Japan’s long-haul buses can be a convenient, economical way to get around Japan, as long as you’re punctual.
New Year’s is the busiest time for domestic travel in Japan, as it’s tradition to head back home and spend time with your family during the season. And while the Shinkansen bullet trains are Japan’s fastest and most famous mode of domestic transportation, there are also a lot of people will be taking long-haul highway busses.
Not only are busses often cheaper than trains, they service many of the more rural parts of the country that lack high-speed rail stops. This being Japan, the busses are usually clean, too, and the drivers and passengers polite. You can make a reservation ahead of time and get an assigned seat, and oftentimes those seats recline and have footrests, making for a pretty comfy ride, and for long trips there’s usually a stop or two at Japan’s famed highway rest areas, where you can pick up locally made snacks and drinks and use the remarkably clean bathrooms.
However, there is one potential problem with taking long-haul buses, and its one that bus operator JR Bus Tohoku has posted a special reminder about on their website, which reads:
“To customers who will be using our buses during the New Year’s period,
Buses will depart at their scheduled departure times. If you are not on the bus when it is scheduled to depart, we will not attempt to contact you or wait for you.”
In other words, if you take a little too long browsing through the souvenir shops, stretching your legs, or doing anything else at the rest stop that prevents you from getting back on the bus at its scheduled departure time, the bus might just leave you behind, stranding you part-way to your destination.
▼ So don’t take too long deciding how much of that delicious Ebina rest stop melon bread to buy.
“A large number of people use our buses during the New Year’s season,” JR Bus Tohoku explains. “If someone is late and disrupts the timetable, it will cause problems for the other passengers, so we have issued this cautionary statement.” The company added that it isn’t so strict as to speed off a single second after the scheduled departure time, but the important takeaway from the warning is that there’s no guaranteed grace period on being late getting back to the bus.
Thankfully, long-haul highway buses usually have a large clock at the front of the interior, and drivers verbally announce or put up a sign (sometimes both) saying when the bus will depart. That makes it easy to coordinate your watch/phone with the bus’ clock and know how long you have until you need to get back. That said, even if you’re leaving your jacket or some other belongings at your seat, any time you step off the bus at a rest stop, you should always bring your phone and wallet with you, just in case you get left behind and half to figure out and pay for a new ride.
Source: TV Asahi via Yahoo! Japan News via Jin
Top image: Pakutso
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