Thursday, August 21, 2014

Travel within Japan

One of the things I'm finding most surprising about living in Japan is how crazy expensive it is to travel within the country.  Jeff and I are looking at taking another trip and are trying to figure out how much it's going to cost.  We have several options but here is just a little bit of the craziness that is part of trip planning when living here.  Everyone is aware that gas costs more in pretty much every other country than the US (yet people complain about the cost of gas all the time - it's no surprise why we don't drive more efficient cars like most other countries?).  To take this trip it would be about $90 in gas in the US and $140 here.  No big deal, right?

The thing that keeps blowing me away is the road tolls here in Japan.  If we decide to drive, the tolls would be $276 just to be able to use the road.  Let me say that one more time.  We are planning a trip that is about 445 miles each way so lets call it 900 miles round trip, it's $276 in tolls to make that trip.  That's roughly the equivalent of Boise to Portland and back.  In less than 2 minutes I found plane tickets from Boise to Portland, round trip for $325.  All we want to do is drive!  When we took our little road trip a week and a half ago, we probably paid almost $100 in tolls.  It's totally crazy.

As you can imagine, the cost to take a train is more than that of the tolls so it's actually quite expensive to move around within the country.  If you are planning on visiting Japan, you can get a rail pass that is good for a week or two, depending on the length of your stay that can significantly reduce the cost to travel around.  These are only issued outside of Japan so you need to get it before you come here.  Hint hint to anyone who is thinking about visiting.

Anyhow, for people wanting to visit Japan, meal costs are not much higher than the US.  Fish, beer and liquor are fairly inexpensive.  Beef is expensive.  Restaurants don't seem to have as high of a markup as they do in the US.  And most importantly, soft ice cream cones are cheap :-)

I figure I need to have some pictures in this blog so here are some pictures of the road that Jeff and I have been running in the morning.

This is just a cute house with some rice fields in front of it and a really pretty garden up close to the house.  This is fairly common.  Some houses also have small vegetable gardens with squash and tomatoes and veggies growing.

This little road reminds me a bit of the Greenbelt back home. It has the river on one side and the houses, apartments, businesses and such on the other.  The biggest difference is that cars actually use this road too.  Not much traffic and the cars don't go to fast.

Here is the other direction.  This starts about 2 block behind our apartment, but isn't this pretty until we get about a half mile out.  If you look really close there is a large red sigh on the right side of the picture.  This is our "home improvement" type store.  It is more like a target than a home depot but it does have some tools and lumber.  It's very convenient.
I've heard a few comments from people that "everything in Japan is so pretty".  I don't want to give false presentation of a country so that when people come here they are surprised that not everything is beautiful.  At the same time, why take pictures of the run down looking apartments that are on my running route and the place where they take all the bottles that were put out for recycle and squish them in to giant cubes?  Yes, I see these things daily and they are not very pretty, but I'd rather focus on the pretty things and the positive things.  I try to frame my pictures for the most attractive angles, not the most representative.  The pictures above are the prettier parts of my run.  Along this little river I enjoy seeing the heron in the water fishing and that is the part of my run I look forward to and the part I want to share. Japan is a very beautiful country but it is not beautiful everywhere.  For the ugly pictures, you need to find a different blog :-)

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