We don’t have a car in Japan. We live in the centre of Osaka, which means that the furthest we need to walk to reach essential places like the closest Korean BBQ, Western wine shop, or Pablo’s bakery is about 300 m.

Also, public transport in Japan is amazing. The tube and trains run like Haile Gebrselassie – fast and reliably. For example, the Shinkansen (the Japanese bullet trains) carry about 350 million passengers annually but the systems’ performance record is out of this world (at least in comparison to the UK). In the past 50 years, the average delay (including delays due to natural disasters) is 36 seconds.

The Shinkansen is not an exception. The tubes that I have taken for the past 14 months to work and to my son’s school have stretches that are amongst the busiest in Japan. Yet those tubes are practically never late.

These Japanese train/tube operator stats are as embarrassing for the British train operators as you realizing that you accidentally walked all the way to the subway carrying a full bin bag which you had meant to dump at your building’s communal waste disposal room. For example,  the service from our hometown, Brighton, to London has been late every day for a year (link to a Metro article). Japan’s punctuality stats demonstrate that trains can run on time even in extremely heavily populated areas with frequent natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis.

A natural disaster for Network Rail (back in the UK) is a couple of flakes of snow or some leaves on the track, and these justify the cancellation or delay of pretty much the whole network.

Finland is not too bad in terms of train punctuality or coping with ‘natural disasters’ such as a bit of snow or some leaves. However, it’s easy to be on time when the tube ‘network’ in the capital city, Helsinki, looks like this.

Helsinki Tube Map

Helsinki Tube Map


Just in case some of you Finns reading this blog post are not aware of what tube maps in big cities look like please find below Osaka’s tube map.

Osaka tube map

Osaka tube map


In any case, due to the location of our apartment and the brilliance of Japanese public transport we feel we don’t really need a car. And given the carbon footprint we are stomping on the atmosphere with our frequent flying back and forth between the UK and Japan, us not to having a car here is probably the least we can do for the environment.

And to be honest, I am not that keen on the cars that many people have here. You see, the toasters illustrated in the photo below (and at the top of the page) are actually not toasters, they are Japanese cars!


I can but assume that the designer of the car above previously worked for a kitchen appliance company like Kenwood (designing toasters, microwave ovens and table top grills), and even though he is now working as a designer of Asian cars, he still longs for the days he was at Kenwood.

By the way, the reason why I used the pronoun ‘he’ to refer to the designer of the cars above is not because I think car designers are necessarily men, but because I think that no woman could have designed such unattractive cars. I feel many men value functionality over aesthetics(other than when they are looking for a partner) – I’m sure most of them wouldn’t care if they drove to the supermarket, squash court or work in a tank or a golf cart as long as (a) it gets them there and (b) it is fast.

On the topic of cars, the colour of cars in Japan is like the Japanese salarymans’ attire. Spotting anything other than black or white is unusual. A silver car (or a grey suit) is a statement in Japan. And if you drive a maroon or metallic blue car, let alone a red Merc this probably means that you are a foreigner, the reason being that people in Japan generally view individuality as a negative thing (illustrated by the Japanese proverb – ‘the nail that sticks out gets hammered down’). Consequently, a lime green or pink car would fit in to a Japanese city as well as Tom Hunt would fit in to a feminist movement’s pro-science conference – as anything other than bait for an angry mob, that is.

Photos below illustrate that black and white cars are the name of the game in Japan.








13 thoughts on “Is that a car or a toaster?

  1. I’ve always heard that public transport in Japan is amazing, and I think about it every time I take a train and its late!!! Really need to visit Japan in the near future!

    • I think my husband and I will experience a bit of a culture shock when we return to England – largely due to the more chaotic and stressful public transport. But on the other hand, we prefer England because of the diversity and individuality of the people there 🙂

      PS. If you do visit Japan, instead of Tokyo, I feel the Kansai area is a much better holiday destination with several very different places to visit (like Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Kobe). 🙂

  2. Maybe the trains in Japan, like in Finland, are regarded as a service. In Britain, they are a political hot potato & run as a (bad) business. Every politician whatever colour, thinks they could make transport better, but none of them want to invest in what is a clapped out Victorian railway which is full to capacity. How can you separate the running of the trains into different businesses from the owning & maintenance of the tracks they run on? Mr Angry ex-(BR/NSE/Southern/ Railtrack/Network Rail) UK railway worker, Finland

    • Hi Andy,

      I think the problem is that some politicians might even be willing to invest in a better railway but they are worried that it would be an unpopular way to spend tax money, and so they stick to something that they think will bring them more votes in the election. But I, like I’m sure many people, feel, that sometimes you need to make some potentially unpopular decisions to change things for the better.

  3. Uuh, kirjoitanko romaanin aiheesta “Kuinka paljon inhoankaan Uuden Seelannin julkista liikennetta”?? 😀 Meidan pikkukylan lapihan kulkee usein busseja (milloin turisti, milloin normiliikennebusseja), mutta jos olisin esim toista kotiin tulossa bussilla, minun olisi jaatava pois bussista naapurikylassa, koska meidan kylalla ei ole PYSAKKIA! Eika teiden varsilta mistaan loydy Suomityylin bussipysakkeja vaan bussit kulkevat aina kaupungista kaupunkiin ja valilla ei jaada pois. Ja sitten paattajat ihmettelevat miksi ihmiset ajavat aina omilla autoilla…heh!

  4. Hahahah oli pakko nauraa, kun näin ton Helsingin metrokartan 😀 Täällä Alankomaissa on toimivat junayhteydet, ja isommissa kaupungeissa, kuten Utrechtissa, on myös toimiva bussiliikenne… julkinen liikenne on vaan aika kallista, ja junat takkuilevat aina välillä (ei sen pahemmin kuin VR, mutta hollantilaiset rakastavat valittamista) joten oma hollantilaiseni päätyi hankkimaan auton. Ei kyllä onneksi tuollaista leivänpaahdinta 😀

    Mielenkiintoinen blogi, jään seurailemaan 🙂

    • Moi Senja,

      Kiitos kommentista. Kiva kuulla että tykkäät blogistani 🙂

      Lukaisin blogiasi junassa istuessani aikaisemmin tänään, mutta viitsinyt kännykällä alkaa kirjoittamaan kommenttia. Kirjoitan sen tähän:
      Onnea koulupaikan johdosta! Alankomaat on varmasti kiva paikka asua ja opiskella 🙂

  5. Haha! I’m living in Okinawa, and a car is a MUST! They don’t have a train system down here, only a limited monorail system in the capital city, and irregular buses that serve the rest of the island. I miss the days of living on the mainland with the amazing public transport system

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