For the last few weeks I have been living and doing research in rural Japan. Japan is well known for high-speed rail, jam-packed commuter trains, and big, well-connected cities.
I am not living in a place with any of those things. Two years ago when I spent time outside of Tokyo, I was. It was a 5 minute walk to the nearest train station, with two more within 20 minutes of that. From there I could get practically anywhere. No need for a car. I never even had to use the bus save for one or two special trips.
Well, rural Japan is a bit different. Google Maps Japan defaults to route instructions for public transit, but most of the places I am going give a warning “no public transit to this location.” There is a train station about 10 minutes from here, as well as a tram station.
The tram will get you anywhere in town, but doesn’t go much outside of that. The train station, which is currently under construction for the forthcoming high-speed rail line, will take you to destinations 20 to 50 miles away.
Kind of a pain. That’s why more people have cars around here than other places in Japan. So what have I done to avoid renting a car to get around to all the places I’ve been going?
Lots of cycling. At 90-130 kilometers per day (when I’m travelling), this is quite a lot of cycling indeed. It may be a pain, but it has made the area a lot more accessible than it otherwise would have been, even without a car.
Coming soon: A cyclist’s guide to commuting in rural Japan.