Since being in Japan, I have noticed many differences in the ways trash is handled as compared to the US. One of the first things I noticed was that there seem to be hardly any public trash cans. So, when someone eats a candy bar, for example, they must carry around the wrapper all day until they find a trash can, or more likely, until they get home and can dispose of it in their personal waste bin. There are few options for disposing of trash when in public. However, more frequently, there are places where plastic bottles can be recycled, such as next to vending machines.
In contrast, in the US, trash cans can typically be found on every street corner on city streets. It is much clearer how to dispose of trash when in public spaces in the US because at any point when in a city, there is probably a trash can located no more than a hundred feet away from you. However, due to cultural differences, Japan is still a much cleaner country than the US is, because people are more responsible with disposing of the waste they produce properly. When I see a plastic bottle recycling bin in Japan, I hardly ever see anything that isn’t a plastic bottle in that bin. People here take great care in disposing of their waste in the proper bin. However, in the US, I constantly see recycling bins filled with miscellaneous garbage, and often, the recycle just gets tossed in with the garbage in the end anyway.
From both the readings as well as talking to my classmates, I have learned a lot about how Japan deals with waste. Garbage bins are often labeled “combustibles”, which describes exactly what happens – Japan burns their garbage. While burning garbage sounds unsustainable and bad for the environment due to the toxic chemicals that burning things can produce, Japan has made great strides in reducing dioxin emissions since 1997. They have created a filtration system that removes toxic chemicals from smoke before it is released into the atmosphere, making their process of burning garbage more environmentally friendly. In the process of burning waste, Japan also creates electricity with the energy produced from the combustion reaction. This is a more sustainable model than just burning garbage because some of the energy that it takes to burn the goods can be recovered and reused.
Another difference between Japan and the US is the goods that are recycled. In Japan, many plastics are recycled, including thin food wrappers and plastic cups. However, in the US, I have only ever seen plastic bottles or sturdier plastic containers being recycled. On the flip side, in the US, it’s normal to recycle paper and cardboard, whereas here in Japan, they don’t try to recycle paper and instead burn it.
In any case where recycling occurs, the size of the waste stream is reduced. Japan seems to have an overall smaller waste stream than the US, because they get rid of garbage by burning it and diligently recycle plastics and cans. In the US, the waste stream is larger because we often just throw everything into a landfill and let it rot. The fact that the US is a larger country with more land area probably contributes to this, because Japan doesn’t have the space to create piles of garbage. So, this encourages Japan to be wiser about waste disposal. Although Japan’s waste disposal practices appear to be more sustainable than those in the US, from my perspective, neither are the optimal method. While Japan still harvests some energy from burning garbage, they still lose the raw materials that were burned with the goods. They could have recycled the burned paper and composted the burned food, which is especially something to consider in a country with limited natural resources. At the same time, the US could recycle far more packaging plastics and be more diligent about recycling the things we already try to recycle, such as paper, bottles, cans, and other goods, instead of lazily throwing it all in a landfill.
Many factors influence the waste disposal practices of Japan and the US. The size of the country as well as cultural norms both seem to have a large effect on waste management and recycling practices in both places. However, I also believe that since both nations are rich and highly developed, they can afford not to think about the most sustainable way to dispose of waste and can be more careless about wasting raw materials. However, this is not a sustainable approach to waste management, and I believe at some point, both countries will need to reform their waste management systems.
Solid waste management is a crucial element of a society’s framework because it is vital to the protection of public health as well as the maintenance of community aesthetics. Japan and the United States have implemented some similar policies for the management of municipal solid waste, but due to the divergent cultures of the two countries, disparities exist in how these policies are actually employed. During my time in Japan, I have witnessed ways in which solid waste management differs between Japan and the United States, primarily in realms such as the presence or absence of litter and recycling.
Japan and the United States have instated a number of comparable policies to ensure safe and sustainable measures for handling the disposal of municipal solid waste. Japan has instituted a “Sound Material-Cycle Society”, while the United States is focusing on integrated solid waste management; both of these procedures seek to decrease the utilization of natural resources, limit the amount of waste created, and minimize the effects on the environment. In both Japan and the United States, means for achieving these aims include recycling, recovering energy from waste products, and landfilling. However, the manner in which each of these nations is carrying out these practices is different, with Japan in the forefront. To begin, recycling is taken far more seriously in Japan than in the United States, which is exhibited by Japan’s Law for the Promotion of Sorted Collection and Recycling Containers and Packaging that was passed in 1995. In the case of recovering energy from waste products, although the usage of this process has grown in strength over the past five decades in the United States, it is far more sophisticated and diverse in Japan, with different processes being undertaken depending on the type of waste from which energy is being retrieved. Furthermore, the practice of landfilling in Japan surpasses the efforts of the United States because Japan seeks to stabilize landfill sites as quickly as possible so that the land can be used in other ways in the future. An example of this is the Sokai Solar Energy Generation Plant, which we had the privilege of visiting, that was established on a repurposed landfill site.
