Posts Tagged ‘trains’

Japan-related Links of the Week: 8 May 2010

Posted 07 May 2010 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Tokyo

A run down of some of the best Japan-related stories from this week:

Japanese visitors will be invited by tour operators to contribute £5, a charge already nicknamed the “Peter Rabbit tax”.

The tale of Peter Rabbit and a £5 ‘tax’ on his Japanese friends
The Times (Robert Jenkins)

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Okinawa’s status as home to one of the highest life expectancies in the world has been tied to a combination of healthy diets, exercise and self-sufficiency.

World’s oldest woman dies in Japan aged 114
The Daily Telegraph (Danielle Demetriou)

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Japan has the lowest percentage of children among 27 countries with populations of more than 40 million, trailing Germany at 13.6 percent and Italy’s 14 percent.

Japan’s children population at new record low
BusinessWeek (Mari Yamaguchi)

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Along with a flair for airy-fairy waffle, Mr Hatoyama has exhibited breathtaking indecision.

Things fall apart in Japan
The Economist (Banyan’s column)

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If you get groped on a train, please tell the nearest police officer.

Crackdown nets 77 gropers on Tokyo trains
The Daily Yomiuri

Tokyo’s Rush-Hour Rudeness

Posted 15 May 2009 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Tokyo, Travel, Work

Thank you for your f***ing kindness!

It’s been a couple of years since my last Tokyo rush-hour post, but something happened recently that I have to moan about:

I was on a fairly busy train to work yesterday morning. As usual the seats were all taken so I stood towards the middle of the carriage. At one stop a woman boarded the train and stood next to me. Despite the fact that she was obviously heavily pregnant not a single person offered to give up their seat for her. It was only when a few people got off the train at Shinjuku that I was able to offer her the now-vacated seat in front of me, which she gladly accepted.

This kind of behaviour absolutely infuriates me. Surely any physically fit adult with a smidgeon of human decency would give up their seat for a pregnant woman?

Ginza

Posted 27 Nov 2006 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Only in Japan, Photography, Tokyo, Work

Taken from a restaurant in Ginza last night. I’m writing this entry using my mobile phone on the train home from work as there’s not enough arm space for me to open a book and read, and to be quite honest I’d rather not just have to stand and stare at the back of someone’s head for 10 minutes, which is the only other option. Last Friday some random weirdo decided to do a full gymnastic warm-up by using the handles for standing passengers. It was like a mobile version of the olympics, only totally rubbish. What was the other passengers’ reaction? Pretend to sleep, of course!

The Train Warrior

Posted 01 Oct 2006 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Only in Japan, Tokyo, Travel, Work

Obaasan WarriorOn Wednesday I witnessed my first ever train fight, although it turned out to be somewhat different from how I imagined; which was something along the lines of two guys going at it using finely-tuned ju-jitsu techniques to defend the honour of their briefcases and ¥300 neckties. But anyway, allow me to indulge you…

As per usual Ayako and myself had managed to get a seat on the train (our station is the first stop, so it’s just a matter of waiting for the next train to arrive and then legging it on board to get a seat), and I was trying not to fall asleep. Ayako has to change trains a couple of stops before me, and after she and a few others disembarked all hell broke loose:

A middle aged woman had been patiently waiting to board the train and was first in line to get on, but!… behind her stood a complete tosser of a guy – no older than thirty, typical junior salaryman suit and demeanour – who was absolutely determined to get a seat, AT ANY COST.

Middle Aged Woman sensed the presence of a challenger as she boarded the train, and spied a free seat opposite my position. Junior Salaryman leapt onto the train, side-stepping Middle Aged Woman in an attempt to sit down first. Unfortunately both of them went for exactly the same seat, at the same time, which looked a lot like two highly competitive eight year olds playing musical chairs.

Middle Aged Woman had clearly had enough of dickheads pushing in front of her and, quick as a flash, stood up and elbowed the guy in the head. And when I say elbowed, I don’t mean in a “oh I’m so sorry” kind of way, this was a professional, advanced street fighting-style manouvre. Junior Salaryman looked, well, pretty shocked to say the least, but before he had a chance to say anything Middle Aged Woman decided to give him a few punches to the temple. Junior Salaryman’s legs flicked up in an attempt to shield himself from the blows, while all I could do was stare gormlessly at the two of them (well, what was I supposed to do?).

Eventually an older guy came and broke it up. Amazingly it was Middle Aged Woman who moved to a different carriage. Junior Salaryman, after rearranging his now deshevelled suit, pretended to sleep for the rest of the journey. I wanted to ask “how does it feel to be decked by a grandma?”, but my Japanese skills don’t stretch that far.

