People in the US always ask me if I have a car and driver’s license in Japan.Â How do I explain to them that you don’t need it?Â And that it would only be an extra expense?Â (The parking space at your apartment might cost as much as your rent!)
It’s strange to say this, but I realized on a trip back home recently that the trains were one of the things I missed about Japan.Â I’m not a train nerd or anything like that; I guess I’ve just gotten attached to riding them.Â There are several reasons why I think the trains in Japan are awesome.
They Go Everywhere
If you live in the Tokyo area or any other metropolitan area, the trains basically go everywhere.Â You’ll see these strange little doorways in the corners of buildings and they’re train stations!Â Add all the city buses and you’ve got a mass transit system that can get you anywhere.
They’re On Time
The rumors you hear about Japanese trains being on time are absolutely true.Â There are delays occasionally and it’s pretty funny because people get really angry and put-out about it, even if it’s something like 2 minutes late.Â They’d be amazed at the lousy mass transit in most American cities.Â
The trains do run on time and they don’t wait for you, but if you run across the platform looking appropriately harried and apologetic, the train guy with the white gloves will hold it up for you for a few seconds.
Excellent People-Watching Opportunities
This is probably why I miss the trains when I go back home.Â In Japan, all walks of life take the trains.Â You could be sitting next to some high-powered business executive or sumo wrestler on one side, with a semi-homeless guy picking lint out of his toes on the other.Â Okay,Â sitting next to the toe lint picker isÂ not a great thing about riding the train; but my point is that Japanese train riders are a perfect cross section of Japanese society.
Sometimes, it’s a lot of fun to watch people, especially when you’re new in Japan and just learning about the culture.Â The last train on Saturday night from Tokyo to Chiba is my favorite because everybody’s blotto.
Every Line Has Its Own Personality
Okay, here comes the train nerd in me.Â Every train line has its own distinct personality.Â When you ride the Keiyou line, you get to see the views of the bay.Â The Yama-No-Te line has its own crazy Tokyo energy.Â If you ride a certain line enough you start to get a certain feeling fromÂ it.
Sometimes Riding The Train Can Be Murder
Sometimes, the train’s not so great.Â If you have to take a morning train into Tokyo or an evening train out of Tokyo, it’s not a fun experience.Â You’ll be packed in there with everybody going to work and when the doors open, it’s what I like to call the ‘Salaryman Mosh Pit.’Â Just imagine 100 Japanese businessmen shoving each other and each trying to be the first one off the train.Â