Traveling in Wakayama may be a little bit different than what you might expect when you first come to Japan. Instead of using lots of trains or buses, many of us are quite reliant on our cars and bicycles. However you choose to travel here are some useful information and tips to get you up and about!
People in Japan rely alot more on their bicycles as a convenient mode of transportation especially in small rural towns. You will see them just about anywhere you go. Many of us Wakayama ALTs also put our trust and faith in our "mama-charis" to get us around. These 'bad-boys' (or 'bad-girls') come quite in handy for making your weekly grocery trips, going to school, getting to and from the train station and generally keeping you mobile in and about your town.
With few exceptions, rules for automobiles also apply to cyclists. Please see Driving for more details on rules of the road.
If you are lucky (or unlucky, depending on your personal preference for cars) you will enjoy the pleasures of owning and driving a car in Japan. Again this depends on if you are used to huge American-size gas guzzlers and wide open spaces........then maybe you may suffer from spontaneous bouts of road rage navigating narrow, winding roads and claustrophobia driving in your tiny "Kei-car".
Most JETs who drive usually do so in areas that have traditionally had previous ALTs who also drove. JETs sometimes have to teach in areas that have several Elementary and Junior High Schools that are unfortunately far from one another. Other times you may be placed in towns that are inland and are not near to any accessible train stations. If you happen to find yourself in such a situation, having a car is a big help in getting you around and also making you feel less isloated from other JETs in the community.
Please see Driving for more details on driving a car in Japan.
Taking the bus can be fairly cheap. As far as the convenience and reliability of buses, that can differ depending your area. Ask your supervisor for information about the local buses, including a bus schedule. It will be written in Japanese, so have the main places you want to leave from and go to translated for you. This is useful if you live a distance from the nearest train station and have no car. Keep in mind that in smaller places the last buses are usually around 5:30 or 6 at night.
When boarding, be sure to take a ticket from the dispenser located at the back of the bus, or you may end up paying more than you should. Many buses have buttons near the seats that you push as you approach your stop. You pay as you leave the bus, and the fare amount is displayed above the driver’s seat. Having small change on hand makes paying easier, but there is a change machine at the front in case you forget. Please make change before you disembark
JR runs two lines in Wakayama - the Kisei line and the Wakayama line.
Combined, they make a half a ring around Wakayama-ken. Unfortunately, no train service exists to areas that are inland (rather than coastal) or in the northern part of the prefecture. So you'll either have to drive, bum a lift with a driver or take a bus/taxi to get to the inner mountainous areas (Hongu, Ryujin, Miyama, Nakahechi, Kumanogawa, Shimizu, Kanaya, Oto, etc).
The trains run more frequently north of Tanabe. Taking trains south of Tanabe takes a little more planning. The trains stop running early in Wakayama so remember always "KNOW BEFORE YOU GO!". Hyperdia is great for checking times and it's easy to use. The "Kii" in the station names above is used to differentiate from others with the same name. Using the English version of hyperdia, you can check train times. Please note to type the name of the station without hyphens.
Available classes of tickets:
- Regular (joshaken 乗車券)
- Reserved (shitei 指定)
- Express (tokkyu 特急)
- Green Car
- Super-Express (shinkansen 新幹線)
You will always purchase at least a regular fare. The other classes are fees that are added on. So if you take an express (tokkyu) from Tanabe to Wakayama, you will pay the regular fare (joshaken) PLUS the express fare (tokkyu). There are no shinkansen trains in Wakayama. For the sake of example, if you take the Shinkansen from Shin-Osaka to Hiroshima, you will pay the regular fare (joshaken) PLUS the Super-Express fare (shinkansen).
- Multiple fare (buy 10 one-way tickets at once and get and 11th free - good for 90 days) called kaisuken 回数券.
- Round trip ticket (for long distance fares you get a small discount on the regular fare - calculated into the price) called ofukukippu 往復切符.
Express charges can quickly add up, but riding express trains are extremely useful if you're traveling long distances or need to be somewhere at a certain time. The term express gets used alot. In larger cities, you may have local (futsu) trains, limited express, express, rapids, etc. Limited express trains stop at the fewest number of stations. they can get you places much quicker, but make sure that they will stop at your station. If you get handy with a train schedule, you can sometimes get where you want to go quicker by taking a limited express to close where you want to go and then switching over to a local train.
Meeting someone at the stationEdit
If a Japanese person is going to pick you up at the station they may ask you to meet them at the kaisatsuguchi 改札口. This is the turnstile gate where they collect your tickets. Many stations in large cities have more than one exit so it's a good idea to clarify which exit you'll be meeting at (north, south, central, east, west).
Passing Time on the TrainsEdit
Books/PSP/Nintendo DS/ipod: Helps pass the time on those long, pesky train/bus rides during your weekend escapades!
JUST IN CASE.......
- Travel size umbrella - comes in handy when you get caught in the rain. And ladies, in Japan it's pretty stylish using it in the summer too!
- Mini Flashlight - It can get pretty dark in the countryside (田舎 inaka). With the sometimes poor lighting in some areas, the inaka is notoriously known for having pitfalls and ditches that people have fallen into. Use your "mini-lightsaber" and fight the forces of darkness.
Basic & Useful Train Station JapaneseEdit
- Does this train stop in Tanabe?
Kono densha wa Tanabe ni tomarimasu ka
- What time is the next (first/last) train to Tanabe?
Tsugi (saisho / saishuu) no Tanabe made no densha wa nan ji desu ka
- What platform does the train to Tanabe leave from?
Tanabe made no densha wa nan ban sen kara demasu ka