same time, big stations can go up to 12 or more, yet the Japanese can guarantee that their trains will arrive at exactly that time, accuracy up to the exact minute!!!!! If a train is considered "late", the train needs to miss that exact minute! And if trains are late, you get a free rail journey, and you get a pass to explain to your employer why you are late!!!!

You don't believe me? Watch from 4:20 to 4:48 of this Topgear video in Japan! (You are welcomed to watch the entire program too, it is really funny!)

Race Across Japan: Nissan GT-R vs Bullet Train (Part 1/3)

Can the MTR do that? Delays, delays, delays are what you hear from the MTR ALL THE TIME!!!! Man, how many trains are you managing?

I didn't take the Shinkansen by the JR East, but it is incredible how accurate their arrival time can be. How accurate, watch the next video from 1:37.

Race Across Japan: Nissan GT-R vs Bullet Train (Part 2/3)

What may not be correct from the above video, is the part that Japanese people not able to speak English, or that the ticket machines do not have English panel (10:00).

Other rules are great and I wished they had similar ones in Hong Kong. One of which if you continue to watch the above video (5:33 to 6:06), you would know -- people always talk with the minimal voice while on the train and never speak on the mobile on the train as it is considered impolite. The day I returned to Hong Kong I took the Airport Express, and this spastic, self-centred, arrogant, selfish business jerk just kept gloating loudly about his success over the phone with his long-missed local friend and wouldn't put a sock in it until the moment he left the train at Hong Kong Station!!!

I also thought that the MTR in Hong Kong really is nothing as compared to the ones in Tokyo. Look at this,

from Locky's English Playground

They have LCD screens showing the routes and another screen to play advertisements and weather reports!

from Locky's English Playground

That's why I am in love with Tokyo!!!

Okay, here's the last part of the Topgear if you want to finish the show.

Race Across Japan: Nissan GT-R vs Bullet Train (Part 3/3)

zillion -- (n) [C] informal an extremely large, but not a stated, number
spastic -- (adj) informal an offensive way of saying 'stupid', used especially by children
self-centred -- (adj) disapproving only interested in yourself and your own activities
arrogant -- (adj) unpleasantly proud and behaving as if you are more important than, or know more than, other people
jerk -- (n) [C] slang a stupid person, usually a man
gloat -- (vb) [I] to feel or express great pleasure or satisfaction because of your own success or good luck, or someone else's failure or bad luck
put a sock in it informal humorous used to tell someone to be quiet or stop making so much noise