Friday, 23 November 2012

My Adventures In Japan - Day 4

Thursday 8th November 2012

We walked to the station taking the same route as yesterday.  If only we'd know while dragging our suitcases up and down all those stairs that the next street along was flat all the way. *sighs*

Here's a bit about crossing the road. Signals are pretty much the same here with the little green man.  Crossings are indicated with striped road markings from pavement to pavement, like zebra crossings at home.


But here's the thing. Once the green man goes vehicles can go through the crossing as long as there are no pedestrians in their way.  You will wonder if they're going to stop but they generally just slowly keep rolling towards you until they can zoom past. You can cross any time it's green and the traffic will stop.  It's pretty rare to see anyone cross the road when there's a red man.

Today was our first day of travelling unaided by train and it was another small victory!  So, now it's time to explain transportation.

The two main methods of transport are the Metro and the train. In Shinjuku station, they are within the same building so follow the signs carefully.  Here is a map of the Metro and here is a map for JR Line trains. These are essential for getting about, but you'll get them there and in any guide books too.

JR-East are the main railway company for getting about in Tokyo.  There are other companies which cover other areas, but I'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

The process for catching JR trains and using the Metro is pretty similar. Beside the gates you want to access there are machines for buying your tickets.  Above them are a set of maps, usually one of the network and another one where the station names have been replaced by numbers eg 190. So you just find the station you'd like to go to and the number is the fare in Yen.  The station you're at will be highlighted.

The machines are mostly touch screen and most have an English button so hit that first. Select the amount of people travelling and then tap the button that corresponds with the fare (eg 190) and put your money in.  The machines take coins, notes and Suica cards, which is what we used, and gives you your ticket and any change.

The JR machines have some additional buttons and the very top option on the left says JR. That's for getting tickets for a straight-forward A-B journey. The second one down is for transfer tickets where you have to switch to a different line and I think the third one is for day passes.

Once you've got your ticket you put it in the slot at the gate and go through, remembering to grab your ticket as you go.

Next you have to find your platform. Find the name of the line you are taking eg Yamanote line (there may be a few you can pick from but trains are so regular that you're best to just pick one and stick with it), find the direction on the map that you are travelling and the names of the final stations.  Just for clarification, the number of the line on the map doesn't correspond to any platform or gate number and there are usually staff in a booth next to the busiest gates or an information desk within the station if you are stuck.


So, for a train from Shinjuku to Kamakura, I would take the Shōnan-Shinjuku Line. I'd look on the overhead boards throughout the station for the platform and follow the directions. There are loads of signs so don't worry about that. The signs usually mention two platforms, one for each direction, so I'd keep an eye out for any that mention Zushi or Kamakura, as they're the last stops on my line.

As I mentioned here, each platform has a sign showing where it's going and when and the side of the train usually tells you this too.  When you get on the train, there are often maps or screens above the doors to keep you right. They also warn you when it's time to get off and the ticket gates at the exit will keep your ticket if that's the end of your journey.  If the gates won't let you through it's usually because your fare isn't correct, so you have to go to a machine just beside the gates called a Fare Adjustment Machine, insert your ticket and pay the difference before going back to the exit.

Now, enough talk of trains, let's talk about the zoo!


Ueno Zoo is based in Ueno Park which is just across form the station and there are lots of things to see and do there including museums and temples but we were there to see the animals!

Now pictures of zoos can be pretty boring, so I'll just give you some of the best pics from our day.


I had a great day out but zoos always leave me with mixed feelings.  It's great to see all these animals up close but as we went around you could see that some of the animals were pretty deeply affected by being caged.  There was a bird banging its head against a post and a number of animals showing very repetitive behaviour.

It basically took us all day to look round and we stayed until it closed at 5pm when we had to run for the gates. It's nice that pretty music plays when it's time to leave anywhere here.

Next: My favourite day of the holiday (and possibly, my life)!

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