12 February, 2013

Crowd-avoidance is an art-form in Japan

In Japan, you quickly learn when to expect crowds and how to avoid them. Just the same in Australia, although crowd-avoiding tactics need to be ramped up a bit here. In Australia I know that Saturday morning grocery shopping will be busy, I also know that certain roads in Brisbane will be crowded at rush hour.
A train where we couldn't get a seat, but not really too
crowded. People are hanging onto the straps for balance.
If you are so squished that you can't lose your balance,
that is a truly crowded train.

In Tokyo, I know that certain trains at certain hours will be crowded (and if you think you know what crowded is, take a look at these shocking photos the Daily Mail published a few months ago). I know that, if possible, it is best to avoid going to the doctor on Monday mornings or any morning just after a public holiday. We've come to know that public holidays are bad times to take road trips or go to some parks.

I've learnt that going to Curves at their opening time, 10am, is stress-inducing. I've only done it once. It involves lining up and racing a bunch of grandmas to get onto the exercise circuit as fast as you could.There are only 24 places. If you are too slow, you had to wait half-an-hour till the first ones on finished their workouts.

So I usually go about 11.30 or 12 and generally I can get straight into my workout. Occasionally I'm surprised, however. Today when I arrived I had trouble finding a place for my bike out front. When I opened the door I found the entire entrance almost blocked by shoes. And looking up, there seemed to be people occupying every square metre of the place. It was crazy! Yes, yesterday was a public holiday, and tomorrow might be a snowy day.

The thing that amazes me about Curves in Tokyo, though, is the way people can exercise and stretch in relatively tiny spaces without touching one another. If you aren't familiar with Curves' set-up, take a look at this video for an explanation. At one point it shows a regular circle with a machine-—recovery station-—machine—recovery station pattern. My local gym has the recovery stations and the machines staggered in and out of the circle so that they fit in a remarkably tight space. But you do have to be careful that you don't fling your arms or legs around too much, or you'll hit someone.

If you do touch someone, you apologise straight away, with fervour. It amazes me, though, that these polite women are the same ones who push their way onto trains. Who don't appear to think anything rushing up to a soon-to-close train door and elbowing their way inside.

Ah, the mysteries of cross-cultural living.

1 comment:

Georgia said...

Was shepherding a team of Aussies one time who needed to go from Ichikawa to Tokyo Station at morning rush because they had Shinkansen tickets to get to the area where they would work. There were 8 or so people and each had a small wheeled case. I herded from behind when the train doors opened. The first three boarded and then tried to back out because of the crowded conditions. I was not the only one on the outside pushing them on to the train.

Definition of a crowded Tokyo train: you are simultaneously touching more than 6 other people.