Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Trains in Japan

The Yamanote line

I'm a bit of a (not so) closeted train nerd. I find trains fascinating, and I like to learn more about them and the different lines that run across the country. I'm in the right place, as Japan definitely caters to this kind of niche: you can find all sorts of magazines solely dedicated to trains, with glossy pictures and all, and even the Japanese film industry has well, some train-related features, which I won't tackle in this post or probably ever watch.

After reading some excellent posts about how non-Japanese sometimes feel on the train (a hot topic lately in Japan) and a seriously brilliant post about offensive train behaviour, I was inspired to raise the issue of trains in Japan. I spend an important portion of each day commuting around this city, and trains have somehow become a second nature.

I would like to know, which train lines do you like best? What are the things that bother you the most in trains? And, what are the worst train lines in the country and why?

I'll shamelessly start my train talk here:

Best train line in Tokyo
It's no secret that I love the Yamanote line. It comes frequently, and because it goes around on a loop, it never gets too crowded as people get in and out regularly. It also offers a great view of the city, as it hits all the major hubs of Tokyo. I like the music it plays when I wait on the tracks. And you can fall asleep on the Yamanote if you have some time to spare, it goes in a circle so you'll never be too far.

Worst train line in Tokyo
I really don't like the Keio Inokashira line, and it's my train line so I'm trying to grow to love it, but it will never happen. The train only has five cars, and it comes in intervals of about ten minutes, so it's always crowded, especially the last few ones each night. People will push and squeeze in, even if it seems humanly impossible. I want to cry every time I'm on that train, so instead I just walk home. If I move houses in Tokyo, I will make sure it's not on that line.

Best train in Japan
The Shinkansen, of course. I'm seriously obsessed with the Shinkansen, as it's fast, smooth, and comfortable. Why does it have to be so expensive?

Special mention to the JR line in Shikoku, with slow trains that come every thirty minutes but that offer the most exquisite scenery. Usually they were filled with drunken elderly men, but it was only part of the charm. I miss the countryside.

Bad manners
Here are the things I despise most:

a) People who fall asleep on my shoulder
b) Salarymen reading some kind of soft core manga next to me
c) The first AND last trains, which reek of alcohol
d) Nose-picking, which seems to be the hobby of many commuters
e) Watching girls putting on fake eyelashes. Even though I admire their skills.

Despite those daily annoyances, I usually only have good experiences in Japanese trains. They are (almost) always on time, they are clean, and quiet. I love riding the trains in Japan, and especially in Tokyo, where there are so many lines to choose from. I always get excited when I try a line for the first time.

In Japanese trains, it is rude to use a mobile phone, eat, or drink on board. No one really does and you may get scolded if you do, like that one time I discreetly ate a bite of bread on the Yokohama subway line.

If you're riding the Shinkansen, I highly recommend ordering a bento, they are quite tasty and it's acceptable to eat on that train.

Please let me know any observations you have on Japan trains. Furthermore, I'd like to know what the 9/11s have to say about Tokyo trains.

Platform manners. The first picture is the best.


The Only Blonde in Osaka said...

I love all the little songs the different lines have for signalling when the train is coming! I find them comforting and sort of exciting. =D

I also hate seeing salarymen blatantly reading porny manga on the train. It's strange to me how some things are so accepted, like men reading porn in public, but then when I try to buy feminine hygiene products, the cashier always freaks out and hides them in a brown paper bag as if it's so shameful... it irritates me so much!

Vivian said...

I know!! I always feel shameful for buying tampons and such, why do they have to hide it so well? I'm tired of reading porn in my morning commute but hey, I became immune to it now. I feel disgusted for young high school girls, though.

David said...

I love the Ginza Line--I think it might be the oldest line in Tokyo. It starts in Shibuya and it stops at cool places like Nihonbashi and Kanda. I also love the Ginza line Stations. One time I took a two-hour nap sitting in the Kanda station, lulled to sleep by the constant arriving and departing trains.
I do not like the Odakyu Line or the Saikyo Lines. Too crowded and oh- so glum in the morning.
I once took the local Chuo Line from Hachioji all the way to Matsumoto in Nagano Prefecture. It took about 4 hours and was so relaxing.
I love how the trains heat from leg-level in the winter.
I don't like how some men sit with their legs spread out, which results in less seating space.
Have you checked the Time Out Tokyo website for archived articles on train rides, such as best train rides for ocean views?
I am somewhat of a train nerd, too, but I never made it to the Railway Museum in Saitama.

Vivian said...

Great insight, David!! Thanks!! I do love the Ginza line too, but I rarely get the chance to take it. I will definitely check out the Time Out article, thanks for the tip.

How is life?! :)

Dorobozaru said...

I personally love the Obama line in Fukui prefecture. It has beautiful views and I always see something interesting along the ride.
I don't have a particular line I dislike, but the JR Biwako line is notorious for delays. It's incredibly frustrating.
I get really grossed out by the salarymen that take off their shoes and put their feet on the seats!
Or when a gang of noisy yankee kids gets on the train and starts playing music/talking loudly but NO ONE will say anything to them.
I also don't like people who try to reach across me to pull down the window shade. I like the sun and I like to watch the view!

Vivian said...

Dorobozaru, great material, as I don't know that area too well!! I do agree with the sun shades, I love the sun too! Oh I miss yankee kids... not enough in Tokyo!

Principessa said...

I see people eat and drink all the time on trains, drinking more than eating. Most recently, I saw the cutest girl shove half an onigiri in her mouth and then proceed to continue eating fries. It was crazy!


Cool. I love trains! Expecially with graffiti on it!

Leah said...

When I think about what I miss most about Japan, train rides always top my list. I miss the long, restful rides to takamatsu, the excitement I'd feel boarding a shinkansen, navigating a new city's metro lines, and people watching. Ooooooh Japan!