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As far as I could tell, most people in Japan get around by walking, bicycling, and taking the train. There were cars on the streets, of course, but on the smaller streets I usually only saw one at a time, and even on the main streets I never saw any real congestion. The speed limits are lower, too, so the cars don't make as much noise.

The analytical part of my mind would like to point out that if the streets aren't packed to capacity, there must be other limiting factors at work. I'm guessing the main ones are cultural, that it's normal to not own a car, and economic, that it's expensive.

Walking around Fuchu was quite pleasant. For one thing, the walk signals at the intersections were actually timed so that people would have time to walk across. The smaller streets were especially nice.

I didn't get a chance to try bicycling, but I sure saw a lot of bicycles. The most impressive evidence came from the street that ran under the train station, where during the day there were always several hundred bicycles parked. There were also just a lot of people riding around on bicycles all the time all one-speed bicycles, as far as I could tell. While walking around, I saw some nice bike paths, one running through town and one running along the Tama river.

The trains were pleasant, too, all clean and well-maintained, and all very punctual. The most interesting thing that happened on the train happened the very first time we rode one, as we were heading out to Fuchu during what turned out to be rush hour. People were really packed in like sardines and that was before the pusher came by to pack us in better and let more people get on. We only ran into that that one time, though.

For me, the real proof that people in Japan don't drive much came when we went to dinner one night with three of our hosts. All three were managers at NEC, although of different levels. First of all, we all walked over to the restaurant. That was a fifteen-minute walk, but I didn't take much notice of it since the restaurant was in the same direction as the train station, and we'd been walking there all week. It was what happened afterward that was interesting. One of our hosts left on foot, since it was, as he said, only an additional twenty-minute walk home; one left on the bicycle he'd brought along from NEC; and one rode on the train with us, since he was going the same way.


  See Also

  Visit to Japan, A

@ October (2001)