My first day as tourist in Nara after our IMRIDE service launch

 

Nara is one of the oldest towns in Japan with a rich history, beautiful landscapes, ancient temples and a lot of deers. Those who don’t know much about Nara, Japan – Nara ( Heijō-kyō ) was the country’s first permanent capital way before Tokyo was established. Nara was Japan’s first truly urban center. It soon had a population of 200,000 (representing nearly 7% of the country’s population) and some 10,000 people worked in government jobs. Buddhism was introduced by Baekje in the sixth century but had a mixed reception until the Nara period, when Emperor Shōmu embraced it. One of the interesting stories of Nara fascinates me is the story of Shōmu’s daughter Empress Kōken who brought many Buddhist priests into the imperial court and wanted to make a Buddhist faith healer as emperor. This action makes led to the exclusion of women from imperial succession and the removal of Buddhist priests from positions of political authority and becomes the foundation of man dominant society in Japan. Despite that, her role in Japan history shows her remarkable success as a woman leader who was devoted to faith, had strong political power and commissioned famous temples and artifacts, commissioned great statues in memory of her son( who died when he was one year old). Nara has deep roots in Japanese culture, society, religion, history, temples, architecture which attracts millions of visitors from all over the world.

This is not my first trip to Nara but this was special for me. At ActiveScaler our team is working to build the door-to-door mobility service IMRIDE which can help anyone to reach anywhere in the world in a single click. Visitors explore the pictures, videos, blogs, and another digital discovery platform to find the place where they want to go and by clocking on our IMRIDE button we can help them to plan the whole trip, book all modes of supported transportation mode and provide assistance during the whole journey. We have launched the first PoC in Nara on 1st October with our partners TDBC, Denso, ISID, Nara-Kotsu, and others. I wanted to experience first hand the real problems that visitor faces and evaluate the impact of our offering.

After two day at Kyoto smart city booth and great dinner with our transportation partner Nara-Kotsu, I have reached hotel and purchase the one day pass for tomorrow and ticket to go back to Kansai airport (KIX ) from Nara to make sure I can finish the whole day trip on time and can catch my flight back home as well. Successful in one shot and i h

ad my tickets ready in a min on my phone.  Thanks to Kururi-Nara website ( https://www.kururi-nara.com ) i was able to see the places i wanted to go and rest was easy. I planned trip to many temples so i can cover most of the temple trip and all that setup was done in half hour.

At 8 AM was a ready and walk to JR Nara Station terminal 2 to take my first bus. I  was ready to use my one day unlimited ride pass. I was third in the line and this bus goes to Todai-ji the most famous temple and few others. I was second in queue and the first person has handful of change in his hand and bus can only take exact amount of 220 Yen. After a Wait he was able to get it right while the line behind me queue has grown to over twenty impatient people. Young couple from Europe  were just behind me they have no change. They wave 1000 yen bill to the driver and asking for ticket. Driver try to tell them there is no change and they need to get the change and pay. Machine to change is attached to the payment machine but due to Language barrier they can’t get it.

 

 

Then driver call for attendant with paper cards with instruction in many languages and explain that please change the money and pay. Very confused couple took long time while the people in the back were counting their change. I have shown the digital ticket to driver, he checked and thats it. I hate long lines and people pushing to get in but Thanks to IMRIDE cashless tickets and pass purchase I don’t have to.

 

 

 

I wanted to change the plan and use different mode of transport ( bus was completely full ) when i found a better way to enjoy in Nara but other ladies got there first :((. Then i found i am next to Kohfuku-ji temple so decided to check that out. After so many fights and burned down about seven times, temple and big hall still standing tall. Beautiful weather and nice morning breeze to bring anyone in great mood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After this I headed to Gangoji temple and it is regarded as one of the oldest template in Japan. This shrine was at walking distance and IMRIDE show me its very easy to get there but I still had to open the google map to get there. In between I have stopped by an information center who gave me the map, history of Nara area vegan food place and recommended path to go. I rarely get that kind of advice before but it was a great experience. Check the audio recording of his conversation and advice.

 

After the Gangoji I wanted to go Kasuga temple but map and IMRIDE both were showing that walking might be a good  option. I was tired so decide to take the bus. I  check all the bus stops and found a local stop next to me and can get more closer to the temple. In a cloudy and pleasant day, walking was not a bad option but I took the bus anyway. The bus minimal cost is 220 Yen and that discourage the tourist not to take the bus. In my case unlimited pass come handy and driver acknowledges it and took me only 2 min to reach other side which could have been about 20 min walk easily ( IMRIDE digital ticket was handy ).

 

 

I walk towards the shrine while feeding the deers. But seems like one of them didn’t like me holding my maps and as carrier of buddha he gave me message too, DITCH the MAP. Deer eat my map :(. I have to call park ranger to intervene so he don’t end up eating paper with toxic ink and they were prompt.

 

 

While i was going from Kasuga to Todai-ji temple, the girl in-front of me was asking where this bus goes as this bus was not showing in the google map . She asked attended in Chinese about it to the attendant and he showed the translated script. She can’t figure out how to go to JR Station. I checked IMRIDE and show her that she should take this orange line and then change to red line for JR Nara ( Yes IMRIDE have better information than Google in Nara ). She nodded and get in the bus. When the stop comes she was still sitting and listening to music and forget this is the stop to go. I have to remind her to change else will be sitting in the loop bus for rest of the day ( Yes IMRIDE has destination alarm  ). She thanked me and queue up for next bus. She explained how she like to do solo trip but having hard time to find but bought few passes and Suica card which allowed her to go around. I entered in the bus show my digital ticket  and she took time to find which card this bus will use. When she tapped her card it comes out it was 60 Yen short and she was out of cash ( Suica card you are great but still need cash recharge ). She told to driver that she spend all the cash in hand to feed the deers so she have no cash left. Driver asked her to leave if she can’t pay the rest and it was holding the whole queue. Luckily I had 60 Yen in my pocket given by deer biscuit seller and thatcame handy.

 

After that she thanked again and spend time to understand how IMRIDE could have make her life easy. As most Chinese tourist, her response was “in china we can do that so easily but when we get out then the problem happen”. But after the experience she understood  the value and offered to become our evangelist for IMRIDE in Shenzhen. I didn’t expect that but I took this as a blessing from divine and a wonderful validation of the hard work, our mission and vision to build IMRIDE. One trip at a time, we will touch the life of everyone who is pursuing their dreams to move forward and further in their life.

 

 

 

 

In the end our friends from Nara-Kotsu found in the ticket list that I am going back at 2 PM and came to see off with a beautiful bag of branded gifts for our team. When we were waiting to get on the bus, a family was struggling to find how much they have to pay for two kids. Guy didn’t have sufficient cash in hand and he was expecting both kids to be half price. Finally driver was able to tell them and he has to run to get extra cash from a money changing machine. It took a while to do that. I was very happy that i book the ticket a day before digitally and i was able to show that and get on the bus in a second. ( IMRIDE advance booking and digital ticket was very convenient ). 

 

 

 

 

 

Overall experience was a great and fulfilling one. We know that we are making the life of traveler easy and it will make a great impact but seeing all the issue that traveler are facing just in few hours was very useful. This surely give us more motivation and make it available to large number of travelers. A lot of thoughts to improve IMRIDE in future while riding in white Airport Bus with big deer.