Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Bus Transportation System of Kyoto

The Fat Geisha needs to lose weight, but she is too lazy to get off her butt to exercise. She REALLY hates to exercise - all that sweat, URGH! She has been controlling her food intake to no avail, no thanks to the cursed low metabolism of old age. To exacerbate the situation, blogging is such a fattening activity, since all one does is SIT and type. Of course I can try sitting without a chair, like a cute Japanese ad I once saw, so this is what I am doing right now - let's see how many calories I lose, or if my legs will collapse before I finish this post.

Back to serious business. I have mentioned a while ago that I would discuss a little about the bus transportation system of Kyoto, since unlike other Japanese cities, the best way to travel around from site to site is via the good old bus, and not the ubiquitious trains.

Do NOT be fooled by the maps you have downloaded online which makes Kyoto look like a small walk-able city, where sites are near to one another. LIES, all lies!!! I was sure fooled - "Wah, Kyoto City is in grid formation, and the places are all located in close proximity, so it will be a piece of cake to navigate around!" I have never walked SOOOO much in my life, and got lost a couple of times too, despite my super navigational skills. (Yes, it was a good way to lose weight, but I was just SO freaking tired at the end of everyday.) So, get it into your head - Kyoto is a VERY BIG CITY.

Now, if you are kiasu (means "scared to lose" in Singaporean speak) like us, and would like to cover as much ground as possible in one day since Kyoto is literally overflowing with treasures, then I highly recommend that you purchase the all-you-can-travel one day Kyoto City Bus Pass, which cost only 500 Yen (SGD 8). This is a steal when taking into consideration that each bus ride on the city bus cost you 220 Yen PER RIDE, regardless of the distance. During our stay, we could take up to 6 bus rides a day, so you can do the math. If we were tired we would take the bus even if it was one or two stops away without worrying about extra costs. In addition, the distance between certain stops could be REALLY FAR, like a 30 to 45 minute walk. :P

The buses are all numbered and there are about a hundred buses (I think) piling different routes. Depending on where you are and your final destination, you may need to make transfers. Hence the first thing to do upon your arrival in Kyoto is to grab the bus guide which will list down the routes and bus numbers, and even the bus stops of each route. The main bus terminal is at Kyoto JR Station, and you can choose to start your journey there if you prefer.

Like the trains, the buses run punctually like clock-work. I don't know how they do it, but at each bus stop, you will see the schedule of each bus on the information board to the MINUTE, and they will inevitably arrive at your bus stop at the stated time, not a minute early or late. (Like, why can't we do it in Singapore, hallo???) Their precision allows you to plan your time, so if you are at the bus stop too early, you can run to the nearest convenient store for a snack without worrying your bus will arrive earlier and zoom off before the scheduled time. How wonderful are the Japanese, you tell me!

All the buses are clean (as expected), with few seats which are invariably occupied by the old folks. One alights the bus by the rear and disembark at the front, where you either show your pass, or pay up your fare to the bus driver. For non-Japanese speakers worried about missing their stop, each bus has an automated broadcast system to announce each stop, and also a route display panel in the bus showing the stops. I also LOVE how environmentally conscious they are: the drivers will ALWAYS switch off the engines at traffic lights and bus stops, to avoid unnecessary gas emission. Are they great or what?!

The Kyoto buses are a good way to see the city. They may get confusing sometimes (especially when it comes to transfers) but they are reliable, affordable and fun. (And you get to improve your map reading skills after awhile.)

P.S. I sat back down on a real seat after the second paragraph.

Samurai T consulting the bus guide and the info board at a Kyoto Bus Station.

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