After being in Japan for only a short amount of time, it became clear rather quickly that Americans and Japanese have quite different notions of how trash should be disposed of in public areas. In the United States, if a public trash can is not easily accessible, garbage will often end up on the ground; this is sometimes the case even when trash cans exist within a reasonable vicinity. Conversely, in Japan, where public trash cans are few and far between, one will almost never see litter on the ground, which is due to the public shaming that will occur if an individual does not dispose of trash properly. Obviously, the Japanese people’s restraint from littering is the correct way to go about properly disposing of garbage in public, but because American people do not care as much about what others think of them, they are more inclined to litter. However, if Americans were to follow the example set by the Japanese, this could increase both the cleanliness and aesthetic appeal of American cities.
As stated previously, Japan places a much greater emphasis on recycling than the United States does, which can be inconvenient at times but is a necessary aspect of sustainable development. Since Japan focuses on recycling as many of its plastic and metal products as possible, this leads to a decrease in the volume of its waste stream because it seeks to find ways in which these products can be refurbished into novel items. The Japanese are meticulous about the disposal of waste products; for example, in our accommodations at Kobe University, each room has three different bins designated for three different types of garbage, and there are scheduled days for when each of these bins can be taken out for collection. Although this precise process of trash division and collection can be inconvenient, it is much more effective than recycling in the United States, where this practice is often ignored due to the extra effort that it requires.
Despite the valiant effort that the United States has made to establish sustainable solid waste management, there is still progress to be made in reaching the same caliber as Japan in this aspect. Japan’s ability to ensure success in this realm is due in part to the harmony of the Japanese people and their skill in uniting behind a mutual goal, whereas in the individualistic society of the United States, people are less inclined to work towards the common good. Fortunately, the United States has already implemented some beneficial policies in this sphere of society, so now it must motivate its people into maximizing the policies’ potential and progressing towards a more sustainable future.
Despite Japan’s small size relative to the United States, there are still regional differences present throughout the country, particularly in the two largest megaregions, Greater Tokyo and Keihanshin. Some of these differences are caused by the history of Japan. Tokyo is the current capital whereas Kyoto was the former capital of Japan before the Meiji Restoration. In Feudal Japan, the emperor sat in Kyoto, whereas the shogun, who was the military and true leader of Japan, sat in present-day Tokyo. The Kansai region also had port cities, particularly Kobe, which were open to Western cultures and therefore more influenced by Western ideals. Osaka was also a hub of commerce throughout Japan’s history. It can be assumed, then, that the Keihanshin megaregion is expected to have differences from the Greater Tokyo megaregion, which it does.
One aspect in which the two megaregions differ is in the peoples’ overall attitudes. In Tokyo, citizens tended to be much quieter and keep to themselves more, not willing to talk much with others. This was evident on the rail lines, where the cars were almost silent when not crowded, and still relatively quiet during busy hours. On the other hand, rail lines in the Kansai region, while not loud by American standards, generally had some level of noise with passengers conversing with their neighbors. People in the Kansai region have tended to be more friendly and talkative in general, whether it be at the convenience stores or while in public. While hiking up a mountain trail on Miyajima, all the Japanese hikers that I passed greeted me politely, showing their openness to others, and other customers in some restaurants in Osaka happily greeted us.
There are also other, less impactful differences between the Greater Tokyo and Keihanshin megaregions. The regions have different dialects and phrases, although this is more difficult for foreigners to pick up on. However, phrase usage seems to tend towards the traditional Tokyo way of speaking, particularly for younger generations. Another main difference between regions in Japan is the cuisine available. In the Kanto region, soba noodles tend to be more popular, whereas udon tends to be more popular in the Kansai region. In Tokyo, people stand on the left side of escalators, whereas people stand on the right in Kansai (except for Kyoto). While this isn’t a very impactful difference in Japanese society, it highlights the fact that even in Japan’s close-knit, homogeneous culture, there are cultural differences between areas in the countries.
