Wow it is January 2015 and I now remember in 2013 my NY resolution was to learn how to blog! MMMN that didn’t happen. Maybe this year. However I am still here in Japan and thanks to an email notification that I have one follower I remembered I set up this account! Thanks Emily and Happy New Year.
My old computer died a noble death and I am back on the freebie with the dodgy keyboard. Certain symbols on key board do not match up to what appears when tapped so the lack of grammatical thingys * I am an English teacher and very technical and that star is meant to be a bracket!( and that one is meant to be a closing bracket) ahhh found it!) so bear with me. I am trying to learn how to download a driver for my keyboard whatever the heck that means. (NOTE punctuation is the word I was looking for instead of thingy!)
So trains. Today’s rant. Rush hour is the bane of my life and if I couldn’t laugh about the ridiculousness of it I would go stark raving mad and end up in a lunatic asylum, which apparently are not a lot of fun in Japan.
Yes those clips of people being squashed into trains are real. It never fails to amaze me that the train seems full to breaking point, and oh that has happened, apparently in November a train was so
crammed full the windows broke in a carriage http://en.rocketnews24.com/2014/11/20/rush-hour-crush-on-tokyo-subway-leaves-train-with-broken-window/, and 2 or 3 people get off at a station and wham, bam, squash you mam they manage to squeeze another 30 plus (was looking for the plus sign, upside have found the brackets!) into the train.
When the train is so crowded getting off at a minor station can be a mission if you have been shunted down into the middle. Meek Japanese quietly mumble, “excuse me excuse me” as they push and shove their way off usually causing 15 or more people to explode out of the train before they make it out. The more confident bellow “I’m coming through” while some just try and jiggle their way through and look glum as the doors shut and they are still stuck on board. Occasionally a person makes it off without taking many with him only to find his hand is still attached to his briefcase which is still on board. A quick tug and out it pops with 5 or 6 fellow passengers.
Strategic positioning is the name of the game. You come to know which side the doors open at each station, which stations elicit a mass exodus and which ones only have a few people getting off. I try to nab the spot just inside the door next the end of the seats or try and make my way into the middle of the carriage. At all costs I try and avoid being in the doorway as you are buffeted in and out of the carriage at each station, rather like being battered by waves in the ocean on a rough day. Carriages that open by stairways and platform exits are to avoided as just as you think its not too bad and the door is about to close, 10 or 11 people dash up the stairs and throw themselves in at the last minute.
It seems strange to say but even though you are jammed in there like absolute sardines people do seem to be aware of personal space. I guess in this day and age of sexual harassment men are very careful not to have their hands in a compromising place. I have found it is not the men I worry about but some of the middle aged to elderly ladies. Those dears are not afraid of using their elbows and getting stuck in.
The carriages can be so crowded you really can’t move. An itchy nose can be torture, you can’t get your hand up to scratch it, a pending big sloppy sneeze can be a nightmare waiting to happen if you can’t curb it or worse yet if you are the receiving end. And yet while squashed in this mass of humanity there are people who manage to actually read a newspaper or play on their smartphones. Me? I tend to focus all my concentration on not sneezing or screaming!
In summer time it is very hot and humid in Japan, they have the air conditioners so cold you need to carry a sweater and in winter it can be very cold so you rug up to get to the station only to have to undress as the train is heated to border line hell temperatures.
There are lot of announcements during the trip, most apologising for the fact the train is very crowded or asking people to suck in their tummies as the doors are about to close. My favourite is “the train may swerve or brake suddenly so please ensure you are holding onto a rail or strap if you are standing” Yeah right the train is at 250% capacity I can’t even scratch my nose and you think I can find a hand strap!
Come winter time, you may find yourself on the train with terminal sniffers. Very annoying! The snorers are just plain funny and while standing in front of them you get a good view of tonsils, Japanese dentistry and nostrils.Surprisingly flatulence has not been a major issue. Maybe Japanese don’t fart??? or there is some weird product on the market for inhibiting it! Wouldn’t surprise me.
For all the discomfit during rush hour the train service is incredibly efficient. Occasionally heavy snow, high winds or an accident will cause major delays. If one train is cancelled or can’t run on time the back up is incredible. It once took me over three hours to get to work when it is usually only a 45 minute trip. The other day I tried for three trains in a row to get on board but it was physically impossible, even the elbow swinging grannys couldn’t get on. Once I did squeeze in, my feet got anchored in one place and my body twisted into another worthy of a Cirque du Soleil contortionist and I managed to put my back out!
I will end with a tale of personal hygiene. I was in a carriage which was not packed but nevertheless crowded. It became very obvious that one of the passengers was possibly homeless and had not bathed for a very long time. Think very malodorous and bodily functions. I could see who it was several passengers away. There was a guy standing between me and the Great Unwashed One. For some reason he kept looking over his shoulder and seemed to be grimacing at me. I realised the air conditioner was blowing air over the Great Unwashed over the top of Grimacing guy and swirling over me and back to him. The smell was very overwhelming and I must admit I was feeling a bit nauseous with it. When the train stopped I decided I would bolt for the next carriage. Grimacing guy had the same idea. We both ran and made it to the next carriage. As I jumped on he turned and saw me. He had such a look of horror on his face! He leapt off and made a run for the next carriage. I have no idea if he made it or not but if you hear any tales of a very stinky Gaijin on the train pleease let it be known it was not me!
Yoroshiku Onegai shimasu