Japan is well known for its very well developed train network that is almost always on time. But is it really that great? And what about the buses? Let’s look at a few factors.
Are they on time? Trains are on time most of the time. They run on a very strict schedule that’s supposed to be down to the second. It seems to be a very efficient system. As for buses, they leave the terminal on time, but the rest of the route is quite variable. Busy routes tend to be slow. I’ve waited 15 minutes for a bus. It all depends on the passengers and the traffic.
How crowded are they? It depends on the time. During rush hour and the late night trains and buses, they are crowded. They can be so crowded that you have absolutely no room to move. Most of the time, I don’t get a seat on the bus, but I usually do on a train. It depends on the train line and the bus route.
What’s more comfortable? I think trains are more comfortable. Buses tend to be more difficult to move around in, and the seats are smaller. Sitting over a wheel well is a bit uncomfortable, too.
Are they easy to understand? The trains have information in English at the stations, and usually on the trains themselves. If it’s an older train, it most likely will have the conductor doing the announcements, which will be Japanese only. Newer trains have automated announcements in Japanese and English. Buses are very difficult to understand if you’ve never taken them before. If you’ve never used a particular route, it’s most likely you have no idea which bus stop to get off at. It’s a confusing system with no bus route maps available at the bus stops or terminals.
How are the passengers? I find that train passengers tend to be extremely selfish. Often, they won’t give up their seats for the elderly, pregnant women, or small children. The handicapped tend to get a seat, though. On buses, I find people more courteous. The elderly, pregnant women, small children, and handicapped tend to get a priority seat, though it may be difficult if the bus is completely full.
I prefer the train, just because I can get anywhere quickly and easily. Buses are usually difficult to get out of if they’re crowded, and I don’t enjoy standing on a bus with a driver who doesn’t drive smoothly.