Two weeks ago on Saturday, I went to a sake tasting near Kyoto Station. Since I did not know how much I would get to drink, I decided to take the bus. It takes about 45 minutes from my place to Kyoto station, and just to be on the safe side, I took the bus at 16:45, so I could make it by 18:00 without problems.

Or so I thought. Traffic was moving as slowly as I had never experienced before, and by 17:20 we had only come half way. At that time we had arrived at Sanjo street and the bus driver made an announcement that it would take another 50 minutes to reach Kyoto station, and that anybody who had to go there should get off the bus. So, I paid my fare and left the bus. Outside, an employee of the Kyoto Bus company handed me another paper ticket and directed me and everyone else bound for Kyoto station to the subway, which also has a station at Sanjo street.

To make this clear, there are only two subway lines In Kyoto, one in North-South direction along Karasuma street, and the other one East-West along Sanjo street. Except for a few more railroad lines that also run underground in the city, and have most of their stops in the southern and eastern part of the city, Kyoto’s public transport relies heavily on the extensive bus network.

Anyway, with my paper ticked I could enter the subway through a back door and go to Kyoto station directly. I had to exit through the manned gate and return the ticked, and then I could finally go to my appointment – I was only a few minutes late.

What surprised me – once again – was how well organised everything was: The new tickets were all printed with detailed instructions (albeit in Japanese only), there were many staff with signs and megaphones guiding people to the correct entrances and exits, and everything ran really smoothly. Part of the praise here has to be lavished on the passengers: There were no complaints, no noisy arguing with the bus driver or other staff, only quiet compliance and doing what needed to be done.

Later I heard that the last weekend in November is the most popular one for momiji viewing in Kyoto, which must have been the reason for the deadlock on the streets. But this also means that obviously both bus- and subway company were prepared and just put a well thought-out plan into action. This actually gives me much hope in case I will ever be caught in a big earthquake – the Japanese will know exactly what to do. I love Japan!

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