I was in Japan last week for the 44th Tokyo Motor Show, and my host (Toyota Motor Philippines) billeted me at a hotel in Chuo City, a municipality in Tokyo famous for its shopping district of Ginza. At this time of the year, the cool weather in Japan is conducive to walking. Which was what we always did after each day's schedule before retiring for the night.
Walking here is such a pleasurable activity that you do it even if you don't have a destination in mind. There's always something nice to see on the road and in the neighborhood. And when we did our nightly stroll last week, we realized something: This country is a paradise for pedestrians. It's just so safe and so comfortable to travel on foot that you'll easily lose track of the distance. Before you even notice it, you've already hiked a dozen blocks to nowhere in particular.
And so we counted the ways Japan is a haven for pedestrians...
1. There are clear signs for pedestrians. These are visible and not marred by graffiti. Something as simple as a direction telling walkers to stay within designated lines is amply displayed. It shows how much the Japanese value order.
2. Crosswalks are everywhere, and cars do not stop to block them. Motorists respect pedestrian crossings so much that they'll start slowing down if you so much as set your foot on that striped pavement.
3. Sidewalks are really wide. You can actually challenge a friend to a breakdance showdown on any of them. No vendors, no scary-looking individuals, and certainly no parked cars.
4. They make it easy for PWDs to cross the street.
5. There are maps to show you where you are exactly. No need to pull out your mobile phone to check Google Maps.
6. There's information about interesting spots in the area. Very tourist-friendly.
7. There are prominent traffic lights for pedestrians, and some of these even have a countdown mechanism so you know whether it's still safe to cross or not.
8. There are clean waiting sheds. This sounds so basic, but when was the last time you saw a waiting shed on EDSA that wasn't dirty or teeming with mendicants?
9. The streets are brightly lit at night. There's no fear of tripping or running into a pervert down a dark alley.
10. Bicycles have parking slots, which have bars for securing your two-wheel ride to. But even if you don't padlock your bike, I'm almost sure nobody will take it anyway. Did I mention the Japanese are very honest?
11. There's easy access to the subway. So you can just bicycle to a spot near a subway station, park and lock your bike, and take a train to a distant prefecture. With accessible public transport like this, who needs to own a car?
12. Ah, what is Japan without those cool vending machines? These machines are placed almost on every block of sidewalk, offering weary pedestrians cold beverages and light snacks as they continue on their journey. Something tells me this won't work in the Philippines.
Photos by Vernon B. Sarne