Convenient, Yet Inconvenient – Japan’s Train System

We just got back from a trip up to Saitama to visit my wife’s family. During this trip, we had to take a number of buses and trains. The system is extensive in the Tokyo area, and you can get pretty much anywhere you want in a timely manner and without much difficulty.

The view from the JR Musashino Line in Saitama.
The view from the JR Musashino Line in Saitama.

It’s convenient

The trains are quick, many traveling between 90 and 110 kilometres per hour. The express and rapid trains are very nice for long distances. You can easily transfer from one train to another, even if it’s a different company. You can use the same IC card to pay for any train or bus. No need to count out change for a bus or train ticket.

It’s inconvenient

Packing around a not-yet-4-year-old is not the easiest thing, and with her inability to sit for a very long time, she’s difficult to handle on a long train ride. While taking the trains and buses is convenient, it’s troublesome with a young child. On our way home, she fell asleep, and I had to carry her between two trains and have her sleep on me. And then there are the crowded trains. She was extremely fidgety on that train, and wanted to stand, then be held, then stand, then be held, etc. It’s physically demanding to travel by train with a young child. For something like this, I’d have preferred to drive. However, with the roads and traffic in the Tokyo area, that would be a major headache. I don’t think I could find a parking space, either.

For an overnight trip to a destination only one and a half hours away by train, I took a whopping four buses and eight trains. I love the train system in Japan, and could easily travel everywhere, but I wish I could do it with my daughter being a couple years older.

Ever take a trip or commute that frustrated you because of the transportation system? Or having to deal with young children?

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7 thoughts on “Convenient, Yet Inconvenient – Japan’s Train System”

  1. I have three daughters that are close in age. They’re grown now…but we traveled a lot by train when they were little. I know what you mean…it wasn’t always easy.

  2. We spent 20 hours in a car last summer. So, at least you weren’t responsible for the kids and driving. Though, the crowds don’t help the situation. It’s tough traveling with kids.

  3. I took a train in Germany once. It was short but mildly nerveracking. I tend to be very fidgety in the first place, and I cling to familiarity. Familiar, fit me, is absolutely not public transportation. It’s driving around and finding my way around by randomly exploring the area. I suppose that’s not exactly practical in a city as big as Tokyo, though, huh?

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