Lauren In Tokyo

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Riding the train

Like most people living in Tokyo, I take the train to and from work every day. It's just a part of life here in the big city where owning a car is a luxury (which I indulge in) and traffic is terrible enough as it is to make taking the train with all its crowds and inconveniences the only viable possibility for the daily commute.

It takes me about 10 or 12 minutes on my bicycle to get to the station where I have a reserved parking space. Add another 35-40 minutes for the actual train ride to the station near my office. And throw in another 7-8 minutes for the walk from the station to the office door and I'm already up to almost an hour for my morning commute. I used to think that commuting all the way to Shinjuku was bad back when I was working all the way across town, but that commute also took an hour. Working closer to the Tokyo Station side of Tokyo hasn't brought the reduction in commute times as I had expected.

Since this office has flextime, I try to schedule my train rides a little after the morning rush. If I can catch the 9:19 train, I don't even have to transfer at Tokyo Station to make it to the office on time. But if I catch the next train at 9:29, it's a mad dash to make the transfer at Tokyo to the only other train to my station. Today I missed the 9:19 train. Again. I've missed it this whole week and have made the jog from the underground bowels of Tokyo Station to the sweltering above-ground tracks every single day. With all this running around, I'm very disappointed that my ever-growing midsection is still ever-growing.

I wish there were a time in the evening that could be considered a 'rush hour', but it seems more like the millions upon millions of people packed into the train cars between 7:30 and 8:45 every morning just spread themselves out from 4:30 until midnight so that the evening trains are at a constant capacity at any time.

If you want to know, the mornings are definitely preferable to the evening commute. In the morning, everyone still smells fine and everyone is nearly in their right mind. The evening brings out the crazies, drunks, and people who really need a shower. Whether it is some soused salaryman threatening to show us all his dinner or a tin-foil loon freaking out about cell phone radiation eating his brain, the evening train ride is not a pleasant place. Add to this that many Japanese take their baths at night and do not bathe in the morning, the smell of some folks is pretty powerful. And it is always wafting my way.

The trains do run on time, though. Only very infrequently am I delayed because an accident has occurred. Occasionally, somebody will fall on the tracks or a suspicious package will be found (and later discovered to be someone's briefcase and nothing more), and these things will throw a wrench in my commute. However, that's about it when it comes to delays.

Trains here, in general, are clean, safe places that get me to where I need to go. I just wish there were an easier way to get to the middle of the city besides them.


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