Ninja Trains

I think my favorite thing about Tokyo was their JR train system. I was extremely impressed with how accommodating they were with the wheelchair. All I had to do was go straight up to the guy at the ticket booth, speak in simplified English and point to the stop I wanted to get off at on a map of the rail system that was graciously given to me by the youth hostel I stayed in.

One thing about Japan, they are extremely efficient and extremely on time. If a train says it will leave at 10:44am, it will leave at exactly 10:44am. Trains are never early nor late. They arrive precisely on time. This aspect also carries over when helping wheelies on and off the trains. Sometimes the train will have a small step up into a railcar and a train attendant will come over with a ramp that hooks into the car so you can wheel yourself in and then they unhook the ramp when you are securely in the car. Then if you need to change trains, the attendants will call ahead to the next train station to have two other attendants waiting for you at precisely the right door to clip another ramp into the car so you can get out. It was amazing and eerily exact. The Japanese don’t skip a beat when it comes to their trains running efficiently and on time. The nice thing is, if you miss one train, there is usually another one only 4 minutes behind it.

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When you arrive at your destination, the train attendants will also escort you out of the station through the maze of elevators and magic carpet escalators to make sure you get out without confusion. They are even nice enough to give you directions in case you are lost. The JR train may be the most wheelchair accessible public transportation system that I’ve been in, both inside and outside of the US. I was truly impressed and highly recommend it as a way to get around Tokyo or nearby towns in Japan.

Especially when going to and from Narita airport, the “Narita Express” is a quick way to get into downtown Tokyo. It’s about an hour ride and a great way to see some of the Japanese countryside. Going from Narita to Tokyo, you can get a half off express ticket for about 1500 yen ($15) in the airport-train terminal.

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