Thursday, March 31, 2005

Back in Kyushu Again

It's Spring Break, and I've headed back down to the land of milk and honey for the third time now since I left Oita prefecture in September.

As I've noted on my two previous trips down (here and here), the big issue is transportation. Japan may be a small country, but it is a pain in the neck to go anywhere.

Probably the cheapest and fastest way to get down here is by flying. Of course that requires a bit of advance planning in terms of buying the tickets. So since this is me we are talking about, it is rare that I have my act together enough to buy tickets in advance.

The next cheapest way is to go by bullet train. It takes a few hours longer than the plane, but I figure by the time you spend all the time checking into the plane and then unloading, getting your baggage, etc, it evens out to the same time in the end. The price is roughly the same, and you can buy your tickets the same day.

Because of all the highway tolls, driving is actually the most expensive way to travel in Japan.

However once I get down to Kyushu, I am again plagued by transportation issues. Again, I mentioned this before in previous blogging, but Shoko lives in Hita, all my friends live in the Usa-gun area, and there is no train between them without going all the way to Fukuoka first. (And for those of you back home, just trust me, it's a long way.) In Ajimu, my old town, there's no train station full stop. So it is very convenenient to have a car.

For that reason I was originally planning on driving down. It would have been 12 hours on the road, and in the end have been more expensive than a train or plane ticket, but it would have given me transportation once I got here.

The thing about 12 hours on the road is that it sounds like a good idea from a long ways away, but once the date gets closer and closer, I think to myself, "Do I really want to go 12 hours on the road?" At the last minute, the night before I was supposed to depart, I wimped out and got a train ticket instead.

Even by train still a hell of a trip down. Five hours, for which I was standing most of the time because there were no empty seats. Next time I will get a plane ticket. I'm not looking forward to the return trip.

Anyway, so I'm here now safe and sound, but with no car. Shoko has been kind enough to volunteer to bike to work, and allow me use of her car. I hope I haven't bored everyone to death with a whole entry about transportation logistics. The next entry will be more interesting, I promise.

A quick plug: A while back I wrote an entry here describing how I have good and bad days in Japan. My friend Mike has written a good post here that I think describes accurately the feelings of frustration on a bad day.

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