The easiest comparison between the Kanto and Kansai regions in the United States would be the North and South (particularly in eastern US). Like in Japan, the North and South of the US are close together, but quite different in terms of culture. For the US, these changes are partly caused by the original settlers of each region and partially caused by the climates of each region (the South being conducive to plantation farming, leading to slavery and a different culture from the North). However, in Japan, the Kanto and Kansai regions have been settled for thousands of years, and are relatively similar in climate, so other factors (discussed above) are at play in creating these cultural differences. Overall, despite having a very homogenous and harmonious culture, Japan still has cultural differences between its megaregions, which should be taken into account when designing sustainable infrastructure for each region.
Despite its smaller size, Japan has many regions. Regions which, like most countries, have their own unique cultures in the way they talk, the way they dress, and the way they live in general. Being from America, I can tell you first hand that different parts of the country have different lifestyles, and from recent experience I can see that Japan has a similar situation.
First off, we learned in lecture from Dr. Woodall in lecture that different regions have different dialects. In this specific case, we talked about the difference in dialect between the Tokyo area and the Keihanshin megaregion in the way the say (or not say) similar phrases such as “thank you”, “how much”, and surprisingly the word “idiot”. While this might be the case for some of the more traditional residents, a Kobe student made it clear that the current generation does not have any significant difference in how they speak compared to Tokyo or most areas around Japan. The student explained how that difference in dialect is more applicable to the older population.
life, Expat. “How to Ride an Escalator in Japan. (Kanto & Kansai).” YouTube, 8 July 2016, www.youtube.com/watch?v=xVZD5uSiniM. Accessed 14 June 2019.
Second, another small cultural difference is found in a surprising location; at an escalator. In malls, stores, and most commonly, train stations, there are many escalators, and people in the Tokyo and Keihanshin areas rides these escalators differently. In Tokyo, people stand still on the left side of the leaving the right side of the escalator open to people who want to walk up/down. In Keihanshin, it is the opposite, with people standing still on the right and walking up/down on the left. Honestly, there is no rule stating what side to stand on, it’s just how the culture developed.
Lastly, similar to other countries of the world, like America as well, in different regions, there are different staple foods. Now, most types of food are available everywhere, but each region has their own specialty food. For example, okonomiyaki is from Osaka (a pancake made of many ingredients especially cabbage), ramen originated in Sapporo, sushi came from Tokyo, and then there are many other unique dishes that have now spread across Japan. It’s cool because we can relate that to the US where various regions have different signature dishes, like lobster from Maine, potato themed dishes from Idaho, blue crabs and other seafood from Maryland, and other foods.
At first, I wasn’t sure how different each region of Japan would be because of seclusion of Japan for so many years, the majority of the population being pure Japanese, and just the lack of diversity introduced to Japan overall. But now I see that although there has been much diversity brought into the country, within Japan itself, there have been multiple unique systems and cultures across various prefectures created through different groups of people. There are several regional differences in Japan and they are expressed through the unique lifestyles of each region, similar to that of the United States.
In the book The Japanese Mind, there are many aspects of Japanese culture that are discussed. After reading about and discussing many of these topics, I can see how they either promote or discourage sustainable development in different ways.
The aspects of Japanese culture that we have discussed that I believe could promote sustainable development are the concepts of Gambari, Giri, and possibly Bushido. Gambari is the Japanese concept of patience and determinism. It is often used to promote a culture of working hard and taking the future into your own hands. Although it can sometimes put pressure on students and workers to succeed, it can also reinforce the idea that every member of society should work hard and earn their part. This can help sustainable development because it drives people to do all they can for their society and country, which makes Japan a very productive nation.
Giri is the concept of social obligation. In Japan, when someone does something for you or gives you a gift, you are expected to return the favor with an equal action or gift because of Giri. Giri reinforces Japan’s collectivist culture and promotes the ideal that people should work together and help each other out equally in order to be successful in life. This is beneficial to sustainable development because a country cannot develop if only some of its members are succeeding. If someone uses the help of someone else to make gains in their education or work, they are expected to return this favor, rather than just take advantage of that help like I often see in the US. This concept of helping others who will, in turn, help you reinforces sustainable development because it ensures that no one takes advantage of another person in order to make personal gains, but rather encourages people to help others so that they, too, can be helped. Below is a photo of rice farms in Japan. The concept of Giri and Japan's collectivist, give-and-take culture came from the collectivist nature of rice farming.
