First you’ve gotta do the ‘my stop is next’ shuffle!

Posted on 15.06.2014


I’ve been meaning to post about this for a while  now, but have barely had the time to write much of anything. I really can’t wait to get my computer back!

I take the train to work every day. I think it’s safe to say I’ve learned a whole  hell of a lot about the daily commute in Tokyo, thanks to this. I’m going to cover a few different things in this post, along with ‘the shuffle’ I’ve mentioned in the title.


It is a major pain in the ass to walk through a Tokyo train station. Not because of how many people there are, but because of how many of those people are walking WHILE staring at their cell phones. I’m sure this isn’t much different from anywhere else, but at least in places like NYC and London, one side of the hall is going, the other is coming, and you know which side to pass on.  Here, there is no designated ‘keep to the left/right’, which is quite confusing, and since that isn’t around, you’ve got people walking at glacial speeds and randomly stopping EVERYWHERE. It’s really effing obnoxious.

Now, if someone is walking towards me and not paying attention, I do what Drew said he was going to do this year and bump into them on purpose, hoping to teach them a valuable lesson. If you are going to text or read, STOP walking or wait until you are ON the train! Otherwise, put that shit away and look where you’re going!


2. Looking at the cell phones = quiet like a London train
When I was in London for half a year, we spent a good amount of time on the Tube. Once, Jav explained to me how to act on the Tube. Apparently, the goal is to be quiet, wear  headphones, speak to no one, and when someone is being loud, obnoxious, active, whatever, you MUST shoot a look of absolute disdain in their direction. Ok.

I repeat  this info now  because it’s the best way to explain how I see the Tokyo trains and metro system. The trains are quiet like a graveyard, and most of it is due to the fact that most people are looking down at their cell phones rather than talking to their travel companions. I haven’t seen any form of harassment or violence yet, and the only thing that’s been out of the ordinary (to me) has been the inordinate amount of people who can fall asleep sitting  up on a train. The loudest people on the train are ALWAYS the tourists.


3. You do not, I repeat, DO NOT talk on your cell phone ON the train
I’m not sure why, but I can guess: because based on #2, it makes noise. If your phone rings, you silence it and call back when you’re off the train. If you MUST talk, you answer, quietly, and then cover your mouth, turn your head to the side, and have a whispered conversation that should probably not last longer than 10 seconds.

It’s an insanity I’ve never seen, but after living in the states, you know damn well I appreciate the hell out of it and am glad to comply with this unspoken rule.

Note, it is ACTUALLY a rule if you happen to be near the ‘courtesy seats’. The only time you can make an exception is if you sit in the courtesy seats and see that there are NO old/sleeping people around you. My general rule is that if I see SOMEONE ELSE using their phone in this area, and no one around them is making the disapproving mean-mug, then that means I can use my phone, too.

Not that our phones are ever loud (reference #2, again), all I am doing is reading the news anyway. But, you know. Old people are testy sometimes. I’m ok with being courteous.


rush hour going home

rush hour going home

4. It’s a THING to get a seat on the train.
It’s like watching a game of Musical Chairs when the music stops. Not joking. It’s the 2:00 scramble.  Everybody wants a seat on the train, no matter how many stops they’re going. It has turned me into a veritable hawk. I check the open seats AS the train pulls up, and make a note of which ones I have the best chance of getting to before the other 10 people in line.

Granted, most lines aren’t longer than 6 people for a given door-side (not when I travel, at least). I prefer to join lines that are for the center door, and not longer than 2 people. More open seat options!

In my case, I have an argument in my head every day about whether or not I need to sit on the train. My ride is either 3 or 15 minutes long. I will spend the next 8 hours mostly sitting on my ass. Especially at the end of my work day, I don’t NEED to sit, even if I want to. That’s when I see the most people sleeping anyway. Let them have the seats. I only want a seat if I have a lot of bags that are heavy, or if I’m going a long way. Which generally rules out the work commute.


I didn't even catch his name.

I didn’t even catch his name.

4.5. Sleeping is also apparently A THING.
Not trendy or cool, just something that happens when you work something like a 12-hour day. Every day. I’ve got a bit of a collection of photos of ‘people sleeping on trains’, but this one is my favourite, since this guy was sleeping ON ME.


5. You have to do the ‘I’m about to get off’ shuffle on the train when it’s crowded, whether you are sitting or standing.
It’s not necessary on an empty train, because you can get to the door easily. But if you happen to be in ANY train where you can’t see the floor, or past the crotch standing in front of you while you sit (and it is always a crotch, rather than an ass), you have to do what I refer to as ‘the shuffle’. This signals to the people in your general area that you are going to get off at the next stop. It ALWAYS means they move out of the way, even if there is nowhere to go. Normally it means they get the seat you were in, so they get out of your way REAL fast.

The sooner you do it, the better. More of a path is cleared, and you have time to get to the door before it opens, since you of course want to be the first on the escalator:) If there is no path, or you wait too long, you have to start saying ‘sorry’ in Japanese to get attention and get them to move, and you have to do if fast because these doors wait for no one and will close on you.


6. You choose the car based on where you’re going when you leave the train.
Because otherwise, you are stuck in a big crowd, going a long way.

Example: for my morning commute, I get in the 5th car, 2nd door, which pulls up on track 2 JUST in front of the escalator. There is something like pride that hits me when I am the first person on the escalator. On the train to my office, I get in the first car, so I’m closest to the gate exit and therefore, my office. On the train home, I get in the car that is JUST at the escalator, which drops me right in front of the elevator at my home station. These are not mistakes. I do this because I HATE walking in a crowd.


7. You can get an entire workout done in the train station/s.
I went exploring one day when I had a few hours off. I walked 4 miles. Underground, in my train station.

It turns out that you can get all the way from Otemachi to Ginza (three stops on the Maronouchi line) just by walking underground through the train stations. I mean, sure, you COULD walk above-ground, but why? In the winter, we got a lot of snow. I was NOT about to go above ground. The train stations are heated.

The reason I went exploring was that I knew the tunnels went on forever, and I also wanted to see what my lunch options were. My office is just  next to a convenience store, but there are some EXCELLENT restaurants here in the business district. So I wanted to find the good sushi, and see what else we have. FTR, there is some amazing sushi, a Starbuck’s, and 2 Mexican places very close to me. There is also an international store, a bagel shop, Auntie Anne’s, … the list goes on. I’m close to the shopping in Tokyo station, above and below ground.  I’ll never be bored. Or hungry.

I turned my pedometer on (the train stations have excellent 4g signal as well) and went walking. I only walked back to my office because I had a lesson to teach, otherwise I would have walked for a very  long time.


There’s definitely more to come, but I think that’s enough for a first post:)

Posted in: Japan, life