28 March, 2009

Why we don't often travel by train as a family

Are trains and Japan synonymous in many people's minds? I've been in Japan too long to remember! I've gathered some thoughts about trains and how they compare to our 'home' country, Australia. Japan is much more suited to trains than Australia due simply to large numbers of people living close to one another. Trains come every couple of minutes, missing one is not the big deal it is in Brisbane, where trains come every half hour outside of peak times. Even though they come so often, getting a seat is still a significant triumph. And certainly not considered a right. We laugh when we read about Brisbanites complaining about having to stand the whole way to work. Etiquette is stricter here, probably necessarily so, otherwise we'd not be able to have so many people using the train without violence. Don't talk on your mobile (cell) phone. Don't cross your legs (they stick out). Don't put your bag on a seat. Don't stretch your legs out. Don't eat or drink. Sit close to other people. Don't talk unless you are with friends. Try not to look at people. For the above reasons, our family doesn't use trains as a family unless absolutely necessary. On Thursday we met friends at Ueno Zoo with friends. Close to the city, this was one time that trains were more convenient. Not necessarily nice, though. On the very first train we hopped on, it was standing room only, not super crowded, just no seats. Our two youngest decided that they both wanted to look out of the same skinny window in the door, the only available window. For several stops they fought, screamed, cried etc. Can you imagine how loud that sounded in the context of a quiet, orderly totally silent carriage? All of our boys are persistent, and there was no dissuading them that this was an unimportant fight. It was not until someone got off and another window 'became' available that the fight ended. But not before mum and dad were embarrassed and emotionally spent - all before the day began. The other significant travel event occured on the way home. First train was pretty good, all three boys got seats - next to each other and not having to sit next to anyone 'strange' (i.e. unknown, another stress point for at least one of our boys). We thought a bit of music would help our tired kids, so pulled out our iPod and let the two younger ones listen with earphones. All good, until we had to change trains. Chances we were going to let these two attached by wired umbilical cords wander through one of the biggest stations in the world? None! So, off went the music. Tantrum anyone? Our youngest threw a wobbly for all to see and hear. He made a motion to get off the train, then stopped at the door, just as the whole carriage had gathered up momentum. We carried him unceremoniously onto the platform, resulting in more screams. On the second train, we had no seats, but space on the floor near the door was available. Exhausted kids flopped (probably a no no, but exhausted parents didn't care). We reapplied iPod and had peace for the rest of the journey! Yay!! The next day we piled into the car for a shortish trip and pondered how much easier we find car travel than train travel. The boys read books in the back seat and we had no tantrums. Not to say we never have fights in the car, but at least they're not for public consumption.

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