Now that I have been to China, Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea, I will analyze which countries are the best in various self-selected categories. I haven’t been to Taiwan yet, so its not included.
Subway: Hong Kong – The difference between Hong Kong’s and Tokyo’s subway system is a lesson in how to design subway systems. When you transfer lines in Tokyo, you have to walk down long halls. Sometimes you have to walk out of the station and on to the street. Some transfers even require you to buy a new ticket, because the lines are owned by different companies. In Hong Kong, at major transfer stations, the doors of the intersecting lines are lined up across from each other making transfers easy. Buying tickets is easier in Hong Kong, too.
In Tokyo, there is a map above the ticket machines with the price of each station painted on. You are supposed to read the map quickly and see how much you have to pay. Why not digitize that map and build it into the machine software so that people can simply click on the station and buy a ticket like they do in Hong Kong (and elsewhere)? In Beijing, there are many human-staffed ticket booths. Seoul gets points for its comfortable heated seats in winter. Tokyo’s system is the worst.