Japan diaries 2.0. Transport

Japan, already a year ago. But looking through my original photos I still discover petty memories that summed up changed for good my initial comprehension of Japan and the Japanese society.

As professionally I deal with transport and infrastructure economics, one of my special interests all around Japan was its transportation system. And already on our first day in Japan I got quite a nice experience pack.


A photo made a couple of days later. The very impressive entrance to the Kanazawa railway station.


My first ‘wow’ happened as our aircraft was rolling alongside the taxiway at Haneda, the Tokyo airport. Haneda is ranking the fifth busiest airport in the world. I was aware that because of increasing traffic the airport had to be extended several times. At a certain point this was possible only by additional land reclamation. That what I did not know, was that the airport runways/taxiways were built on a combination of reclaimed land and piled pier sections. Our jumbo jet indeed moved on a taxiway constructed upon piled piers!


The first thing we had to do after we cleared the airport closed area was to claim our Japan Rail Passes (or shortly JR Passes). (We paid for them earlier at home.) The JR Pass is a document that for a lump sum paid upfront allows travelling by most Japanese trains without limits within a certain period of time, for which the pass was bought. Only a couple of times we had to pay some additional amount to use a Shinkansen (high speed) train.

As I understand, the concept of the JR Pass is about making the railway transport affordable to those, who come visit Japan. Almost all of us traveled on a tourist visa. Only our guide/interpreter was supposed to stay longer upon a working visa. This excluded him from the JR Pass system. Each time he had to pay the full ticket price.


As a tourist with a JR pass issued on your name you can use all Japanese Railways (JR) lines for a lump sum up-front payment. However, you must be prepared to pay additional fee in some Shinkansen (high speed) trains. You must also reserve a sitting place. The JR pass is not valid in metro trains.


The tickets were expensive even if compared to Western European standards. The railway prices in European countries differ. But two months later I paid less for the Eurostar ticket (from Paris to London) than he paid for even shorter Shinkansen trips in Japan. Continue reading