Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Gone Seoul Searching in Japan: Embracing the Morning Commute

The morning commute in Tokyo is around 1-2 hours for most people and some students even commute up to 3-4.

 You start work at 9:10 so you wake up at 6:45 and rush to get out of the door before walking a total of 1 hour per day and taking 6 trains as a part of your total daily commute to and from work. Instead of being completely overwhelmed by the completely normal 1-2 hour commute for those living in Tokyo and its suburbs you need to kick back and learn to embrace the morning commute by welcoming it into your day and finding the hoop holes for surviving the sardine-like trains.

This was taken on my way to the beach in the front car on a Saturday.
    The first step to making your morning commute is to enjoy the face that the morning in Japan is the most beautiful part of the entire day. With such an early sunrise and clear skies every morning, enjoy the fresh air and sunlight before the clouds and rain come in later in the day especially during the rainy seasons. I was never a morning person in my entire life and I love staying up until the wee hours of the day watching the sun come rise. But since moving to Japan, I have found myself waking up earlier than ever to get my day started and am thrilled as I walk 15 minutes from my apartment to the subway.

Again the front car offers the best views.
     The second step towards embracing the Tokyo subways is to appreciate the beauty of the railway system itself. Japan has one of the most sophisticated and efficient railways in the world. You could have to buy a moped if you were living in Ho Chi Min, Vietnam like a good friend of mine and brave the crazy and dangerous non stop traffic every day. At least in Japan, you have a safe and reliable form of transportation that will always arrive on time. Check the train times before you leave your apartment and you are golden.

Another view from the front of the train.
     The next recommendation I have is to beeline and take the extra time to walk to the end of the platform. Because many people are in a hurry they don't have the time to rush to their connecting train and therefore get on the first cars. If you can make it to the end of the platform, you might notice there are only 1 or 2 people lined up for the end car. That means you get a window view! As the rest of the car gets filled up, I simply jam on with my i pod on, take pictures of the tracks and enjoy the ride smashed up against the window. Having a clear window in the front and back of the train where the train drivers are working is a luxury. Most trains have the drivers hidden and therefore you never get a head on view of the tracks while you are moving. Standing in the end car gazing out the window as Tokyo passes you by makes you feel like you are in control of the train and you decide its final destination. Keep your body faced to the outside and you won't even recognize the pile of people behind you trying to grab on to the last remaining hand rails and straps.

The women's only car really is nicer.
     The most biased part of my recommendation is for the girls. In Japan, there are women only cars. I'm not quite sure how the women in Japan managed to pull this one off, but if you can't get in the end car hop inside one of the women only cars and you won't have some old smelly guy's armpit smashed in the back of your head or even worse in your face.

These guys have one of the best spots.
    Finally, if all fails and the car is completely full like the 3rd train I catch in the morning, wait until the car is almost completely full and it looks like no one else can fit. Then just before the doors are closing shove yourself inside and you will be smashed up against the doors as the train starts moving. One day my 2 coworkers and I did this on accident and the train worker at the platform literally gave us a push inside the train, and removed one mans bag that was about to get caught in the door. Sounds risky, but its really not once you get the timing down and once again you wont be in a sea of people.
     Blast your Jack Johnson to chill out or bust out the rave music and really freak some Japanese people out and your morning commute will be as fun as ever. I never thought I would be one of those people taking a crazy crowded train with a 1 hour commute every day. At first I was completely pissed off, but now when I get home to my apartment in the suburbs of Tokyo I absolutely love the peaceful environment outside of the hustle and bustle of the city. Going for runs in my neighborhood along the river and biking to Costco and the local Japanese markets has given me the ability to see parts of Tokyo that most people will never see. Get a bike, go for a run after work, and appreciate all of the amazing experiences that you wouldn't have if you were living in the center of the city. If you are a Tokyo suburb dweller like me, you will see and experience the real Japan on a daily basis which is much more exciting than just living in another big city. Head down to the beach on the weekends or into Tokyo for some fun! : )

Don't become a victim of the Tokyo Subway, embrace it!

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Creative Commons License  Gone Seoul Searching by Marie Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

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