14 April, 2017

Orderly Japanese trains

I trekked across Tokyo again today for a mission meeting. We worshipped and prayed together and then ate lunch as well. It was a good type of meeting to go to (I did have some business to do with a couple of people too, but that wasn't the main point of being there).

I took a different route to get there today and ended up going through an unfamiliar station. It is the fascinating thing about Tokyo trains that makes it different to most other cities in the world (correct me if I'm wrong). Because there are so many train lines criss-crossing the city, there are often a plethora of choices as to how to get to a certain location, much like when driving you can take often several different roads to get somewhere. The differences between the routes sometimes come down to how long the transfers are between trains, or how many stairs, or price, or even how crowded some lines are over others.
Some of the 158 train lines connecting 882 stations in Tokyo (data from here).

Though I've been in Tokyo a decade now, I still marvel at the orderliness of Tokyo train stations and the people who use them (40 million a day). At peak hours, like I was using the trains this morning, people generally calmly walk in designated places and it's usually clearly marked. 

You can't assume that the flow of traffic will be "walk on the left side", as it is in this photo. Someone has determined how the flow of traffic best works and you follow the arrows. Though it is a given that you always stand on the left side of the escalator, leaving room for those who want to walk up the escalator on the right side.
It isn't just the walking that is orderly. There is a clear way to line up. When the train pulls up, you approach the train, but move to the side of the door to allow anyone to get off. There is no pushing and shoving to get on before people get off, or to get in front of the person lined up in front of you. Mind you, as I mentioned in this post, sometimes there is pushing, just to get onto the train, but that is only when the train is very full already.

Back when we first arrived in Tokyo nearly 12 years ago, and for some time after that, I didn't think I could ever be thankful for the complicated train system. But I am—much of the time it is an amazingly efficient way to get so many people around such a crowded, enormous city.

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