Dec 5, 2017
I'm usually pretty confident when it comes to traveling around Japan. I can easily find a train route to most destinations, book a bus ticket across the country, or find the best plane ticket deals online. I enjoy travel planning, even in Japanese. The only thing that makes me a bit nervous is if I have to use a local bus. Ugh the local bus. Compared to the US, local buses here are so much more reliable, clean and overall pleasant. But for the life of me, I cant ride a bus in this country without the fear of getting lost, missing it, or skipping my stop. Probably because I have done all of these things, several times.
Once, on a fantastic trip to Hakone, a lovely area in the foothills with views of Mount Fuji, a friend and I decided we wanted to get lunch in a small town before going the rest of our way to our destination. It would be easy and quick. Just take the bus that comes where the station master had pointed and get off when the towns name was called. Easy peasy. Except after 45 mins of going farther and farther into the mountains, and no signs of a town, we got a suspicion we had made a mistake. Big mistake. The driver told us we were on the wrong bus. So we hopped off and thought we would make an adventure out of it. And what a beautiful adventure it turned out to be. Lost in the mountains, we knew we would be alright if we could just follow the gondola cables up to the next gondola station. So we got on the wrong bus, we still managed to reach our destination and had a fun adventure along the way.
Well, there was also the time I was trying to make my way to climb Mount Fuji. A different friend and I met in the town of Gotemba. There are four different trailheads on Fuji and we really wanted to take the Gotemba trail. After checking the bus schedule on the pole outside the station, it looked like we had an hour to kill for our next bus to arrive. So we had a hearty meal at Subway then sat outside the station waiting for our bus. Because it is a local bus, we figured we wouldn’t need to pre-buy tickets. You just grab the little slip of paper as you get on the bus like most other local buses I had ridden in Japan, then pay while getting off. Later on, I found out that you do need to buy tickets, and the ticket seller having been closed would have been our first clue that something was wrong.
A different trip, later, from Gotemba. Now I know to expect a crowd.
After a good 30 mins past the last bus departure time, my friend and I peered closely at the bus schedule to see if we had gotten something wrong. There, written teenily at the bottom of the schedule was an astrix about the last bus time. It told us that the bus for that time doesn’t run except on holidays. Great. So we looked at our options, decided a taxi ride was cheap enough and continued on our way. Thank goodness for other forms of transit.
There is also the time I missed the last bus at the local mall because it was cold outside and while I waited in the warmth inside until last minute, the bus came and drove away before departure time. Unlike the trains, the buses do sometimes leave a minute or two early. Again a taxi saved me.
Another more recent flop with travel on local buses was when I was trying to go home. We had easily made it to where we wanted to go, but then when it was time to go home, we couldn't seem to find the bus stop for the route back. Yet again, it came to making some quick decisions. Keep looking for the bus stop here, take the bus all the way up the mountain and then back down, or walk down to the previous stop to see if we had better luck finding the bus stop heading down. We went with number 3 and very luckily did, in fact, find it.
The saving grace for all of my bus adventures have been helpful people and not being worried about looking like the fool I am. I still love the bus. It is unbelievably useful at times. I rode local buses everywhere when my son was too small to walk but too heavy for me to carry with my bad back.
Learn from my mistakes.
1. Always read the fine print, or ask someone who can.
2. Know exactly where you are wanting to go and ask before getting on the bus.
3. Look for the bus stop going the opposite direction or give yourself plenty of time to find it when heading home.
4. Have a backup plan. You can always take a taxi. Or walk. It just might cost more or take longer.
American step mom with beautiful Brazilian babies. Raising them in Japan. I'm a crafter too