So I took a ride into Beppu today and thought, “I wonder what I should write about on my blog. Hey I know! What about this CRAZY bus system?!” And here we are.

The Japanese public transit system actually makes a great deal of sense once you understand it. But before you know all about it, you can be very lost and confused and end up getting yelled at by the driver. So let’s not do that. First of all, you need to find a bus stop. Look for these in front of public buildings like government offices, schools, or department stores. They look like this:

Look for the little round signs. You’ll notice that most bus stops have “バスのリ” or “バス停” somewhere on them (usually on the alcove). The first is read “Basu nori” and the second is read “Basutei.” Both mean the same thing: wait here and a bus will get you. Most bus stops in Japan have absurdly logical names, like “Ekiushiro” (Behind Station) or “AP HOUSE Mae” (In front of AP House). Now, there are many different kinds of buses in Japan, but when you’re at APU, the bus you need will almost always be an Oita Kotsu bus:

Buses in Japan ALWAYS leave on time. To this end, bus drivers will actually sit at the first stop for ten to fifteen minutes, waiting for their scheduled departure times. If the bus is late or breaks down, and thus makes you late for work or school, you must get a note from the company or your teacher/boss will not believe you. Yes. This is how accurate the public transit normally is. Now, when you get on the bus, you walk right past the driver (don’t pay your fare until you get off the bus, you’ll see why in a moment). Find a seat preferably not near the front as those first rows are priority seating for disabled, elderly, or pregnant riders.

When you look up at the front of the bus, you’ll see this:

This is the “fare board.” This is the most important device on the bus, as it decides how much you pay. Before your bus pulls out of the stop, be sure to look for the highest lit number, as this is your stop number. Do you see how 270 is written under the number 1? Well, if you got on the bus at APU (the first stop) and got off the bus at stop 5, you would pay 270 JPY in fares. Or, alternatively, you could have bought tickets from the Co-op and use those–just be warned that each ticket purchased from the Co-Op costs 330 JPY (Great deal for going to the last stop as that one costs 540 JPY), so if your stop is earlier, you may want to just pay with coins. When you get off the bus, nod respectfully to the driver and drop your fare into the slot. You are now a Japanese bus rider!

Of course, I took the bus to You Me, since I needed a potato masher and some groceries. You Me does have its own stop, but it isn’t on the same line as the one heading to APU, so be careful about that. It’s easy to find though–go to Beppu Station (the last stop), walk up the road directly to the left of the giant Coca Cola sign until you get to the underpass, take the left and then the right turns in the underpass, and keep going until you see this:

(if you still don’t think you can find it, just beg your Japanese floormate to “Isshou ni Yuumeetaun e ikimashou ka?” (Can we go to You Me together?” or “Yuumeetaun wa doko?” (Where is You Me?)) Ganbatte!

I highly recommend the Hyaku-en store DAISO on the third floor of You Me. Head on up the escalators and go to the back left corner of You Me to find it. Quick note about Japanese malls–they don’t typically have many walls. The Japanese retail system runs on a customer-trust basis, though you will see some security guards around. They are very nice people and will  help you find stores if you ask politely. Just be careful not to wander into another store with your basket!

Anyway, once you’ve bought all you can carry (remember it’s a fair distance to the bus stop, so don’t buy too much!), head on back to the underpass you came from and exit to your right, so that you end up on the side of the street that has the bus stops heading back to APU on it. It’s about twenty minutes back to APU.Over the river and through the woods. ‘Ere, have a look-see at the ride home:

Now you’re back! Return to the dorm and find out that your frying pan has been stolen from the kitchen. -___- Ah, college life!