I have a love-hate relationship with JR Hokkaido.
On the one hand, this is my lifeline into the city. Well, me and everyone else who lives on the outskirts of Sapporo. But the thing with life lines is that if it is cut off, then that means you’re dead.
Dead for me means I am stuck at home with no means to get into work. I can’t call out of work because I am the only one who can do my job. I teach English to kids and I kind of need to be there at the school.
This past Friday–the JR Line that connects the city and the airport shut down due to mechanical problems with the train lights. I guess that makes sense. If the lights that govern the flow of trains doesn’t work, it’s best to shut it down than risk damage to people and property.
The thing is, the weather wasn’t even that bad. You’d think it had stopped due to heavy snowfall, but that wasn’t the case. You can’t even rely on good weather to make sure that the trains are running well. Don’t forget that. I’ve had a couple of experiences where the weather was so nice, but the trains have stopped–usually because of mechanical failure, or even worse, a “jinji jikou.” Kanji is 人事事故, an incident involving a human. It could really be an accident, but in Japan, it’s more likely a suicide by train.
But back to the story at hand–winter day on a Friday morning at Kitahiroshima station. People were looking at the train boards and listening to the announcement that they don’t know what times will be up and running.
The only thing is that A LOT of people were stranded. People couldn’t go to work in the city from my part of town. However, getting into the airport, there should have been buses from Sapporo Station that would have taken you into the Chitose. At least that’s what I hope, anyway.
I hate to be callous towards those who were in trouble–unfortunately, I was more focused on my self and stressed about getting to work. Luckily for me, I was able to hop on a taxi into Shin Sapporo station and hopped the on subway to get into the center of town.
The moral of this story is:
Even if you are relying on trains to get to and from the airport, make sure you have a back up plan. Look into buses, subways, and taxis. Be aware of how long it will take you to get to and from your destination using these different types. Buses usually take longer, which is why I rely on trains. However, it’s good to know how long it takes so that you can plan accordingly. Also be aware of the cost of those taxis. (Mine was ¥3500 that day).
I went through this before when the Iburi earthquake happened in 2018. The trains completely shut down and people had no way to get around. I had to calculate how long it would take me to get into the city from my home…Luckily, I was told not to go into work, so I didn’t need to worry about it.
Overall, though, I still love the trains–despite the enormous headaches the create when they stop. But that only means that the JR Hokkaido train lines provide such an important service to the city and to the island.