After my all-too-tiring work trip to Brazil, I managed to get a night at home in my own bed.  Yes, ONE.  I think that brings the count up to 6 nights for the whole year so far.  I’ve made a promise to myself to make up for that.  Last year I put 1,100km on my bike.  This year I’d like to crush that distance.  But that’s a story for later.

Today’s topic is Life in Japan:

There are many things that vie for your attention when you come to Tokyo and walk around the streets.  The lights, the sounds, the smell of food in the air.  It’s all very exciting.  This town is ALIVE.  But one thing that you cannot fail to notice is the people.  Everywhere you go, there are people.  There’s no empty space.  At any hour of the day, no matter where you are, somebody else is there sharing the experience with you.  Most obviously, on the trains.  The limited space on the trains and the need for everyone to get to work on time, makes every commute a fight.

I’ve had the “pleasure” of taking the train through Shinjuku station nearly every day since I’ve arrived here.  Rumour has it that a train arrives at the station on average every THREE SECONDS.  (I’m not sure that’s true, but it can’t be far off!)  It is the World’s busiest station.  12 different train/metro lines converge on this one point.  Why you’d choose to do that, is debatable.  But I can say honestly that it may not be a fun experience to fight your way through the station at the busy times, but you’ll get where you’re going.  The major lines have trains there every 2 to 3 minutes, so missing your train isn’t a major drama.  You don’t even need to check the schedule.

The ride itself is an experience to be remembered.  I’ve seen videos of people being stuffed inside overcrowded cars, but firsthand I have not seen that.  When the doors won’t close, people will just step out and wait for the next train.  The hardest part of the ride is getting out at your station.  Or surprisingly, *not* getting out when a large crowd all decides to exit at once.  It’s quite common to have to exit the train, wait for the mob to pass and then re-board the car.

Order and respect are still maintained.  Each platform has markings on the ground, indicating where you should stand to wait for the next train.  People calmly line up at each mark.  When the train arrives and the doors open, they wait for the people on the train to exit and then they board the train.

Organized chaos, I call it.  But it works.  Sadly the seats for the elderly and handicapped are usually occupied.  I’ve given up my seat (which you’re lucky to get)  a few times and people just stared at me, like I was doing something wrong.  But the people I’ve helped seemed quite happy, saying ‘thank you’ or giving a small bow.

“Life in Japan”  (To be continued…)


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