Aug 26, 2016

Expats say Japan's urban train systems are .....

Yes, one of Japan's loudest boasts is about the nation's transportation systems, and quite right, too. These systems are the envy of many a harassed transport ministry the world over.  Their brutal efficiency, attention to detail, and Sisyphean logistics leave massive urban conurbations (where street planning seems anathema) laying prostrate to the city traveler's exploratory desire.  In fact, is there anything at all that one could criticise about Japan's transportation systems (apart from, perhaps, certain nauseating TV ads where staff are portrayed as being so humble they won't allow themselves to even crack a smile at a job well done)?

Well, for those of us that use them every day to get to work, maybe some cracks start to appear.  So, we asked (you) the City-Cost community what (you) they think about Japan's urban trains systems.  

* To be clear, we're talking about those train systems that operate within the city, not between cities.

1) Complete the following sentence with a word or phrase; 'Japan's urban train systems are ..... ' 

Not too much to report here.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, adjectives like 'convenient', 'punctual', and 'awesome' were used many times, with a smattering of 'crowded' just to take the shine off things a little.  

2) What impresses/pleases you about Japan's urban train systems?

3Frequency of trains
4Fare adjustment machines
5Train seating
6Free toilets on platforms
7Station attendants
8Platform jingles
9Number of hand rails/straps in train carriages
10Free wifi in stations

For the uninitiated, 'Platform jingles' refers to the quirky little riffs that play through speakers on platforms to announce the arrival of a train.  Each line has its own unique ditty (well, in Tokyo, at least). The system is a testament to the attention to detail that we mentioned earlier (although the weary commuter is probably deaf to them).

'Free toilets' on platforms may seem like a given to some people.  Those of us that come from countries that make you break change just so as you can do what nature intended, may feel differently. 

3) What worries/irritates/stresses you out about using Japan's urban trains?

1Commuter crowds
2People who rush onto trains/into seats
4Man spreading (men who sit with their legs wide apart)
5People falling asleep on your shoulder
6Short delays that cause you to miss your connection
7People playing smartphone games/reading books even when there is no room
8Noise from headphones
9Slow train station wifi
10People applying makeup on train carriages

OK, so we seem to be deviating a little from what might be considered the responsibility of, or faults with, Japan's trains systems, and more into the behaviour of the people who make use of them.  Still, it's all part of the experience.  Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be a great deal that train system staff can do about some of the annoyances above.  That said, we would emphatically welcome a task force solely dedicated closing the legs of blokes who seem to think their tackle is such that it requires they spread their legs over two seats (It can only be an 'insecurity' issue.). 

No surprise to see 'Commuter crowds' at the top of the list.  If Japan is famous for transportation efficiency, it's probably equally famous for some of the massive numbers that use it.  In fact, one could argue that it's the willingness of the Japanese commuter to endure such privations of personal space that helps make transportation over here so efficient.  Were they not, then these systems would be failing to deliver large numbers of workers to the office on time.

Sadly, 'Groping' is high on the list.  'Sadly' because Japan routinely fails to address some of the larger factors that are behind this issue (gender equality and dirty old men being high up there).  Creating separate carriages just isn't enough (although, yes, it is something).  

There are probably more 'pet hates' about riding Japan's commuter trains that could be added to the list above, so please drop us a line with yours in the 'comments' after this post.

4) If another passenger is bothering/annoying you (due to man spreading, sleeping, noisy earphones etc), what do you do?

Hopefully you've had a chance to privately vent your fury at some of the annoyances above.  In 'real time' though, what are us expats most likely to do when we find someone bothersome on the city trains? 

1Move away from them/the situation
2Don't say anything, but act annoyed (sighs, stares, body language)
3Say something, politely
4Don't say/do anything (just put up with it)
6Confront them strongly

No word here, on what 'Other' could be.  Perhaps you have some suggestions of your own.

Have any opinions on what you've read in this post?  We welcome your comments, gripes, and suggestions.  Drop us a line below.

(Of the respondents: 70% female, 30% male)

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