Finally, Bushido has to do with the concept of the way of the warrior. It refers to the Japanese tradition of samurai being loyal to their masters, to the point where if their master was dishonored or killed, they would commit suicide in his honor. Some aspects of Bushido can help promote sustainable development. Boshido encourages people to identify with their country or workplace and have pride in the work they do. Due to Boshido, as kids, Japanese students develop a sense of loyalty to their teachers. Also, in Japan, manners are highly valued. These are characteristics that foster growth in society, because they promote collectivist values and respect for one another and for the societal structure.
However, Boshido can also hinder sustainable development. Because of Boshido, some workers overwork themselves because they try to prove their loyalty. Also, some students, when they don’t get good enough scores on the entrance exams to top-tier universities, decide to take their lives because of the concept of Boshido, which enforces “die rather than disgrace yourself.” So, Boshido can in some ways enforce and in other ways hinder sustainable development. Below is a photo of Japanese samurai, from which the concept of Boshido originated.
Other aspects of Japanese culture that we have discussed seem to hinder sustainable development, as well. In my opinion, Amakudari, Chinmoku, and Danjyo Kankei seem to be barriers to sustainable development. Amakudari means descent from heaven, which the Japanese use to refer to when bureaucrats enter top-tier positions in private companies after they retire from the government. This practice causes much corruption in the government in the form of the government favoring companies that save positions for bureaucrats to fill when they retire. This allows these larger companies to control their industry and hurts market competition. Also, bureaucrats often don’t have much experience with business when they fill these top-tier positions, so it’s common for them to make poor choices for the company because of inexperience. This whole system hurts sustainable development because it favors corruption from the government in order to keep the people in power at the top of the economy.
Chinmoku is the Japanese concept of silence. Often, people in Japan will say nothing when they are contemplating an idea, when thinking of a response to a question, when they are upset but don’t want to cause an issue or be disrespectful, or when they disagree but don’t want to say so. This silence occurs out of respect for others, but often leads to confusion among people when they communicate. From talking with my classmates from Kobe, I learned that in group meetings, there will often be long periods of silence where no one says anything because no one wants to disagree with an idea, even if they think it is wrong. Chinmoku acts as a barrier to sustainable development because it prevents the free flow of ideas among people and creates a lot of confusion as well as slows down or prevents progress in group work.
Finally, Danjyo Kankei is the concept of male and female relationships. In Japan’s societal structure, men are above women. Men are expected to be the ones who go to work and make money, while women are expected to stay home and raise children. In Japan, it’s very difficult for a woman to get her job back after she takes maternity leave. This concept is a large barrier to sustainable development because it is not sustainable to treat some members of society differently from others. Japan is currently experiencing a declining birthrate in part because women are being forced to choose between marrying and keeping their jobs, which is one example of how Danjyo Kankei is hurting Japan’s development. In order to get the most out of a society, the members within it must be given equal opportunity to contribute in any way they see fit. Below is a picture of the sustainable development goals. Goal number 5 has to do with achieving gender equality.
Overall, from discussing many aspects of Japan’s culture, I have learned a lot about how cultural values can help or hurt sustainable development. Either way, I have seen that the values of a culture has an enormous influence on everyday life and development of a nation, whether good or bad.
Within the past three weeks, our class has already gotten to experience the two megaregions of Japan: Greater Tokyo, which is comprised of Tokyo and its surrounding cities, and Keihanshin, which is composed of the major cities of Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe in addition to the smaller cities around this area. Even though people can easily traverse between Greater Tokyo and Keihanshin thanks to Japan’s exceptional railway system, the proximity of these megaregions to one another does not eliminate the existence of differences between the two. Both Greater Tokyo and Keihanshin possess their own unique customs and experiences that make each region worth visiting.
One difference that exists between Greater Tokyo and Keihanshin are their mass transit systems. I would not hesitate to say that the Greater Tokyo megaregion has the best, and perhaps even the busiest, transportation system in the world. The train stations were always bustling with activity, and I found myself standing rather than seated in the train cars more often than not. Due to the vast number of individuals who utilize the rail system of Greater Tokyo, it possesses extensive lines to transport commuters virtually anywhere they need to go, as well as top-of-the-line technological innovations to ensure that passengers’ rides are as expedient as possible. In contrast, although the mass transit systems employed in Keihanshin are still miles ahead of any of those utilized in the United States, they are still not at the level of the rail system of Greater Tokyo. I have taken the bus more frequently in Keihanshin than I ever did in Greater Tokyo, and the bus systems in Keihanshin leave something to be desired. I feel that the interiors of the buses could have been laid out in a better manner because essentially every bus ride I have taken in Keihanshin has led me to have to contort myself into some odd position for an extended period of time. In the case of Keihanshin’s rail system, it is better than the bus system but still doesn’t quite measure up to Greater Tokyo’s rail system due to the lack of smart technologies such as digital display panels in the train cars that make commuting more efficient.
