Posts Tagged ‘commuting’

Cycling in Tokyo

Posted 16 Apr 2010 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Only in Japan, Tokyo

Tokyoites are fond of their bicycles, and with good reason. Roads here in the megapolis are not particularly car-friendly. In my neck of the woods, for example, you’d be hard pushed to drive further than sixty metres without meeting an intersection or set of traffic lights.

Getting around by bicycle, on the other hand, is a breeze. It also seems to free you from those cumbersome traffic laws that vehicles are obliged to obey: cyclists happily weave across pavements, dart through red lights, flatten pensioners and wheelie across the sky in an ET-esque montage.

Pavement weaving is particularly annoying: it makes the walk home from the supermarket with heavy shopping bags a Spartan test of endurance; it also fills me with an irresistible urge to throw a stick through the spokes and watch, gleefully, as the hapless weaver is catapulted over the handlebars and into the side of a bus.

To find out whether I was legally justified in clotheslining the most spatially-unaware individuals I turned to Google, which directed me to this great post.

The rules boil down to: ‘Exercise some common sense, and ride safely’.

Hear hear! Now all we need is for the most wearisome of wheelwrights to develop some common sense.

Tokyo’s Rush-Hour Rudeness

Posted 15 May 2009 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Tokyo, Travel, Work

Thank you for your f***ing kindness!

It’s been a couple of years since my last Tokyo rush-hour post, but something happened recently that I have to moan about:

I was on a fairly busy train to work yesterday morning. As usual the seats were all taken so I stood towards the middle of the carriage. At one stop a woman boarded the train and stood next to me. Despite the fact that she was obviously heavily pregnant not a single person offered to give up their seat for her. It was only when a few people got off the train at Shinjuku that I was able to offer her the now-vacated seat in front of me, which she gladly accepted.

This kind of behaviour absolutely infuriates me. Surely any physically fit adult with a smidgeon of human decency would give up their seat for a pregnant woman?

The end of humanity

Posted 28 Dec 2008 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Only in Japan, Tokyo, Travel, Video

You have to be as calm as a Hindu cow to survive some train journeys in Tokyo. Do you think you could put up with this kind of treatment on a daily basis without going mental?

Is Japan Expensive? Part 1: Travel

Posted 11 Jun 2008 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Is Japan Expensive?, Only in Japan, Osaka, Tokyo, Travel, UK

Is the UK more expensive than Japan these days? Over the next few posts I’ll be exploring just how much things cost in both countries. Let’s start with travel:

Travel by car:

First off, we’ll need to buy a car to get around in. I’ve chosen two examples here: the VW Golf R32, which is a beast of a machine; and a Honda Civic, which is your general pootling-about vehicle.

Japanese road tax varies from ¥10-50,000 (approx. £50-250) depending on engine size; in the UK road tax can be anything from £35 to £400. Our sample cars would probably fall into the higher and medium-range tax brackets, respectively:

Golf R32 (Same model in both countries – 3-door MT)

  • UK price: £24,950
  • JP price: £19,610 (¥4,114,286)

Honda Civic (Japan – 1.8G, 5-door MT; UK – Civic 1.4S, 3-door MT. Both were the cheapest possible models I could find)

  • JP price: £9,231 (¥1,937,250)
  • UK price: £13,410

So for a simple purchase, Japan wins on both counts. Of course, Japan’s motorways are tolled, whereas the UK is – with one or two exceptions – free, which is something to take into account when thinking about travelling long distances. And there’s the added cost of a parking space, which would probably cost somewhere in the region of ¥30,000 (approx. £150) per month around west Tokyo.

Fuel prices are easy to compare. I’ve chosen a representative suburb of London and Tokyo from which to work on: Southgate in North London and Kichijoji in west Tokyo. Both are around the same distance from the political and financial centres of their respective cities:

Petrol (regular unleaded, per litre):

  • UK price: £1.13
  • JP price: £0.83 (¥164)

Blimey, that’s quite a huge difference!

Commuting:

First off, I should point out that most (95%+) Japanese companies pay for the cost of their employees’ commute to work, which is usually by train. This may happen with some companies in the UK, but is far less common.

For our sample journey, I’m again going to use Southgate (London) and Kichijoji (Tokyo) as our representative suburbs. I’ve picked Southgate to Westminster and Kichijoji to Ichigaya as our routes. Both take approximately the same length of time and cover the same distance, travelling from the outer suburbs to the centre of their respective cities. Let’s start with a monthly rail pass:

  • UK price: £132.90 – Southgate to Westminster, Zones 1-4
  • JP price £42.01 (¥8,890) – Kichijoji to Ichigaya

The big difference with both of these passes, apart from the huge gulf in price, is that with a pass in London you would be able to travel anywhere within Zones 1-4. With the Tokyo pass you would be able to travel anywhere between Kichijoji and Ichigaya for free, provided you use the same train line (in this case the JR Chuo-Sobu line). That’s good if you want to travel to, say, Shinjuku, but for the other “centres” of Tokyo you’d have to pay a little bit extra each time.

To make it a bit fairer, let’s compare the price of a one-way journey along the same routes:

  • UK price: £2.50 – Southgate to Westminster
  • JP price: £1.38 (¥290) – Kichijoji to Ichigaya

Tokyo still comes out on top, but the price difference isn’t quite as enormous.

Long-distance rail travel:

Japan is famous for their shinkansen (bullet trains), so I couldn’t write a post about travel without mentioning them at some point, could I? I’ve personally never had that much trouble with high-speed trains in the UK, but I’m sure there are millions who have, and who would be more than happy to recount their horror stories.

For high-speed trains, I’ve chosen London-Newcastle (270 miles) for the UK, and Tokyo-Osaka (343 miles) for Japan. Despite the extra 130 miles covered by our Japanese train it still manages to reach its destination more than 20 minutes ahead of its British counterpart (2hrs 36mins for Tokyo-Osaka and 2hrs 59mins for London-Newcastle).

Pricing is a bit different for both countries. In the UK it’s possible to get hugely discounted high-speed train tickets provided you book well in advance; in Japan shinkansen tickets are – in general – the same no matter how far in advance you book. To make it fair, I’ve compared the price for an open-single ticket for both (travel at any time of the day, on any train):

  • UK price: £124.50 – London King’s Cross to Newcastle, standard open single ticket
  • JP price: £66.07 (¥13,850) – Tokyo to Shin Osaka, reserved seat

The shinkansen looks much cheaper here, but bearing in mind the booking-in-advance rule in the UK, it really isn’t: I could get a return ticket from London to Newcastle for £66 provided I sorted it out a week or two in advance.

That’s all for this post. Look out for “Part 2: Household Goods”, where I’ll be comparing the price of TVs, sofas and other assorted gubbins!

(Prices based on 11th June 2008 exchange rates: 1GBP = 209.55JPY)