Since Fall semester has officially begun, it’s time for students to revisit their class schedules, decide whether or not they want to add, drop or withdraw from one or more of their classes and overall get reacquainted with the real world, which includes commuting to and from school.
I had only seen pictures and heard frightening stories about the dreaded morning rush hour subway commute in Japan. In an attempt to avoid having to experience it (as well as any level of claustrophobia that may decide to do a sneak attack on me) firsthand, I tried to schedule my classes accordingly, but alas, I could not escape. With my first class at 9:20AM on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I leave the dorm just in time for the 8’oclock rush hour. Oh joy….here we go.
Well, what can I say? It is certainly…an experience? (Yeah, experience, we’ll go with that.) I arrived at the Itabashi-kuyakushoumae Station (“いたばしくやくしょまええき” or “板橋区役所前駅”) and when the first train came, I could not believe what I saw. There were so many people packed in the train like sardines. Then I looked around me and realized there was a large number of people who were all intending to board the same train. At that moment, my eyes widened and I said to myself, “Nope! You’ll get on the next one.” Oh, foolish, naive me.
The next train came within 10 minutes and by that time, an entirely new large group of people had formed on the platform. The second train was packed even tighter than the first, with people pushing their way in, entering backwards and trying to avoid getting caught in the train doors as they were closing. I stood there in both amazement and fear for my fate. I was finally brought back to reality once I realized what time it was. I thought, “Ok, clearly this is not going to get any better and you will NOT be late for your class. You’re getting on the next train, no matter what!” I stepped away from the wall and up to the line to wait for the next train.
As expected, it arrived and it was packed, but I boarded anyway. Immediately, I was pushed further in by those behind me. I spent the last 20 minutes watching people pack into a train car like sardines and now I was one of them. It would be another 30 minutes until the train would reach my stop and hoped I would survive until then.
I didn’t know where to breathe. I was surrounded. There was someone in front of me and I didn’t want to breathe in his ear (like Brainy from Hey Arnold, the one who would always breathe heavily behind Helga.) My solution? Look up and admire the wonderful Japanese advertisements! Luckily, they had the air conditioner on because if they didn’t everyone would have died from carbon dioxide poisoning. But alas, I survived the rush hour experience and lived to tell the tale (which in and of itself calls for a self-congratulatory pat on the back,) and now I know what to expect on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. All in all, the morning rush hour is an adjustment and once I get used to it, it will get better. We learn from our experiences and taking the Japanese subway during morning rush hour is definitely one I will never forget.