As an American who frequently used alternative transportation like buses, trains, bikes and feet, I like to think that I have seen it all. But this was not even close to the truth. On my second or third night in Himeji, after having a welcome dinner downtown, I road the bus home. It was more of a culture shock than anything else!
Up to that point, I’d only been on the shuttle from the airport in Osaka to Himeji. Driving on the other side of the road was surprisingly easy. As a back seat rider/driver its fine. But I’ve since learned that its a much different experience in the passenger seat. Hashtag nail bitter!
So back to this first bus ride. It was a unique experience for all the reasons listed below. I think I have listed all the important differences but if you think of any that I missed feel free to comment.
First, because drivers in Japan drive on the left side of the road, the entrances and exits for buses are on that side. Which means that the driver is on the right side where American bus exits are usually located.
You enter the bus from the BACK door. Dude! At first I was like ‘what?!’ This will make more sense soon. Keep reading.
If you intend to pay your fare with coins you should take a ticket from the orange box and then find a seat. If you are super fancy and have either a monthly bus pass (NicoPa) or a regular bus/train pass (ICOCA) then you can tap your bus pass and then sit down.
Another unique feature of buses in Japan is the payment method. In the U.S. you pay upon entering the bus and you pay a flat rate for each ride. In Japan, you pay upon exiting because you only pay according to the distance you have ridden the bus.
This board is updated with each stop you pass. If you are unsure how much to pay, I think, you can check this electronic tracker and pay the amount shown. Double check this with your resident English speaking Japanese person.
When you want to exit the bus just push the button. It says ‘tomarimasu’ which means what? Yes, you in the back. You guessed it. It means ‘Stop’.
If you are a super fancy card tapping professional then all you need to do is tap your card before exiting at the front of the bus. IF you have coins then you put the coins and ticket into the red slot.
If you need to make change you can also do this upon exiting or at anytime upon entering the bus. All you do is slide your bill into the ‘right side bill sliddy thing’ and the appropriate coins will dispense. Most fares require that you have 100 yen coins and 10 yen coins. The machine will dispense these two types of coins only. The only large bill accepted is 1,000 yen or $10 bills.
500 yen= $5 100 yen= $1 50 yen= 50cent and so on…
Random fact. On all buses in the U.S., be it a city bus or a school bus, there is a yellow line. No passenger is allowed in front of this yellow line while the bus is in motion. This is both to protect the driver from liability issues and to protect passengers. Take a quick look at where the yellow line is on Japanese buses. Yep. That’s the door! I’ve seen super packed buses where people have been standing next to the driver! Where they do that at?! In Japan. On my last few bus trips in Chicago, I noticed the bullet proof glass cube that bus drivers lock themselves in. There is none of that here. The cultures are so different.