Gaijin Stories

These short stories are a collection of my experiences while living in Tokyo. I hope people wishing to learn more about Japan and gaijin in japan wishing to compare experiences will find them interesting. I also hope some Japanese people will find a gaijin's perspective interesting reading as well.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Tokyo Trains ( 6 )

After six months of working in Shinjuku, I still hadn’t ever checked a train timetable. As usual, I finished work at 9pm and rushed to the station. The crowds around Shinjuku Station reminded me of the crowds outside a stadium just after an international sporting event. I’ve read that an average of about 4 million people pass through Shinjuku by train each day. That’s more people than the population of New Zealand.
The river of people coming up the stairs from the platform was taking up 3/4s of the stairs so I knew a train had arrived. As I approached the bottom of the stairs, I saw the train about 10-15 meters away. I saw that everyone had squeezed onto the train and some others were running alongside the train waiting to decide which door to try to push into. I heard the bell to signal the doors would close. It would’ve taken at least 10 seconds for me to cross through the stream of people to get to the closest door so I accepted that I’d have to wait for the next train.
In one door 2 men could only get a foot into the train so the doors reopened. The station attendant helped, by pushing the 2 men into the train. I occasionally meet people with bandaged hands or fingers who tell me they had got caught in train doors. As the doors closed a second time, I watched again to see who got stuck and what they would do. This time no body parts, only a man’s briefcase. All the doors reopened about 10 centimeters for about 2 seconds, and he pulled his briefcase into the train.
The electronic sign indicated that the next train would arrive in 6 minutes. I could count on a 97% chance that the train would arrive within the minute. Like clockwork, the train arrived on the minute and I boarded, carefully selecting my preferred position to be squashed in. The 8 people sitting in front of me all had their chins dropped to their chests and eyes closed. Only the deep sleepers would start to dribble or struggle to keep their heads from falling to the side. The majority, I guess, were relaxing their eyes and avoiding having to interact with anyone else.
In most cities, I’d be worried about being pick pocketed or cornered and mugged, but in Tokyo I feel safe enough to relax and ignore everyone around me. Sinking into what I could describe as a kind of meditation. I found valuable thinking time and travel time seemed to past faster.
On this particular day, I wondered if I should be thankful for the considerate people around me and the safety of this big city, or I should curse the crowds and the stress that came with them.


  • At July 12, 2005 8:40 AM, Blogger Joolie said…

    Hey David!
    Nice blog - and cool to read about another gaijin's experiences of living here!
    I had the worst commute for a while just yesterday morning. Like you I was squashed in a carriage, but unfortunately my bosom was shoved up against one man's chest and my hand was precariously close to another man's bum! No way was I going to shut my eyes in THAT situation!!

  • At August 14, 2005 8:16 AM, Blogger David said…

    Thanks Joolie.
    I can picture your situation and sympathize with your stress. Tokyo peak hour train journeys must be more stressful for females.....than I can imagine.


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