Public transportation – Trains vs. Buses

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.



Filed under Daily Life, Japan

10 responses to “Public transportation – Trains vs. Buses

  1. Tom

    I love both modes of transportation where I live and ride them both all of the time. I think I would fit in perfectly in Japan, except that I’m easily a foot taller than most everybody.

  2. Kathryn

    Just before I left Tokyo, I started catching buses more. The bus from our place to Ikebukuro took the same time as the subway-train combo with no need to change over, I always got a seat and I could see shit unlike on the subway. It’s a lot harder to get info on the bus services – I’ve never found a site like hypedia for them – but I think they are a good way to get around if you live out of the city a bit.

    • At least you could find a good bus. To be honest, the bus I take to get to the station also goes the opposite way to another station, where we often go shopping. If we took the train, it would require 2 trains, while we only take a 20 minute bus ride.

      • Kathryn

        Yeah we lived a bit out of the way but could go to decent shopping either way on the bus. Our subway changeover for the yamanote line was at Sugamo which, if you don’t know Tokyo, is the old lady capital of Tokyo. Which I guess pretty much makes it the old lady capital of the world.

        Having to walk 500m to change to the train is ok, having to walk 500m with a horde of old Japanese ladies… yeah, I’m going to take the bus!

        • Haha. A horde of old Japanese ladies. That made me laugh. Hard to walk through one of those. Many of them are walking so slowly, it’s like a maze trying to navigate through them.

  3. Can’t beat the train in Japan. They are extremely efficient and go just about everywhere. I also like travelling by car as I can stop anywhere and sometimes love getting off the beaten track and exploring what is out there 🙂

    • Living in greater Tokyo, I don’t like driving around here. The traffic is awful. I can take a train or bus to get off the beaten track around here 🙂

      • Living in Tokyo is another story. Yeah, I probably wouldn’t want to be driving in the middle of that city. I have driven in Nagoya, which was just manageable. That is the great thing about living on the outskirts of a city, you don’t have to worry about all that traffic!

        • I live in a smaller sized city, Fujisawa. Just over 400,000 people, yet it has the 3rd largest central business district in Kanagawa and the most popular beach in the entire country. Yeah, smaller city, but insane traffic.

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