Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Sorry if you are a fan of planes and automobiles but this blog is only about trains, the title was much nicer with them included.

It is common knowledge Japan has one of the worlds leading train systems. There is almost nowhere that tracks haven't been laid. Three classes of train race around the country side everyday carrying millions of commuters and a far smaller number of travelers. You haven't experienced real congestion until you've been on a rush hour train in Tokyo. Firstly there is the Shinkansen or bullet train which reaches almost the entire length of the country (apart from a section on our island!!!), it speeds along at close to 300km/h and turns a multi day drive into the fastest trip of your life. They have their own special tracks so no stray dogs or drunk idiots end up on the windscreen.

The Sonic
Next are the sonic trains which travel on all the normal lines and only stop at select stations which are warranted busy enough. They seem to move at about 150km/h.

Finally we have the local trains which stop at every station regardless of size. The smallest stop I have seen has no conductor, building or ticket machines, it is but a rusty, lonely and spider infested shelter.

A Local train

Life on the trains takes on a whole new meaning and for the first 4ish months we were here I was a slave to their shackles. (cue dramatic music). Over this period I devised a set of rules which I believe every train user should follow.

-Don't be more than 2sec late to the platform or you will miss it. If it says 3:23pm it will depart at 3:23pm.

-Don't try and con the system by paying for a shorter journey and thinking you'll get away with it because it is 11:30pm and it is the last train AND there is never a ticket man at that time. When you do this it will be the only time in history the ticket man is still there and they WILL stop the train until you pay more.

-Try not to run to the train in the middle of summer, jump through the doors and then put your arm up to hold on. Others will hate you.

-Once on the train don't pay any attention to the seats marked for "Elderly, Pregnant or Disabled", no one else does and they are the best seats on the train.

-You have three options to entertain yourself, 1-sleeping; close your eyes, let your head fall to the side and bump into the person next to you repeatedly, 2-use your cellphone, 3-more sleeping with some snoring.

-Don't make your way to the door early and politely ask people to move. Wait until the last minute then run as fast as you can with your arms out aiming to knock people over. It's more fun and the old grannies set pretty high scores. Once out of the train you can be slow and polite like normal.

-If the carriage looks full push harder. Because we live in the rural wilds the next train is a 3omin wait, so push. Someone will pop out the other door and make room for you eventually.

A not so busy local train carriage