「ST」は紙名を新たに「Alpha」として2018年6月29日より新創刊しました。 Alpha以降の英文記事はこちら
「ST」は紙名を新たに「Alpha」として2018年6月29日より新創刊しました。 Alpha以降の英文記事はこちら


Sardines in a tin

By Rebecca Quin


The other day I was scrolling through my Facebook News Feed when I came across a video shared by a friend from back home. It showed people squeezing into a jammed commuter train during Tokyo's rush hour, with the caption "Rush hour in Tokyo is hilarious." Posted by U.K. student news site Unilad, the short video has 17 million views, racking up more than 43,000 comments from all over the world.

The irony was that I was watching the video during my very own extremely packed commute. I had literally just performed the classic Tokyo commuter's move where you back onto the train, push your hand against the door frame to leverage yourself in, then hold your breath until the doors close. And I was watching it on my phone — held less than an inch from my face because my arm was stuck in that position.

Before moving to Tokyo to start my new job, one of the things I was most worried about was the commute. I'd already seen photos and videos just like the one posted on Unilad, and I had read about how commuting can lead to increased stress levels, a higher BMI and even a shortened lifespan.

In the reactions to the video, some expressed shock at just how many people were able to fit into the carriage (I think it was the Yamanote Line), while others seemed unable to believe that this kind of thing happens daily. Many were appalled at the situation, blaming either the railway for not providing enough trains or the commuters for being too desperate to get to work on time.

"I can't stand it when people cram onto an already packed train. This video is like my idea of hell."

"The problem with society is everyone thinks they're so goddamn busy. The world needs to slow its roll ... doesn't that say something about society?"

"That's not hilarious, that's just an overcrowded nation with a depressing transport system."

What do I think? Funnily enough, I don't actually find my commute to work that stressful. Yes, it can be uncomfortable to be a sardine in that tin, sometimes even painful if you're in an awkward pose, but there's this amazing sense of group gaman, I guess, a collective stoicism. No matter how bad it gets, nobody ever complains, or tuts, or gets upset. People close their eyes to nap, quietly read their phones or books, or listen to music.

If this happened in London, people would be swearing and getting aggressive. Probably, they wouldn't even let others on the train.

In the end, if I have to commute somewhere, I'd rather it be a "hilarious" ride in Tokyo every day.



The Japan Times ST: January 13, 2017

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2018年6月29日号    試読・購読   デジタル版