Tuesday, March 6, 2007
OK, I probably should begin with saying that I actually really like the public transportation system in central Tokyo. The trains go on time and if they happen to be one minute late they profoundly apologize for it (where I come from trains can be delayed hours at end without any form of apology...). The semi-public JR (Japan Railways) train company work very well with the different private subway lines and train lines that are available. Basically, if nothing happens, taking the train is a breeze!
If you have problems with crowds it makes sense to stay out of the rush hours though since things can be pretty messy... For myself, I'm such a veteran now that I hardly raise my eyebrows or hesitate to enter a train that, for the untrained eye, would look fully packed. It's usually relatively brief and not too bad unless you happen to end up next to a homeless guy or a drunk.
Yesterday though really tested me... The main line I take to and from work is called the Yamanote-line (any readers familiar with Japan most likely knows of this line). It is a very convenient line that circles the central areas of Tokyo and the trains come with a frequency of a few minutes, so there's hardly ever any concern about waiting in case you happen to miss a train.
However, yesterday an accident had occured just by the time I was going home and the whole line stood still for several hours. Instead of the Yamanote-line, they referred us to another line that took a similar route, which might have been ok I thought and actually went to that platform... I actually stood in line for that train for several minutes until I realized that I would never survive such a train ride, the amount of people waiting to get into that train was overwhelming...
People going to prison have more relaxed train rides than that, with the risk of being distasteful and stepping over some unseen boundaries I almost think that the trains to Auswitsch were carrying a lighter load of people per capita than that train would have.
In the end, I took a taxi home... Wouldn't you?