What to love about Osaka and Kyoto trains and stations

With Osaka as our base all throughout our trip to Japan last March, we spent an ample amount of time in trains and train stations, going to Kyoto, and around Kyoto and Nara. Aside from the Japanese railways’ efficiency, these are some of the things that made my train-loving heart geek out: some cool-looking trains, delicious station eats, and abundant opportunities to people watch.

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Osaka Loop Line. In Tokyo, there’s the Yamanote Line. Osaka also has its own loop line, which has stops in major stations Umeda/Osaka and Tennoji. The line also stops in Osakajokoen, which is the closest JR station to Osaka Castle; and Bentencho, which is two stops away from Osakako (Osaka Aquarium) on the Chuo line.

Hankyu Kyoto Line to Arashiyama. We decided to take the Hankyu Kyoto Line from Umeda (Hankyu) station in Osaka to Arashiyama just because it was the most direct route from where we were staying (in Kita-ku). And the minute I saw the train, I was happy with our decision. It was an old maroon four-car beauty. A Hankyu 6300 series, I found out later on, that has been around since the 1970s and was supposedly refurbished five years ago. Continue reading

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How to get to Osaka from Kansai International Airport

So there we were with our one large luggage, between platforms 4 and 5, wondering whether we should jump in the train at platform 5 when the JR person informed us a few minutes earlier that the Kansai Rapid Service was going to be in platform 4. My husband pointed out that the train had  Rapid Service blinking across it. Being it our first time to land in KIX and to ride the Kansai Rapid Service, we were not sure if it was the one going straight to JR Osaka Station in Kita-ku or if there were other types of rapid services. It was on a different platform. What if it was the right train? The next train would be another thirty minutes and it was already getting late. We jumped inside with only a few seconds to spare before the door closed.

As we pulled out of the airport station, I was still not sure if it was the right train until the monitor showed station names that I could see in the Osaka Railway and Subway map I got from one of the airport information counters. I could now stop gripping my husband’s hand.

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If you’re heading to Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Kobe and other parts of the Kansai region from outside Japan, then you’ll most likely be flying into the Kansai International Airport (KIX). From KIX, you have several ways to get to your destination.

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Reading, a railway rehabilitated, and a stationmaster cat

railwaybazaar“I have seldom heard a train go by and not wished I was on it.”—Paul Theroux

Around four months ago, while killing time inside a bookstore, I saw this book and much as I’m embarrassed to admit, finally made my acquaintance with Paul Theroux.

The title was the one that lured me in. And the back cover copy finished me off: “Here Theroux recounts his early adventures on an unusual grand continental tour. Asia’s fabled trains—the Orient Express, the Khyber Pass Local, the Frontier Mail, the Golden Arrow to Kuala Lumpur, the Mandalay Express, the Trans-Siberian Express—are the stars of a journey that takes him on a loop eastbound from London’s Victoria Station to Tokyo Central…” A railway adventure if there ever was one.

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Monorail sighting

One of the UP monorail coaches atop a test track (and somebody here just got ...into filters, hehe)

One of the UP monorail coaches atop a test track (and somebody here just got …into filters, hehe)

I have written about my fascination for trains and rail travel in this blog–from finding one’s way in an elaborate railway system during a vacation to surviving the morning rush hour here at home. While I have yet to experience extensive rail travel, and can only dream to see what this ‘architectural historian with a penchant for railroad stations‘ has seen, my infatuation for the railway system remains. Besides the romance that surrounds train travel, it has to be one of the most efficient forms of mass transit–hauling off commuters by the cars and escaping the horrible traffic on the roads.

More than a month ago, the Philippine Railways page in Facebook (oh, why did it take so long for me to know you had a page?!) revealed that new monorail coaches had arrived in the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City. According to the report, the state university and the Department of Science and Technology developed it–it being dubbed the Automated Guideway Transit System.

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How to survive the morning rush hour in the MRT

This is supposedly a morning rush hour in Tokyo (which was one of the few things I made sure to miss out when I got a chance to visit). It is not Manila. But it could very well be–minus the guards pushing the passengers into the train. We, Filipinos, are only too capable of pushing ourselves into very crowded trains, and too eager even that more often than not the logic/courtesy of waiting for the other passengers to get off the train before getting on it seems to escape most.

I do think of the above scenario every time I ride the MRT in the morning rush hour. Something which I started to do, twice a week for the past few months for year-long project. Of course, it’s crowded like most commuter trains in big cities, but I still get a bit surprised every time I see the platform at eight in the morning, thick with people. And I think, Okay, you can do this. Time to put on your ‘train face’ and not get pushed around. Oh, how naive I am.

While I often wax poetic about riding trains on vacation and having a big idiotic grin plastered across my face, when I ride the train at home during rush hour, the grin is long gone (replaced by stern I-mean-business ‘train face’). I still love how trains make it relatively easier for me to get from point A to point B; I just don’t like how it makes people lose patience and common sense, and sometimes gain a violent streak, during rush hour. Anyway, if you do find yourself braving rush hour MRT madness in Manila, here are a few things that might help for you to come out of it at your right stop and with your shoes still on.

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