Quick Takes – October 5th, 2018

Welcome to this week’s Quick Takes! Plenty of transportation news, mostly for the benefit of foreign travelers. Let’s dig in.

  • Japan Bus Lines (JBL), an alliance of highway bus lines operators in Japan, had announced the revamping of their bus pass, JBL Pass. The new pass is now available, and like Japan Rail Pass for trains, this pass is for foreign nationals only. It’s available in 3, 5 and 7 day periods, and there’s a 14-day pass available in summer. Refund of the pass for cancellation is free before activation, and change/cancellation of bus reservations are also free up to one day before the travel date.
  • Android-based translation device test in Tokyo station shops: Starting this week, 43 shops inside the Tokyo JR station area will start testing an Android-based translation device called Pocketalk. Clear signs are displayed in the participating shops, and travelers are encouraged to try it out. Coincidentally, Pocketalk is about to launch the same device this week, in Japan (available online) and the US (on sale in b8ta stores from November 1st). 
  • JR Kyushu announced on September 28th that route codes and numbers will be assigned to stations on eleven lines in the Northern Kyushu area, including major tourist cities like Hakata (i.e. Fukuoka) and Beppu. The numbering signs will be gradually rolled out starting this week. While this is certainly convenient for travelers with limited Japanese proficiency, the area involved does not yet cover most of the favorite cities like Nagasaki, Kagoshima, and Kumamoto. Hopefully, they will also have their own numbers by the next stage.
  • Ryohin Keikaku, the operator for the Muji brand, had two hotels operating in China (Shenzhen and Beijing). A third will open by April 2019 in, of all places, Ginza, Tokyo. This will mark the Muji Hotel brand’s first venture in its own country. Muji is known for their spartan aesthetic, from design to furniture to products.

That’s it for now, see you next week!