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Yet another blog about Japan

Train training

JAPAN | Sunday, 17 January 2016 | Views [363]

Enoshima: A train :)

Enoshima: A train :)

The companies, where we are doing our internships now, also provided accomodation for the time of the language course. Most people stay in the same place for the whole year, but some companies are too far away from the school in Shibuya. These people had to move between language course and internship.

From my dormitory it takes about 90 - 105 min to go to school (going back usually a little bit longer), which apparently is NOT too far away from the school.

Let's do a small calculation:

The language course had a duration of approximately 16 weeks. Each week I went to school on 5 days, spending, say, 3h in the train. This equals a total time of

16 weeks x 5 days/week x 3h/day = 240h.

 

Another calculation (because I'm a physicist):

The distance traveled to school is about 60 km. So again:

16 weeks x 5 days/week x 2 x 60km/day = 9600 km

This is roughly the distance from here to Germany.

 

So let's compare that to my flight to Tokyo:

 

 

Train

Flight

Distance

9600 km

9600 km

Time spent

240 h

16 h

Time spent (including breaks)

16 weeks

24 h

Average velocity

40 km/h

600 km/h

Average velocity (including breaks)

3,6 km/h

400 km/h

Ticket fare

~580€

~360€

 

Whoops.

 

... anyway. Taking the train for ten full days may sound like a giant waste of time¹, but of course it was just another cultural experience (as my supervisor expressed it recently). How could anyone visit Tokyo without undergoing the rush-hour? Therefore, the first four months of my stay in Japan provided me with the intimate knowledge of not only the local railway system, but also of way too many Japanese businessmen.

Please imagine a train. Fill it with people. More people. More! No, it's not yet full. There's still plenty of space. Squeeze them in! More people! Ok, let's leave it there. But be sure: Japanese trains are even more crowded. If you can still move your little finger, the train is not full yet.

May I guess your next question? - Yes, there are staff who push in people, but it's not their intention to fill the train insanely. They only help those people, who voluntarily squeeze in, to fully fit behind the closing door, including their belongings (bags, umbrellas, ...). And no, I never got pushed in myself, but I saw it a few times.

Leaving the train is also easier than it sounds. There's a magical word in Japanese: "sumimasen". Say it, and the path to the door will open for you, now matter how crowded it is.

As you might figure now, I spent a significant amount of these 240 h standing. It's a pure matter of luck to catch a seat, and it's not rare to spend the whole way standing. But once you are sitting and close your eyes, you might think the train is empty, because it is completely silent. No phones are ringing, people usually aren't talking, and I'm not sure if I ever overheard someone's music from the earphones. The only noise is the train itself, and the announcements of the next station².

The majority of people in the train is sleeping. The rest is playing on the phone, reading a book or studying (I saw mainly English, on a surprisingly high level).

At the beginning I used the time for studying Japanese, then - when I felt more comfortable with Japanese - I spent more time reading (thanks for lending me the Kindle) or playing/texting on the phone, and in the last weeks of the language course: sleeping. I feel so Japanese now.

A typical train in Japan

¹ It is.

² Too sad the announcement "本厚木の次は厚木です" (Hon-Atsugi no tsugi wa Atsugi desu - The station after Hon-Atsugi is Atsugi) doesn't exist, which wouldn't even be a lie in the local train...

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