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I have raved about the transportation system in Japan many times before, but I feel that it is necessary to dedicate an entire post on just how exquisite it really is. As I mentioned before, the buses are almost never late. They arrive and leave almost within the same minute as the listed time, and it is only in the outskirts of the country side in the middle of nowhere (where my first middle school is) that the buses are late. And even then, the bus is never late more than five minutes. They are always reliable to get you to your desired destination, and I might as well be a walking billboard advertisement convincing people that Japan’s got the transportation system down to a tee.
Because going to my middle school in Hayashida costs me 880 yen each way (making it roughly $17 each day), I was advised to get a NicoPa card rather than using my ICOCA card. Basically, an ICOCA card is a cash card that is used for transportation, so instead of paying in cash or coins each time you ride the bus, you load your card with money and pay by scanning the card. It doesn’t save you any money, but it does provide you the convenience of not carrying loads of coins everywhere you go. However, the NicoPa card is a card that allows you to select your route (typically to work), and you pay a set amount for unlimited rides along that route. However, for my route to Hayashida Junior High School, because it is so far in the country side, I ended up paying for an “All Lines” pass, which means I can take any bus, anywhere in Himeji, anytime I want.
At first, I was devastated that I had to pay 86,000 yen (roughly $860) for a three-month plastic card (even though it would be reimbursed by my work). I felt like it wasn’t worth the card because the math worked out that I would be paying less if I had just paid for my transportation straight up rather than using the NicoPa. However, I am so glad I have the NicoPa solely because of how much I travel and how many times I head downtown for food and errands outside of work times. For example, I would get off work, go home, and then head back downtown to grab dinner with some friends. Or, on a weekend, I would sometimes go downtown to work at the Starbucks in the shopping center (best Starbucks work view I’ve ever had, picture below). The only “dumb” thing about the NicoPa is that the card can only be purchased for a set one-month, three-month, or six-month pass. So even though I needed the card for four months for my route to Hayashida, I needed to purchase a one-month pass and then purchase a three-month pass after my one-month pass expired. It’s all fine and dandy though because I am in Japan, and it is by far my favorite country I have been to, with Colombia being a close second.
Japan even makes riding a bike or choosing a economically friendly transportation options awesome. Aside from the fact that there is a bike garage (picture shown below), I get compensated for biking or walking to school. Obviously, I don’t bike or walk to Hayashida Junior High School, but in my elementary school days I take a 12-minute bike ride to Takaoka Elementary School or Takaoka-nishi Elementary School, and I get compensated roughly $14 each time I bike there, which I thought was pretty cool. Even for Ise Elementary School, where I take the same bus to Hayashida, get off two stops before Hayashida, and walk 20 minutes to the school, I get compensated $5. Pretty neat.
The last thing I love, which isn’t really about transportation and isn’t the last thing I’ll find to love about Japan, is how people where face masks when they are sick or contagious. Unless you’re very, very ill, Japan’s work culture is deeply ingrained into the lives and personality of its workers, so people go to work even if they are sick—and even if there is a deadly typhoon sweeping through the city. However, I deeply appreciate the fact that people wear face masks when they are sick, even if the act is driven by the work-culture. I’ve gotten to a point where I actually feel slightly offended by people who don’t wear face masks when I hear, see, or feel (yes, it has happened) them coughing, sneezing, sniffling, or breathing. Okay, maybe not breathing, but you get my point. Especially because I spend about two and a half hours on a bus each day, I really appreciate this aspect of Japan. I hope the United States will adopt this tradition eventually. I just think it is a kind and considerate thing for people to do, especially when people are working together in close quarters.
Underground Bike Parking Garage
Oh. I can’t just skip over the bike garage though. It is underground, the method used to get your bike up from the garage is awesome. It uses a conveyor belt where you place your bike tires on: You hold your bike brakes, so it doesn’t slip, and the bike is lifted up the ramp while you walk alongside the bike. I just thought it was a cool design, and the idea of a bike garage is outstanding to me in general. It keeps your bike safe from theft (but it’s Japan, so theft doesn’t even happen) and it keeps your bike safe from weather.
Best Starbucks View Ever
On this day, I was at Starbucks on a Monday. I had Monday off work because I worked Sunday, and because everyone else was working, I spent the day going to the doctor to get medicine for a cold and working at Starbucks. I ordered the first drink I actually liked from Starbucks on this day (November 12). It was an iced coffee and creme latte, and it was delicious. Just another relaxing and beautiful day in Japan.