Made it through another week of working in Japan and negotiating the transport system! Actually, until today it wasn't too bad - we've been heading out of Ikebukuro away from town so the metro is really quiet. However, my colleague from the UK left today and I started on a week of a new journey to an office in Kawasaki. This new route on the train (rather than the Metro) takes me right around Tokyo so I've now experienced crowded trains! To be honest they're not that bad though - they go every few minutes, so if the current one is a bit of a crush you can just wait for the next one. This doesn't seem to occur to the locals though who are clearly in a rush to get everywhere, and they happily cram on until the train is about to burst. Madness. Mind you, they give me odd looks while I just stand aside to let them on.
The train I get takes me on the Yamanote line, and I don't know if this is unique, but all of the stations have their own little tune when you arrive. It's quite cute and I guess pretty useful when you get to know your tune, but some of the choices are a bit odd. One of them plays the tune from Goodfellas (or some other gangster film - I can't remember which)... you know, the guitar-y
Italian sounding one. Anyway, the trains are pretty smart and there are screens showing where
you are going, where you are, and so on. Also, Japanese railway stations seem to be much less
confusing than their Metro stations! All of the lines are clearly marked along with their
destinations, unlike places like our previous local Metro station Negatacho, where you know that there's a connection to the Ginza line, but the signs don't tell you that
you have to head for the Yurakucho line, walk all the way along the platform and up stairs
the other end, and then along corridors for another 10 minutes. They're huge.
The Japanese themselves are almost model users of public transport. Most people (bar the odd rebellious teenager) queue for the trains on the handy painted lines on the platform, wait for people to get off when the train arrives, and then get on (although they never stop doing this, of course!). People tend to either sleep or stare at their feet, but if you do make eye contact they seem friendly. I have to say though, the women seem to be much chirpier. I'm not deluded enough to think this is because they all fancy me... rather, there seems to be a bit of a macho thing with the men where they're not allowed to have facial expressions or something. The women, in comparison, giggle away at pretty much anything. The difference is quite noticeable... much more so than the UK. I can't begin to guess why this is. Perhaps it has something to do with a lot of the men openly reading porno comics on the way to work? It's an odd thing to see men in suits doing at 8 in the morning. You can't tell what most people are reading though since they tend to put their books into little covers so you can't see the title. Perhaps they're all reading porn?! Can't see why they would want to cover the book otherwise, but then there are many bits of Japanese culture that I haven't got to grips with yet.
Anyway, work went ok today and I'm now trying to plan what to do this weekend. It might be
my last weekend in Japan for a while, so I have to make it count!