So, you’re coming to Tottori?
Tottori, Japan’s least populous prefecture without the glitz, glamour and every-3-minute trains like Tokyo, still has a lot to offer.
But if you’re going to be living, creating a life for yourself, or even just visiting, here are 5 things you need to know to get around.
This website is a lifesaver.
As you will find out, Tottori’s train is not really for getting around the city, as it is for getting from city to city (or city to inaka). The bus is the way to get around. The difference between Japanese bus schedules and that of many other countries, is that they run on a strict time schedule instead of the every 20 or so minutes schedule.
They have the schedule for buses arrival posted at each stop, and without any major delays or accidents, the buses are on time, every time.
With ikisaki you can find your destinations using the map, and find a route and the next bus departure. You can also do this for local trains.
The downside to using the buses is that during mid-day they run about once an hour (if that) and they usually stop around 8:30pm.
You will most likely use a taxi at least once to get around, especially when you find that the buses have stopped running and you’re still in the first round of nomikai 飲み会.
So later on when you have to leave the karaoke bar half-fershnickered , it’s a good idea to find the line of taxis on Hon-Dori, or near the station, so they can take you back home. Addresses in Japan are a difficult thing, so it’s best to just name the nearest landmark such as a post office and walk from there.
I’m not gonna lie, Taxis can get real expensive real quick, but to avoid walking 30 minutes in the cold/rainy months, it can be a life saver.
Here’s a handy article on Japanese taxi instructions.
3. Toyota Rental Cars
If you’re smart, you’ll go to the appropriate licensing spot (AAA for Americans) and pay the $15 or so dollars to get your International Driver’s license. This will allow you to drive for 1 year without getting a Japanese Driver’s license.
The only problem is that most car rental places do not rent to people without a proper Japanese license.
The only place I know of in Tottori that will rent cars to those with international driver’s license is Toyota. Yes, it is a matter of insurance, and you will see that bump in the price.
You are able to make a reservation online, but make sure that you know a small amount of Japanese so that when you show up to the rental location you can sign the right forms and not have too many extra charges (though Navigation, known as “Nabi”, is worth it).
Torisakyu is the website of the Tottori Prefectural International Exchange Foundation. On here they have listed services of all types that are friendly for foreigners or those visiting Japan.
One of the best services they have is the free translator that you can reserve when you need to handle official business (such as getting a driver’s license ::wink wink::)
But they also have a list of businesses that speak other languages. From doctors to Japanese lessons to community centers, they can help you find something that you need.
They also post local and national emergencies, because you may not yet have access to a TV or Radio (or understand the emergency announcements).
5. Get a Bike
Japan has an incredibly higher percentage of bicyclists than most countries, and Tottori is no exception. You can run over to Don Quixote (A mixture of Wal-Mart, Daiso, and TJ Maxx?) and get a bike for cheap. You can also run to one of the many second-hand shops such as Hard Off or JAM and find a used, higher quality bike for cheaper.
In my case I was able to get an old sports-bike hybrid for 15,000 yen (roughly $145 USD) when they usually start at 90,000 yen brand new.
Another plus to riding is that most drivers are careful when it comes to bikers who ride in the street. If that’s not your thing, riding on the sidewalks is equally acceptable, just be sure to use your bell when approaching behind people.
A couple of laws to note:
when riding at night, you must have a light on the front, and a red light in the back so that you are visible
No drinking and riding. This is the same as a DUI.
Most people when they learn Japanese, they try to learn the Japanese way. That is, to start with hiragana, and some simple kanji, and then move on to katakana and more complex Kanji.
6. Learn Katakana
Word of advice: Start with Katakana
If you’re reading this blog, chances are you already know that katakana is one of the letter systems that Japan uses for their language. You may also know that it is used mainly for foreign words, or to add emphasis to shortened words and name brands.
Some places in rural spots in Tottori have made the mistake of thinking because katakana is used for foreign words, foreigners must already know it.
You will go to some “tourist” spots and soon find that the signs have run out of English. They will have only kanji and katakana. This goes for food menus as well.
The good news, as I said, is that katakana is mostly words you already know.
(Ex.コカ コーラ スポーツ パーク = Coca Cola Sports Park)
If you need any other hints or tips for getting around Tottori City, or the Prefecture, please let me know.
Until next time, STAY AWESOME!