Aside from transportation systems, I have also perceived a difference in the lifestyles of the individuals living in Greater Tokyo versus Keihanshin. While in Greater Tokyo, I noticed that the majority of the individuals living there were between the ages of about twenty and fifty years old, which means that a large portion of the population of Greater Tokyo is comprised of people of working age. This observation falls in line with the fact that many major companies have established themselves in Greater Tokyo, so it makes sense that many working age-individuals are living in this area. In contrast, I have noticed significantly more elderly people as well as children in Keihanshin. Although Keihanshin still sports lofty buildings and a vibrant nightlife like Greater Tokyo, Keihanshin contains more residential areas that are more suitable for starting a family or retiring. From my apartment in Kobe, I can often hear children playing and singing, which is something I never experienced in Tokyo except for on occasions when we would pass by a park.
Such diversity in societal aspects exists among the regions of Japan, which only has two megaregions, so one can only imagine the extensive range of differences between the numerous megaregions of the United States. Although many Americans like to boast their pride in their nation, citizens of differing regions of the country definitely have divergent customs and ways of life. For example, people from the southeastern United States are known for their alleged “southern hospitality”, which is portrayed through kindness, politeness, and charity; on the other hand, people from the northeastern United States are said to be colder and more indifferent towards others. Another instance of regionalism in the United States is differences between people from the East Coast versus the West Coast. Individuals who live in West Coast states such as California, Oregon, and Washington are stereotypically more free-spirited and liberal, whereas people who live more towards the eastern side of the United States, primarily in the south, are said to be more traditional and conservative.
Whether a country is as expansive as the United States or as small as Japan, differences will most likely exist between the various regions within the nations. Aspects of regionalism can be as concrete as disparities in transportation systems or as subtle as personality traits. Being presented with the opportunity to observe differences between Greater Tokyo and Keihanshin helped me realize that even countries as small and homogeneous as Japan can still have discernible distinctions from region to region.
Over the course of our stay in Tokyo and exploring during the travel leg, I have experienced several information and community technologies (ICTs) that show Japan’s commitment to cultivating smart cities. These innovations not only promote sustainability, but also improve the everday lives of Japanese citizens by increasing accessibility and limiting the waste of resources. Some of these technologies exist in the United States, but many are still unique to Japan. However, there are some areas where the Japanese have not yet introduced smart technologies that could aid in their mission for sustainable development.
Shinkansen at the platform
One major part of Japan’s organizational structure in which it has implemented smart technologies is within its transportation system. As we have studied this summer, Japanese railways are extremely efficient and are able to move people in and between major cities. The Tokyo Metro has an expansive network of 13 lines that makes it possible for millions of people to travel around the entire city each day. Moreover, the Shinkansen bullet train is one of the fastest trains in the world and makes inland traveling much easier for many of the Japanese. In addition to the train infrastructure itself, the stations and auxiliary transit are constantly developing new technologies that make them more accessible and sustainable. JR East has created handicap-accessible Suica card readers as well as automatic detection systems that raises or lowers the roof of the station according to the number of people present. The buses that we take each day to Kobe University have push-to-stop buttons in order to eliminate unnecessary stoppage and improve traffic flow. These transportation innovations only scratch the surface of what Japan has done and will continue to do to provide intelligent public transit.
Fukushima solar farm
Source: Minoru Karamatsu
Japan has also introduced smart and sustainable energy sources. Japan currently supplies about 10% of its electricity from renewable energy technology and has pledged to increase that number by another 15% by 2030. They have installed solar panels in less inhabited regions, invested in wind turbines on the leeward sides of mountains, and have developed leading hydroelectricity technologies. In addition to generating cleaner energy sources, Japan has also implemented electricity-saving measures in its major cities. Many restaurants and hostels we have visited use motion-detecting lights or LED lightbulbs. Household appliances tend to run on a lower wattage, which in the case of our dryers has encouraged us to hang our clothes outside to dry each night. Japan’s commitment to developing energy efficient ICTs will both reduce their consumption of fossil fuels and limit their overall electricity demand.
