Whenever people talk about the amazing modernity and efficiency of Japan, almost 10 times out of 10 the train system here in Japan is mentioned, and rightfully so; the timeliness of the Japanese trains are legendary. They almost always show up exactly on schedule and if they are early, they’ll sit in the station just to make sure they get back on schedule. It’s not often that a train is delayed and if the delay is long enough they’ll actually give you a piece of paper that you can give to your professor or boss as proof of why you were late.
The trains are also always super clean. People don’t leave trash on them at all (it’s a faux paus to eat at all on the trains) and usually try not spill anything either. Drinks without tops are a really bad idea because the train cars can jerk suddenly when changing tracks. I learned that lesson the hard way during the second week when I got coffee on my white shoes.
Talking is okay on trains when it isn’t super crowded, but the more crowded it gets, the less acceptable it is to talk. Also, it’s actually really true that foreigners talk super loud. I didn’t believe it but now that I’ve been here and have gotten used to lowering my voice on the train, it can make me cringe when someone talks loudly on the train.
Of course, just like everything else, there’s a not-so-great side to trains.
The later at night it is, the more likely you are to run into drunk salarymen on the train. And I don’t just mean kind of drunk; I have seen these business men absolutely plastered on the last trains. They are usually coming from drinking parties after work with their co-workers. That is the one time they can relax after a hard day and loosen up on the formalities so it’s not unusual for them to drink a lot. The good thing is that these guys are never belligerent or trying to cause trouble; usually the worst that they do is accidentally fall on you or throw up on the train (which is disgusting). I will never forget the time I saw a guy throw up but hold it in his mouth until the train pulled into the station, then accurately aimed it down the small space between the platform and the train car. Needless to say I changed train cars after that though.
There is also the issue of “passenger injury” on the trains. If you watch the TV screens on trains, they’ll occasionally pop up with delays on various lines and give a reason for the delay. I found out later on from my e-Pal that “passenger injury” really means that someone committed suicide by jumping in front of the train. It’s a terrible problem that Japan is still struggling with today. There are multiple ways in which the government is trying to deal with this problem, including increased funding for suicide prevention centers and platform edge doors to keep people from jumping when the train approaches the station. However, I have seen the words “passenger injury” on the trains way more often than I would like to mention.
I could write probably at least another blog post or two about all the things I love and hate about Japanese trains and train stations and even then not cover everything. Japanese trains are amazingly convenient and a unique aspect of life here.
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<p>Mikaela is a junior at Indiana University majoring in International Studies and East Asian Languages & Cultures. Originally from the suburbs of Chicago, she has spent the past few years enjoying life as a Hoosier while dreaming of the day she finally got to go abroad. Traveling is one of her greatest passions and she looks forward to exploring not only Tokyo but as much of Japan as possible during her semester abroad. She is actively involved in both her sorority and International Studies Honor Society, and enjoys reading, hiking, and drinking tea in her free time. She is so excited for the adventure that lies ahead and can’t wait to share it with everyone!</p>