So, let that be a warning to you. When in Japan, DO NOT MESS WITH THE OLD WOMEN.

Monday mornings

Posted 29 Aug 2006 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Only in Japan, Tokyo, Work

I wake, and turn my head to face the alarm clock on top of the bookshelf. It’s 7.30am.

7.30? Bollocks. My alarm went off twenty minutes ago. I don’t even remember waking up and turning it off.

Faster than a weasel on speed, I throw myself out of bed and blindly pick out a shirt from the wardrobe. Have I even ironed this shirt? Probably not, but it will have to do. The trousers go on, and as for a tie, well I’ll just throw this blue stripey one in my bag and sort it out later. Jump into the bathroom, brush my teeth and wash my face. Now I’m ready to face the world.

Heading out of the door, I slip my shoes on in one fluid movement that can only come from months of waking up late for work. No time to bend down and put my heel in properly, I’ll do it in the lift.

The lift doors open. There’s already someone inside, it’s the small chubby fella, I think he lives on the seventh floor, probably with his parents. Crikey, he looks even worse than me. Strands of his hair reach out in all directions, as if they’re trying desparately to escape from his scalp. His suit has creases in places I’d never thought possible, and his tie is hanging round his collar like a dead snake. Possibly an adder, I’d say.
Then I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror….

Jesus Christ, I have an afro quiff!

The lift doors open again. We’re on the first floor, the afro quiff will have to remain. Snake Tie Boy snaps out of his morning trance and lunges out first. I fall out second, hopping around on one foot, trying to fit my heel inside my shoe with my left hand. I must look like a drunk flamingo. BUT, no time to worry about appearances, I have a train to catch.

Bursting through the front doors of the apartment block entrance, I spy Snake Tie Boy, already a good ten metres ahead of me. I step up a gear and begin speed walking towards the station. Snake Tie Boy gives me the slip by taking a side alley. Coward. The streets are busy, not with cars, but bicycles. As I head up the road waves of cyclists speed by every minute or so, flowing in time to the pattern of the traffic lights – High school boys carry impossibly huge sports bags full of baseball gear on one shoulder. Salarymen, their briefcases wedged into the shopping basket, weave deftly past the uni students, who have decided that cycling is a perfect time to also send text messages on their mobile phones – amazingly, every day this happens, and no-one crashes into each other.

I make it to the station. No, wait, I’m across the street from the station, waiting for the green man to let me cross. I’m surrounded by what seems like half the population of Tokyo. We’re all waiting to cross, like one big happy family of half-asleep, pissed off office workers. Some part time workers are handing out small packs of tissues with a flyer inside to we, the waiting masses. They’re advertising yet another pachinko parlour. Great, that’s all we need. And anyway, I think to myself, why do they bother giving out tissues in the middle of summer? If I try and wipe away the sweat with those, I’ll end up with bits of tissue stuck all over my face.

That particular thought comes to an abrupt end when the green man signal lights up. My happy family and myself swarm across the street and separate out through the various station entrances, like worker ants searching for the best route home. I take the quietest route and stride up two sets of escalators. I check my watch, it’s 8am. Just in time.

The ticket barrier looms before me, I reach into my trouser pocket to take out my wallet and… shit! Where’s my wallet? I stop dead in my tracks just a couple of steps from the barrier, but the mass of people following behind me don’t notice and thump, thump, thump… a human pile up develops in seconds. I franticly fumble through my bag for my wallet, finally finding it wedged inside some awful Franz Kafka book I’ve been forcing myself to read. I pull out my train pass, and stuff it into the ticket barrier. The machine greedily accepts the pass, and spits it out on the other side for me to swipe up and slide back into my wallet.

Two trains are waiting, both bound for Shibuya, the only difference is one leaves in four minutes and the other leaves in… let me check my watch… bloody hell, right now! At the same time, the all-so-familiar “breeeeeeee” sound leaps from the tannoy system, indicating the train doors are about to close. Quicker than a cheetah in spandex I fly towards the nearest door. The train is already full to more than capacity, but this is Tokyo, where no-one’s ever heard of “full to capacity”.

Like a true salaryman, I squeeze my body into the last remaining free square inches left aboard the train. The doors begin to close, everyone holds their breath as yet another person flings himself at the rapidly shrinking opening. Who does he think he his, Indiana Jones? He manages to get his lower half inside, but the top half is still outside, and the doors slam against his shoulders. For a second the doors open again, allowing him to brace his hands on the door frame and push the rest of his body inside, I hear other passengers groan as the air is squashed out of their lungs.