Giken Eco-Park via Giken
Another way Japan has incorporated smart technologies with sustainable development is through their infrastructure. During our stay in Tokyo, we got to visit Giken, a construction company with the mission to “contribute to the world by creating original products and technologies that benefit society.” In addition to learning about their products and their environmentally-friendly press-in method for pile penetration, we got to take a tour and experience some of these technologies firsthand. They have installed “eco-park” garages that efficiently store vehicles in compact underground spaces. This system limits the amount of land being taken up by empty vehicles and promotes sustainable urban development. Similarly, they have an eco-cycle system that encourages bicycle usage by removing the eyesore of illegally parked bikes. This underground facility ensures safety and security while also saving land for other public use. Smart construction technologies will be crucial to the establishment of smart cities as they will use a more sustainable means to get to a sustainable end.
Food waste in Tokyo streets
Overall, Japan has invested in research and innovation to produce some of the world’s most groundbreaking ICTs, which has made them a world leader in smart cities development. However, there are some areas I have noticed that could use some improvement, particularly with waste management. While the Japanese have established an efficient plastic bottle recycling system, the other forms of waste disposal are lacking and unnecessary use of plastic packaging is common. Almost any fruit or vegetable in a convenience store or supermarket is wrapped in an extra layer of non-recyclable plastic, which ultimately ends up getting incinerated. Additionally, there are no easy options for paper recycling and composting does not seem to be a common practice. If Japan were to introduce these initiatives, they could simplify their waste management system and promote sustainable development by limiting unnecessary waste.
In just two weeks, I’ve had more pleasant public transit experiences in Japan than I’ve had over the course of my life in the United States. Effective transit is the vessel that drives all of Japan’s productivity and innovation. The type and frequency of transit systems differ slightly throughout the country in order to meet the needs of specific regions. In Tokyo, we relied heavily on the Tokyo Metro and its extensive network to get us around the city. During the travel leg, we have primarily been riding the Shinkansen bullet train to cover longer distances more quickly. We also purchased bus passes in Kyoto and used their bus system to explore opposite ends of the city. In Hiroshima, we even rode the electric streetcar a short distance to get to the Peace Park faster. While these forms of transportation certainly have differences, the key elements common to all of them are what make Japanese transit efficient and sustainable.
Hiroshima Electric Railway
Source: Wikimedia Commons
My experiences with the passengers on the Tokyo Metro and Shinkansen have been largely the same. Riders arrive to the platform early and line up, then quickly file on and off of the trains. People are extremely cleanly, quiet, and respectful. A major perk of the Shinkansen is the assigned seating, which makes the ride more comfortable and prevents you from bothering other riders. This is very different from the transit I have experienced in Western countries. While riding Marta at home or traveling in Europe, I’ve experienced pushy crowds, loudness, and uncleanliness. The user-friendliness of each of these forms of transportation entices people to use them and consequently reduces the number of private vehicles on the road, even in less densely populated areas.
Additionally, the various transit we’ve used during the travel leg has been nearly as timely as the Tokyo Metro. The one exception was a delay coming into Kyoto – an issue with the tracks caused several trains to get backed up, causing us to miss our connecting train – but one holdup out of countless perfect trips is a much better track record than that of American transport. The rest of the transit systems have been excellent, with the trains and buses arriving exactly at their expected arrival time.
Subway arrival information at Tokyo Station
One thing that has decreased since leaving Tokyo is the accessibility of transit stations. With 179 subway stations, you can’t walk very far in Central Tokyo without finding a metro stop. The Shinkansen, however, is designed to cover larger distances more quickly, so its stations are further spread out across inland Japan. To access the Shinkansen so far, we’ve either had to walk or take a separate train to a bigger station. The Kyoto bus line had many frequent stops, but the system was difficult to understand and required several connections. Overall, transit is easier to access and understand in Tokyo, but the other networks of transportation outside the city work just as well once you get the hang of using them.
Shinkansen cars on display in the Transit Museum
In general, the various transportation systems throughout different regions of Japan all possess shared elements of timeliness, reliability, and accessibility. I haven’t yet had much firsthand experience getting reserved seats on the Shinkansen or coordinating connecting rides because of the travel leg itinerary, but I hope that over the course of weekend trips I will learn how to navigate new transportation systems.