Musings about Japan and life as a human, a cosplayer, a minority, a music lover, an English teacher.

Trains. In Japan.


I’ve heard that Japanese schools aren’t so busy compared to American schools.

So why am I so busy? Or perhaps it’s just that I feel busy, and that it’s all in my head. (Not.) I’m always thinking about what I need to do and by when I have to have it completed.

I’m really tired. I arrived at school at 7:50 this morning, even though my first class starts at 9:00. I wanted to avoid the more crowded trains, because yesterday I wasn’t 100% sure that I would live. That day I had intentionally missed a Commuter Semi-Express train at Nerima because it was so full, so I decided to wait for the next local train coming up. It was fine until we got to the next stop, and that’s when I got packed in against a bunch of salarymen, none of which were young and handsome like I had hoped. Though, even if that were the case, it would be so cramped that I wouldn’t be able to look up at their faces anyway.

There was a girl next to me–or, at least her head was next to me since that’s the only part of her body I could see–and at times I wondered if she was alive. Her eyes were closed and her face looked somewhat lifeless, as if she were attempting to sleep in the sardine can that was the morning train for Ikebukuro. But occasionally I’d hear a sound from her, so everything was okay. It made me wonder if there are ever cases where someone really does suffocate on a train in Japan.

Every day is a trial, and I have discovered a few small points in avoiding crowds, potential suffocation and being shoved into a train car. One is to move towards the center of the train. I realize that this is one of the reminders from that annoying voice on the Washington D.C. Metro trains. It appears that this isn’t really done in Japan; I imagine it’s because most people want to stand close to the door so they can get off the train as quickly as possible, such as when they need to transfer. Yesterday I stood next to the door, assuming the train wouldn’t become so crowded. Suddenly everyone was piled up in that area, but I noticed that that was hardly the case in the area where the seats were. I suppose there are trains in which every inch of the train is packed (such as on the JR Yamanote Line), but since I take the Seibu-Ikebukuro line it’s not quite as crowded. Today I moved towards the center and felt a lot more comfortable on the way to school.

Another tip is to get on the first car of the train when going towards major stations like Ikebukuro. The way the station is designed, there are stairwells going down to the JR Lines right there along the platform. For people who aren’t transferring and just want to exit Ikebukuro Station, this can be troublesome as many people are shuffling to get downstairs, taking up all the space on the platform. Unlike Metro, in Japan the doors that divide the train cars are open so one can go right through to the next car, so often people who are trying to avoid the blockage on the platform go through the cars and exit out of one with empty space in front of the doors.

By being on the train’s first car, not only can you avoid the crowds of people transferring to JR, but you can also avoid having to wait in line to get through the ticket gates. Despite having Suica and PASMO cards (the same technology that Metro’s Smartrip uses), there are so many people that even that doesn’t speed up the exit process by much. Being on the front car also means that you don’t have to shuffle to get to the staircase leading underground, either. I’ve that problem many times–waiting to get through the gate, getting through the gate, and then waiting to go down the stairs. (In case you haven’t noticed, I often like to wait as little as possible.)

Since I first tried these tips earlier in the morning, I’m not sure how well it works during my normal time of commute. But it sure was easier getting out of the station…even though an extra 30 minutes in the dorm would have been nice too.

So in case you were wondering about those YouTube videos of people getting shoved in crowded trains…yes, it happens.


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