Tokyo being the big cosmopolitan city definitely has that advanced subway system to mobilize the millions of people that need to go about their daily lives. The subway plays such an important role that the key criteria for selecting a home here is the immediate proximity to the trains.
Unfortunately for me, the ignorant gaijin, who failed to understand the subway factor and happily signed for an apartment about 20 minutes walk away from the nearest subway station. Well, 20 minutes ain't that far I suppose but think about the ridiculously hot summers or the brutal winter windchill or the kids and groceries you have to drag along to make that 20 minutes trip. Dreadful may be the word to describe my daily commute.... until I discovered the city buses!
Comprehensive bus routes
Everywhere the subway doesn't cover, the city had planned for buses to make up for it. On top of that, there are also buses that run alongside the trains to be that perfect substitute for when the trains are down or the late night journeys after the trains end. Feeling lazy and not wanting to walk that short distance home? Just jump onto the bus and you can be sent almost to your door steps.
If you are staying in that part of town where roads are too tiny or commuters are scarce, chances are there will be those mini buses that cover that route.
Not only are buses easily accessible, they are really comfortable too. Put it this way, you will never find a bus more crowded than subways, especially during peak hours. Not only that, because people treat buses as short distance solutions, turnover for the seats is rapid and hence easy to have a chance to rest your legs.
Traveling with small children couldn't be safer and more relaxing on a bus. Bus drivers here are especially careful and patient with kids, making sure they are seated before they start the journey and waiting for them to safely alight before zooming off. Can't imagine a subway doing the same, ever!
Picture taken at 8.30am in the morning, peak hour apparently!
Travel at a flat rate
Unlike the trains, bus fares are at a flat rate so regardless of the number of stops, you only pay a single price. The price, however differs based on the type of bus. For a regular city bus, the going rate is 220 yen. Mini buses goes for 150 yen. If you are paying with Suica or Passmo, you get a 4 yen discount per trip on a regular bus.
During summer holidays, paying school kids can purchase a summer bus pass that enables them to travel unlimited trips on city buses for only 500 yen. What an awesome deal!
Also, you would never have to worry about having the right change or enough money in your card to pay for your ride. You can always get change or charge up your card on the bus itself! Just let the driver know what you need.
Almost always on schedule
You can always find the bus timetable at the bus stop that indicates when you can expect your bus, weekdays, Saturdays or Sundays and public holidays. The best part is, you can really rely on this timetable! The worse I have encountered is the bus being a few minutes late, else, there really isn't much of a surprise. If the bus happen to rock in earlier, the driver will make it a point to wait until it's scheduled departure time to close its doors. As long as you manage your own schedule, you can safely rely on the buses to bring you to your appointments on time!
The last time I decided to move again, I wasn't much concerned about proximity to the trains anymore! With a couple of bus stops around me, I was more than happy paying a lower rent and living in a bigger space!