When you’re travelling to any country where their main language isn’t your own it’s always an interesting experience. For me getting around and trying to navigate foreign transport is where things can quickly go wrong (although you could also say this is part of the fun of travel).
I was recently in Japan, coming towards the end of my trip when I knew I had to plan my journey home – a trip which would take me from a fairly small rural town called Aki to Osaka International Airport. A journey which involves a number of local trains, a Shinkansen, and a bus.
I was planning this journey in the days ahead when in somewhat perfect timing, Apple activated their Public Transport directions in Apple Maps for the whole of Japan. I knew this was a great opportunity for me to use it to get me home. I wanted to write how my experience went because I feel transit directions is going to be very useful to anyone who is going to be travelling to Japan in the future.
Firstly using the app was easy, all I had to do was search Osaka International Airport and tap directions. Immediately I could see my entire journey ahead, which train I first needed to catch, at what time, and which station complete with walking directions to it. Maps also displayed my connecting train service, the following Shinkansen (Bullet train) then lastly the bus I needed to catch. Apple Maps went further by showing station entry and exit points, which line the train was on, which stops it was going to make, and even how much the journey was going to cost in YEN.
So how did it all go? I got on my first local train at 8:14am – exactly the time Apple Maps stated. Using GPS I was able to see when the train I was on reached the station I needed to change (there were no English signs or announcements on this train). I needed to get a 9:20am train to Okayama and sure enough, I could see a sign showing a train due to leave from platform 2 in 20 minutes … so far so good.
For the next 2 hours, 20 minutes I enjoyed a trip on a train navigating through the mountains where I finally reached Okayama, which I needed to transfer to a Shinkansen. Maps displayed which Shinkansen at which time and where It was headed making the transfer quite easy. After a 49 minute journey on the Shinkansen (An amazing experience in itself as you travel nearly 300 km/hr), I reached Shin-Osaka station.
Shin-Osaka station is where I needed to get a bus, but it’s also where the perfect journey for me was no longer so perfect. I’m still not 100% sure what I did but I missed the bus by getting lost in the station, unfortunately, GPS wasn’t working well in the station so I tried to follow the walking directions but in reality, I was actually going the other direction. In this case being at a major station, I probably should have asked rail staff where the bus maps were displaying me actually was. At the end, I was able to get onto a following bus 10 minutes after the original making it to Osaka Airport well before my flight back home to Australia.
Overall the transit directions were extremely useful especially in rural parts of Japan where they often don’t announce stops in English or have signs on stations. Apple clearly has gone into a lot of detail for each line and station – the only information I would have liked to have seen is which platform number the trains actually departed from. Other than that I’d highly recommend using this feature if you plan on travelling around Japan.
You will need internet access, though, if you can’t roam with your current SIM you can easily buy a local SIM or hire a Wi-Fi hotspot at most airports when you land in Japan.