Is transport running in Japan?
Japan's vast and efficient public transport network within cities stayed largely operational throughout the emergency declaration, though with some at reduced capacity. Whilst tele-work was introduced by a significant number of companies during the state of emergency, we've seen that levels of transport usage are returning to similar pre-covid levels on several lines in Tokyo.
Shinkansen bullet train services are currently running at reduced capacity in response to the state of emergency in several prefectures.
Japan's trains aren't all busy subways in Tokyo
Japan Rail (JR) was even able to debut its new N700S bullet train on 1st July, which can operate even in the event of an emergency on a back-up battery system (Kyodo News).
Japan Railways (JR) have also trialled a system whereby business people can work in designated carriages and carry out remote video conferencing calls with special speakers to create sound barriers between individuals (NHK World).
While public transport usage within cities has rebounded significantly, the number of passengers on shinkansen services remain relatively low amid the coronavirus pandemic.
What safety measures are in place?
With public transport becoming busier again, JR East has updated their smartphone app to provide users with real-time congestion information on certain lines in Tokyo to help people avoid crowded trains. We'd recommend downloading it for your trip to Japan!
We've noticed that private train lines in Tokyo such as Keio (pictured) have started displaying information inside the carriages on the ventilation systems that they are operating.
Tokyo Metro has also announced that they have stepped-up they disinfection measures by spraying carriage interiors with a silver-based compound that contains anti-microbial properties (Japan Today).
Many trains nationwide are operating with a number of open windows in each carriage to increase ventilation.
For longer journeys on Japan's famous bullet trains, JR Central have announced even more extensive cleaning protocols (anyone that's ridden a bullet train before will attest to how clean they are anyway) and disclosed its ventilation system information. The ventilation system is continuously replacing the air inside the car with air from outside, with the entirety of air in each car replaced every 6-8 minutes, in line with government guidelines.
JR has also requested passengers to:
- Wear masks inside the train
- Refrain from moving about as much as possible
- Refrain from speaking as much as possible
- Refrain from turning the seats around
- Refrain from eating or drinking in the areas between compartments order to avoid bothering other passengers
A sign on a Keio Line train explains to passengers that the air inside the carriage is replaced every 5-7 minutes.
InsideJapan travellers cycling the Kibi Plain in Okayama
What alternatives are there to public transport?
One of our favourite ways to explore a town or city is on foot. Whether you're weaving through skyscrapers in Tokyo or following a stream lined with cherry-blossom in Kyoto, you'll see and experience everything differently on two feet. Winding your way through the backstreets of a neighbourhood will give you a whole new understanding to life in Japan that you couldn't get any other way.
Hiring bikes and taking a leisurely cycle through cities and the countryside alike are also fantastic ways to experience Japan. Almost from the moment you arrive in Japan you'll notice the important role that bikes play in Japanese everyday life, from children getting to school, parents going to the supermarket or salarymen cycling to the station.
When you've tired your legs out, taxis are very prevalent in larger cities such as Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka and are also a memorable way to travel the city in style. The rear door opens automatically, the driver is usually dressed in a suit and tie, and the car is nearly always immaculate.
Interestingly, many taxi drivers stayed busy during the emergency declaration by buying and delivering shopping for people staying at home!
In July, Tokyo became the 12th city in Japan where the ride-hailing service Uber is available (Japan Times). Unlike in other countries, users hail ordinary taxis partnered with Uber. Other cities where this is available include Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima, however we've found that in general it's very easy to hail a cab from the street.
Are restaurants open in Japan? What safety measures are in place? What can I do to keep myself safe?Read more >