I can’t breathe, I think I’m going to die soon, but the doors finally slam shut, and everyone breathes a collective sigh of relief. Indiana Jones can’t help but display a smug grin at having managed to make it on board. Personally, I’d love to smack him in the face, but am so squashed that I can no longer feel my arms.

Ten minutes and three stations pass by. A few passengers get off and I claim a space near the doorway. There’s a middle-aged executive type stood next to me. Despite it being the middle of summer he continues to wear a heavy looking navy suit, and has to frequently wipe the sweat from his brow using a cute little light blue hankerchief from his top pocket. Of course, this does nothing to alleviate the huge sweat mark covering half his back, but he doesn’t seem too bothered about that. All of the passengers who managed to get a seat are sleeping, or at least pretending to sleep. There’s a teenage boy – probably a university student – who is out like a light, his head lolling back and forth like one of those plastic dog ornaments. The woman next to him is clearly pissed off by this, gives him the occasional elbow to the ribs and quickly closes her eyes and pretends to be asleep.

Twenty minutes after departing we arrive at my stop. After a little bit of pushing, pulling and sumimasens (“excuse me”), I manage to extract myself onto the platform. I walk towards the stairs, going against the tide of people trying to get on board the train I just left. At this point on the train line, they have to employ station attendants with white gloves to push people inside the train, which is such an amusing sight to behold I could spend hours just watching them. But there’s a connecting train to catch, so I continue walking.

My connecting train is delayed. Again. This seems to happen every Monday, and probably means some poor, down-trodden office worker couldn’t take it any longer and decided the best way to end it all was by chucking himself in front of a train. My train turns up ten minutes late, with a couple of bloodied fingers wedged under the windscreen wipers (probably). I step on board and finally manage to sit down for the final ten minutes of my journey. As per usual, I end up sat next to a teenager listening to some God-awful Japanese punk rock band on his iPod. I know he’s listening to this because he’s got the volume turned up so loud that kids in far side of the carriage are nodding their head to the beat. I decide to fight fire with fire and listen to “Run to You” by Bryan Adams at full volume. That’ll teach him.

The battle of the iPods ends when we both get off at the same stop, he catches sight of some of his friends and goes to say “Osu..” (“Hey..”). Everyone getting off here seems to belong to the university I work at, meaning I spend much of my walk to campus either saying “hello!” to various students, or trying my best to avoid the ones I don’t like by pretending not to see them, which is quite hard considering we all follow the same narrow street.

The campus gates are guarded by The Protectors in Blue, a set of mean-looking 60 year-old security guards in uniform, faces carved out of solid granite, bodies carved from rapidly melting ice cream. I greet them with “ohayo gozaimasu”, they reply with “uhyogzamass”, which means they’re double-hard bastards and not to be messed with.

I leg it up four flights of stairs and sign in to work. 8.55am. Phew! So far I’m the only one in the office but I haven’t prepared a damned thing for lessons today, so quickly check today’s lesson schedule. I find the lesson plan, it reads:

“Lesson 25 – Teachers Choice”

Teachers Choice? Oh bollocks, that means I have to knock something together entirely from scratch and I only have… forty minutes left to do it. Aaargh!

Chaos ensues, bits of paper fly everywhere, resource books lie strewn open across desks like they’ve been recently slaughtered in some kind of Zulu War for Books Recreation Society meeting. I don’t even notice the other teacher enter the office until I accidentally stab him in the arm with a pair of scissors while cutting out a photo of Lara Croft (I need it for, erm… teaching purposes. Obviously). He hasn’t prepared anything either, so the panic level moves from amber to red. I furiously try to find the correct CD for a listening activity… I look at the big clock on the wall… five minutes late for class already. I abandon my seach, grab everything I’ve prepared thus far and shoot off down the corridoor in the direction of my classroom.

I open the clasroom door. Only four students, two of whom are sleeping, seem to be present. “How are you?” says I. “Sleepy” they reply. Every day they say this, without fail. If only their parents laced their breakfasts with cocaine, we might get a little bit of variety in the greetings that way… Anyway, the lesson flies by, and I only need to utter the phrase “now, what I want you to do is…” twice. Any time I say this, you can be absolutely sure I have no idea what I want them to do, I’m just making it up on the spot.

The students leave, leaving me with an hour to sort out my lesson. Properly, this time. I go to the bathroom and splash cold water on my face, in a vain attempt to restore some life into my brain.

I look up from the basin and catch sight of myself in the mirror. I forgot to put my tie on, I still have an afro quiff and, best of all, I notice my flies have been un-zipped for the entire morning.