Japan is rightly well-regarded for its public transportation. Usually, it is the trains that garner the praise, but today I would like to pay homage to the humble bus. I was thinking about this the other day, as I strolled along a road which also served as a bus route. I passed several bus stops and each was as pleasant as the next. They were simple stops with a single, well-maintained wooden-slatted bench for passengers to sit and wait, and what struck me about these stops were how much they differed from their British counterparts. They were all without blemish. There was not a spot of graffiti – no hearts between names as notice of which high school student loved which, nothing to inform me of Akiko or Yuka’s sexual morality, not even a comedy drawing of a spunking cock or a Doraemon with an amusingly large penis. No, it would seem that all the common traits of the British bus stop have failed to find their cultural equivalents this far east, and Japan is all the better for it. Even the timetables here are different. I live near a bus stop and can attest to the fact that the times written on the timetable serve as a fairly reliable guide as to when one can expect a bus to arrive. In Britain they often simply provide something rather dull to read as you wait and hope.
And it’s not just the stops that are nicer. The buses, too, are generally free of the more undesirable accoutrements of their UK cousins; the disgruntled driver, the unidentifiable trickle of liquid running under the seats, the dribbly, bearded man mumbling to himself, and the disgusting dollop of wet tissue stuck on the window have all been absent from any bus I have travelled on here.
I had a small rest on one of the benches, drank some tea and happily watched the world go by. I can’t think of many bus stops in my home country where I would enjoy doing that. This is what is more likely to happen if you spend too long at a bus stop in Britain:
Japan, it is hard to deny, does some things better.