Friday, April 27, 2018


A well-marked subway station in Tokyo

Buses are the hardest public transportation for me. I feel uncertainty as I sit at the bus stop waiting for the next bus to arrive. "Is it really going to come?" I think. At bus stops, unlike a subway, the signage is often meager or confusing so that I'm guessing that I've stepped on to the right bus. Once on board, I'm anxious I will miss my stop.

While we lived overseas, we didn't have a car. The snarls of traffic in big cities convinced us that a car was unnecessary. In both Tokyo and Paris, I explored by walking, but sometimes either the subway or buses provided the best solutions. I found good transit books at the local bookstores that helped me find my way. Eventually, I mastered the bus system in each city and used the buses with pleasure to get me places that were too far for walks.

My two favorite transit books. Both can be found at bookstores or online

Buses are also a good way to accidentally discover places that I wouldn't venture to on my own.  Several times in Tokyo, I got on a bus thinking it was the right bus only to discover that the bus ended its run before my destination. I would sit there as everyone else knowingly exited. The driver would look at me and wave me off too. Luckily I ended up someplace close to where I wanted to be so I wandered around the unexpected neighborhood until I got to where I was going. One time I was near Tsukiji, the renown fish market, when the bus came to the end of its route. If I hadn't gotten off at that point, I wouldn't have been able to watch two tree pruners working on an ancient tree. They both wore flexible tabi boots which allowed them to balance easily on the large limbs as they climbed the trees from a tripod ladder and trimmed the tree to look like a giant bonsai.

photo in Nara of a Japanese tree pruner taken by Jake Hobson, pruning consultant in England
a pine tree shaped by the large pieces of bamboo tied to the branches just like a bonsai

When we visited Hong Kong, Bill, Theo and I hopped on a bus heading back to the center of town, but we missed our stop (signage was in Kanji of course). We continued into the regular neighborhoods of the city that most tourists don't walk through. We got to see a slice of normal life in Hong Kong before we walked to the bus stop on the other side of the road to get us back to our original destination.

One day in Paris as Theo and I returned from his school near the Trocadero, a group of loud teenagers boarded the bus. Usually, Paris teenagers are quiet on buses, often hunched over school work. In front of us sat several older women who had no hesitation about scolding the teenagers to be quiet and to sit down. The kids responded by looking embarrassed and proceeded to the back of the bus quickly where they huddled together, voices lowered. I think of the incident and wonder if mothers in the U.S. would reprimand teenagers in the same way.

When we go to a city, I no longer have trepidation about boarding a bus. I just have to remember that a bus ride is no longer 25 cents.

Bike sharing in Amsterdam, a more and more common way to see a city

 To purchase a Tokyo Transit Book,  here is a link to the Foreign Buyers Club, a group that provides services to expats living in Tokyo
The book can also be purchased through AmazonJapan

For Le Petit Parisien:

Check out Jake Hobson's website about cloud pruning. and his site for purchasing nifty Japanese knives and tools.


  1. So delightful to travel with you online!

  2. Such an interesting life. I love to get the bus to new places!

  3. From Mary: I completely agree with you, I never hesitate to figure the train system out but the bus is a bit more difficult. It’s too bad, it’s such a nice way to see the city.

    1. Thanks, Mary. Bus rides to parts unknown!


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