I seldom write about my life in Japan, I mean sure I show you all my week in photo (aka all the food I consumed that week basically) but I hardly ever talk about serious issues or the actual everyday life/annoyances.
That’s not through lack of trying though, I have multiply draft posts about topics I want to talk about but ultimately I don’t post them because they end up being too negative. When I moan about expat life to Ksk (which I do a lot :O) , he can get quite upset about it therefore we came to an agreement that if I want to complain I have to end my rant with something positive. Sometimes it’s something trivial like how it’s sunny or I’m eating something delicious, but I notice it does help.
So new series talking about the good and the bad, I’m naturally going to start with the bad and end with the good…obviously.
Trains in Japan,
Ah the bad, I’m sure many people can answer this one, even people who have never been to Tokyo. It’s the rush hour trains and crowds of people. Initially it can all be quite exciting but eventually it begins to grate and wear you down. I’m lucky in that I can afford to miss super busy trains and wait for the one after, which are often empty.. you know cos everyone is on that first train that went passed you.
Lack of personal space, well on rush hour trains, it’s to be expected. But sometimes it happens on trains with hardly any people. I’ll be loitering by the door and someone will decided standing right next to me if the best idea. Some times the opposite happens and I’ll be the last person with an empty seat next to me, maybe they don’t want to sit next to the foreigner or maybe like me, they like to stand on the trains or maybe I smell:O. Either way, it doesn’t bother me anymore, I like the space. I’d rather have an empty seat next to me than someone standing within my personal space.
Shinjuku station. On the whole I think Japanese trains are really easy to navigate but sometimes I forget about the horror that is Shinjuku station, and it’s many many exits. Shinjuku can be a nightmare if you’re a) not paying attention b) never been there before c)are not quite sure where you’re going. At most stations, it doesn’t really matter too much what exit you go out of, as you can usually walk back to the one you needed to be at but Shinjuku…..urgh, go out the wrong gate can either mean walking a little way or walking around the entire station, and it’s big! With 36 platforms and over 200 exits, it can be overwhelming and intimidating. Honourable mention goes to Ikebukuro and Tokyo station, since they’re pretty confusing too.
Oedo line. I actively avoid this line. When I first moved to Tokyo, I planned to meet a friend and accidentally got on the wrong train, and then made the mistake of changing onto the Oedo line. The Oedo line is one of, if not the deepest train line in Tokyo, with some platforms being over 40m underground. So going down to the platforms is like descending into the depths of Moria or at least how I imagine it would be.
Another bad, suicides. I’ve seen some people talk about this before and I always disagree with how they make it out that people are throwing themselves in front of trains all the time. I’m not saying it is not a problem, but it’s not quite a frequent as they would have you believe. Certain train lines have become “suicide hot spots” but most lines are ok, for example, I rode the Yamanote line for one year, Monday to Friday and it stopped 3 times for “human accident”, which is usually the code for suicides. However not all “human accidents” are suicides, a lot of them are actual accidents like people getting their arm stuck in the door. Basically there no way to know for sure if it’s one or the other.
The bad part however and the saddest part about this (apart from the death) is how people react to the news….in that they don’t or they get annoyed by it. But like I said, there is no way to know for sure which it is, so I guess that partly explains some peoples behaviour. They have tried to counter suicides and accidents by putting up barriers on the platforms. I always find it stressful and disturbing though when the barriers malfunction and I can see this one station staff member looking up and down the platform rather anxiously, in what I can only presume is suicide watch :(.
How insanely efficient the trains are. Seriously! It’s like clockwork. If the train is suppose to arrive at 12.03, it arrives. The Yamanote line trains run every 3 minutes.
They’re affordable. A return from my hometown in the UK to London costs about 40 to 50 pounds, and the service is appealing. Where as in Japan, trains are super affordable and well worth the money. Third time mentioning the Yamanote line, but it really is great. You can get from one side to the other for as little as 170 yen! Insane!
IC cards work on all trains. This is something I really appreciated when I went home for Xmas. Sure, London has the Oyster card, but you can’t use it on mainline trains, you have to buy a separate ticket. Whereas in Japan, your IC card works seamlessly on the Tokyo underground, the overground, buses, and you can even use it to purchase things from vending machines and convenience store.
They’re clean! Very, very clean. I don’t really need to add anything more to that.
Stations have shops and restaurants either inside the gate or just outside. I love how some stations are a bit like airports in that they have shops and restaurants after the gates. Clothes, books, make up, bakeries, bars and you can even pick up some omiyage(souvenirs) incase you forgot to grab some from where ever you’ve just got back from.
What are your good and bad points for trains in Japan?
Thank you you for reading, Alanna.