With Tokyo only 2 hours away, it would be a shame to not venture into the city during the weekend. Lucky for interns, it is very easy and cheap to take the highway bus to and from Tokyo!
Step 1. Go to the online website (which is in English)
Ibaraki and Tokyo should be in the “to” and “from” sections. The route should be “Tokyo –> Hitachi”. The bus stop for Tokyo should always be Tokyo Station. There are two choices for the bus stop from Ibaraki. “Shintanakochi” is the stop interns use when they arrive from the airport but without a car it is a little difficult to get to. I suggest using “Ishinazaka”. This stop is just up the road from IC and can be easily walked to. If you are living with a host family in a town other than Omika, from “Ishinazaka” you can walk to Omika Station and catch a train home.
Step 2: Picking and paying for your ticket
Once you put in your ticket information, you can search for available buses.
The tickets are displayed from earliest departure to latest. (Be careful! Japan uses a 24-hour clock). Once you find your desired departure time, there will usually be 3 options to chose from. “Hayauri” tickets are early booking seats and are only available if tickets are reserved at least a day in advanced of the trip day. They are a little cheaper at ¥2100 and are what I usually choose when I’m picking tickets. The normal price for a one-way trip is ¥2460 and is the next option. The options in the red boxes are special ladies-only seating if anyone is uncomfortable sitting next to a man. Options or the whole bus may be sold out if you try to reserve late so make sure you get your tickets in advance.
Once you have made your selection, the website will have you give your email address and will send you a reservation confirmation and a link for payment. !!!MAKE SURE YOU PAY!!! Your reservation usually has a time limit of 10-30 minutes. If you do not pay within this time limit, the link becomes a dud and the whole process must be started again. I recommend paying right away to avoid any headaches. Once you pay online, they will provide you with a printable electronic ticket. You will need to print it and hand it to the bus driver when you board the bus.
Step 3: Returning
After you have had your fun weekend in Tokyo, it is time to return and get ready for Monday morning. Returning buses always leave from Tokyo Station from the Yaesu South Exit.
Japanese public transportation is always on time so do NOT be late. I recommend giving yourself plenty of time to navigate the maze that is Tokyo Station. Once you find the buses, it might seem a little intimidating with buses leaving every 10 minutes and masses of people running around. No worries though since you left yourself at least 10 minutes to find what dock your bus will be leaving from….rightttt? They have electronic screens at every docking pillar that lists the next three departing buses. Find the correct departure time and look for 日立駅 (Hitachi Station). If you really can’t find it, try asking one of the station attendants who are wondering around. I am sure they will gladly point you in the right direction. Once you find your bus, there will be 10 minutes of boarding time before you are finally off and on your way back home! The return bus will always stop at Shintanakochi (新田中内), but if you are getting off at Ishinazaka (石名坂 – the next stop), remember to push the button telling the driver that you want to get off. If you don’t, you’ll find yourself at Taga station and will have to find your way back to Omika.
Being an intern at IC has allowed me to fully appreciate Japanese public transportation. It is so easy to use and much cheaper than back home. During your time at IC, make sure to utilize it. Enjoy!