Confessions of a Long Commute

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At an hour and a half, I have a pretty decent commute from Machida, Tokyo to Temple’s campus. This gives me a chance to experience in detail what it’s like to be a commuter in Tokyo, as well as spend a lot of time walking around the area surrounding Temple’s campus, as I don’t have time to do much else during the week.

Having an interest in public transportation, the length of my commute doesn’t bother me, and I actually find it kind of interesting. The topic of trains in Japan is one that comes up a lot not only in conversation, but also in class, and my experience in commuting allows me to contribute pretty significantly to discussion. I’ve heard a lot of people say how people act significantly more distant towards other people on the trains than from what most foreigners are accustomed to. While it’s true that everyone is silent and more aware of how his or her actions may bother someone else, I have yet to have a cold interaction with anyone, and have experienced quite the opposite. I’ve witnessed people give up their seats to the elderly and women carrying children, which may not seem like an extremely generous gesture but it’s one that you often hear people say is unheard of in Japan. Just yesterday I had a man offer up his seat to me when I felt faint and nearly collapsed. Silence aside, seeing these actions helps me to forget that I’m in a foreign country.

While walking around the area surrounding campus, I’ve noticed that, like America, Japan often sacrifices land within dense, urban areas for gardens. From what I’ve studied, this seems to be a tendency of humans just about everywhere. I was certainly surprised at first to find them in Japan, considering that the ones I’ve come to find seem to pop up out of nowhere, and are usually of a pretty significant size. However, now I’ve realized that this is a pretty normal thing to occur in cities. I’ve noticed people are really passionate about attempting to maintain some form of natural landscape around their homes, or at least in their neighborhoods, and this is no different in Japan.  So far, the gardens that I have come upon have been completely found by accident. Recently I have been surprised when coming upon them because of how beautiful they usually are. It’s interesting to find such lavish gardens so well hidden from everything else, which kind of reaffirms my belief that it’s a pretty normal occurrence.

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