Tag Archives: transportation

It Snowed! And It’s a Mess

The first snow of the season. Doesn’t everyone look forward to that? I know I did, as long as it wasn’t too early. But in Japan, especially in the warmer areas, it’s not something to look forward to. Look.

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It’s nothing but slush. To top it off, the snow changed to rain, and it’s causing trains to be delayed. I have to work today and take a train. Hopefully, it’s fine. I’ll be leaving early to get there.

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The snow may look nice in some pictures, but believe me, it’s soaking wet. When my daughter was picked up to go to her nursery, she slipped on the driveway and got completely soaked. Good thing she has a couple changes of clothes in her bag.

Well, time to get ready for work and go.

Do you like snow? Do you look forward to the first snow of the year? Let me know.

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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?

Life in Japan: Japan on a Budget

Japan has a reputation for being expensive. But in recent years, it’s not really that expensive. It’s about as expensive as Canada, USA, Australia, or any place in Europe.  This week’s question comes from Trisha Ann.

I’m planning to visit Japan in October. My trip takes 6 days and I’m on a tight budget (but I won’t leave Jp without ever going to Harry Potter world and Kyoto!!). Any tips?

I’ve already written about visiting Kyoto, so I’ll talk about visiting Japan on a budget.

It may seem daunting to some people, considering all the touristy areas tend to be expensive.  But there are many ways to save money, especially related to food and transportation.

Going to big restaurants in the busy, tourist areas is not recommended.  Those restaurants tend to be geared toward tourists, anyway, so they raise the prices.  If you want cheap, go on some of the back streets where tourists usually don’t go. You can find a large number of small restaurants that are actually quite cheap. Just be aware that they may not speak any English or have an English menu. If they have a display case of plastic food, that’s great to point out what you want.  If you really want to save money, you can always go to a supermarket and get food there.  It depends on if you’re able to cook or not (probably not). But they have already prepared meals in supermarkets and convenience stores which are much cheaper than restaurants. Convenience stores and supermarkets both often have microwaves and tables for you to eat at.

Transportation is fairly simple. Avoid taxis. They’re expensive. If possible, try taking the train as much as you can, or even just walking.  If available, you could get a weekly pass for the train. Kyoto is fairly walkable, so you could easily walk from one place to another. One of the good things about walking is that you get to see the real Japan, going through residential neighbourhoods. The central part of the city is based on a grid, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to get around. Be careful about rickshaw rides. They could get pricey, but I don’t know what they’re like in Kyoto. As for Osaka, it’s a bit more difficult to get around because of the street layout. But the trains, like Kyoto, should be very useful, especially if you have a pass.

I hope that helps. Enjoy your trip to Japan.

If you have any questions about living in Japan, please see the original post and leave your questions in the comments.

Designing a Starship

In Star Trek, the starships are all very elegant looking and quite beautiful.  They just look really good.  They are also advanced and have had a couple hundred years of history, so the designs tend to be more aesthetically pleasing.

I’m designing a starship for Journey to Ariadne.  I’ve made a sketch which looks a bit clunky, but I’m not entirely satisfied with it.  I don’t want it to look beautiful.  It shouldn’t look beautiful.  It should be built for function, not form.  Take a look at past forms of transportation in their first incarnations.

The first automobile, an 1885 Benz.
The first automobile, an 1885 Benz.
The Wright Flyer, the first airplane from 1903.
The Wright Flyer, the first airplane from 1903.
The Vostok I capsule that brought Yuri Gagarin into space in 1961. Photo taken by SiefkinDR and used under Creative Commons License.
The Vostok I capsule that brought Yuri Gagarin into space in 1961. Photo taken by SiefkinDR and used under Creative Commons License.

Notice a theme?  None of them are particularly attractive.  They weren’t built to look good.  They were built simply to work.  It’s only in the years and decades after that design became important (cars are now made to look good, planes are made to be aerodynamic and fuel efficient, and the space shuttle ended the utilitarian spacecraft era).  So it’s only logical that the first interstellar spacecraft will look more like a collection of modules connected by a framework and various instruments extending from the main body.  This is what I need to consider when designing a starship.  Think about function first, then refine it a bit.

I’m going to have one ugly spaceship.  And it’ll be a massive one.

Transportation in Speculative Fiction

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Living in Japan, I get to experience a wonderful and efficient train system. Coming from a city that had only one train line (though more are coming), I felt like Japan was a futuristic country. I’m a huge proponent of public transportation, especially trains. So I often think, what will it be like in the future? And what was it like in the past? Speculative fiction addresses a lot of this.

In fantasy, most transportation is on foot, by horse, coach, or ship. Sometimes more advanced forms of transportation are used, like trains or even airships.

But what about in science fiction? Spaceships are the obvious answer. A lot of novels show spacecraft, but not so much about on planets. What do they use? Most likely environmentally friendly. In the air, I can imagine aircraft that fly above the atmosphere to travel long distances quickly. Scramjets are an example, and this technology exists today. How about land? Are there personal vehicles? How about things like trains or maglev systems? One thing I don’t see much of is travel by sea. Do they use boats? I can imagine hobbyists still using sails.

So what do you think would be used for transportation in 26th century Earth? And what have you seen in science fiction novels?