Japan Travelogue (Part 2)

12:00 am PHT

Here’s the much awaited second part. Hehehe.

The Railways of Tokyo

I’m extremely impressed by the railway system of Tokyo. For me Japan’s railways epitomizes their efficiency. You will really pity Manila and its traffic-congested streets, polluted metro air, and reckless bus and jeepney drivers after having a taste of Japan’s trains.

But their trains are not for the faint-of-heart. I’m not sure, but I think Tokyo has the world’s most complex railway system. London’s Underground is probably the most famous, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the number of stations and passenger throughput of Tokyo’s trains. You only need to look at a map of the train system (partially shown above) to appreciate it.

Anyway, using the trains is so easy. You simply insert money at any of the numerous automated machines at the station, press the amount of your destination at the machine’s touch screen and out comes your ticket and change. (Their machines have touch screen! While ATMs in the Philippines still use side buttons!) You then insert the ticket at the gates (any which way! No arrows to bungle you up!), then ride the train! you can then get of at stations, transfer lines or platforms, eat or shop at the many stalls inside the station, and finally come out at you destination (or actually at any station that has the same value as the ticket you purchased).

To see how simple it could be imagine entering LRT-1 at Pedro Gil Station. You then purchase a 20-peso ticket, ride the northbound train, get off at Recto, cross over into the LRT-2 Recto Station, ride a train there, get off at Cubao, then finally deposit your ticket at the gates before catching a movie in Gateway Mall.

You can also avail of debit cards/stored-value tickets or get a Suica credit card if you want. If you have a specially-enrolled mobile phone, your phone can also be your ticket to the trains. Nice, no?

And their trains run on schedule! Every station lists the timetable of the trains and you can also see how long it will take to get to any station along the line. There are even mobile software and websites like this where you enter the starting and ending station, select the departure or arrival date and time and then be presented with a list of choices for your travel, complete with how long the each choice will take, how much each will cost, the itinerary, etc. You can then choose the cheapest route or the fastest one or the route with the least train transfers or the one with the most beautiful passengers.  =)

The most-well known railway line in Tokyo is the JR Yamanote Line. This is a circular line that goes through most of Tokyo’s main spots: Ikebukuro, Ueno, Tokyo (Chiyoda), Shinagawa, Shibuya, and Shinjuku. If I remember correctly, daily, the Yamanote Line handles the same amount of people as the whole of New York City’s subways combined!

One major blooper I had while navigating their train system happened during the first Friday I was there. An officemate and I got off from work and we decided to go sightseeing. So from work, we went to Shibuya and explored the place. At around a quarter to eleven, we decided to go home and so we boarded the Yamanote Line to Shinagawa. From Shinagawa, we would ride the JR Tokaido Line to Kawasaki.

Unfortunately, we didn’t know that the Tokaido Line is one of those weird rapid lines where certain trains are designated as limited express. This means that these special trains go directly to some faraway station. Well you can guess what happened. We boarded the train fully expecting to get out in Kawasaki after 10 minutes. Twelve minutes into the ride I was wondering why it was taking so long. Eight minutes later I figured that we were already far away. So my officemate asked a fellow passenger (in broken Japanese) and we found out that the train would go straight to Ofuna, about 20 kilometers away from Kawasaki. Gah!!! No wonder someone jumped back outside the train after boarding it back in Shinagawa.

Since it was already past eleven p.m. by that time, we were worried that we might’ve missed the last train going back. Thank goodness that there was still a train that late and that it wasn’t a limited express either. We got home safely. I definitely wasn’t prepared to do an ala-Tom Hanks in The Terminal especially when the temperature was at 12°C.  =)

Church Service

I attended a total of four masses in Japan (three regular Sunday masses and one Good Thursday mass during the Holy Week). I attended the first three of those masses at the St. Clare Church in Kawasaki, only two blocks away from my apartment, and the last one at St. Ignatius at Yotsuya, where I met up with Ramil. These churches, along with the Franciscan chapel in Roppongi are the only ones I know offering English services.

Anyway, nothing else shows how large the Filipino community is in Kawasaki better than the English mass there. Why? Because while the service itself was conducted in English, most of the songs were in Tagalog! I was really bemused to hear the ultra-long “Papuri sa Diyos” being sung during the Easter Sunday mass. I almost felt sorry for the smattering of Indian nationals present in the congregation because the Filipinos so dominated the crowd.  =D

There was no English mass last Good Thursday, however. So I sat through a completely Nihonggo mass where the only things I understood were “watashi wa” ("I”), “watashi-tachi wa” ("we”), and “Kurisuto” ("Christ”). I had no idea what the readings or the Gospel were and I was too shy to ask the Filipino in front of me if I can borrow his English print-out of the readings.  =p

The Yotsuya Church, as you can see from my pictures below, is very beautiful. I really, really found the curved-design of the ceiling pretty. And it was only in Yotsuya where I found many people from all over the world together. It was wonderful seeing Caucasians, Africans, Asians, Hispanics, and Indians celebrating a common faith.

The Filipinos were quite obvious especially after the mass. You can see them outside the church perusing and buying Filipino goods (papaya soap or bagoong, anyone?) from several enterprising kababayans that set up temporary sari-sari stores. Hehehe.

Travelogue to be continued…

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