Tokyo. Japan’s capital and home to roughly 12,790,000 people, making it the world’s most populous metropolis.

Running through this great city is one of the world’s most extensive urban rail networks, composed of surface trains and subways that carry some 40 million passengers daily. Cheap, safe and efficient, trains are undoubtedly the most convenient form of transportation in this concrete labyrinth—if you know how and when to use them. 

Depending on what lines you take and when you take them, boarding a train in Tokyo can easily feel like voluntarily walking through the gates of hell.

This is especially true of the crowded cars of the morning and evening commuter rush and many people therefore try to avoid these trains when possible. This is not only because they are packed shoulder-to-shoulder with passengers, oh no. Even more unpleasant are the bizarre and unnatural creatures that lurk exclusively on these trains.

We call them the 12 Yōkai of the Tokyo Rail System (yōkai are a class of supernatural monsters in Japanese folklore) and anyone unfortunate enough to have encountered one of these repulsive creatures knows that their inexplicable behavior is the main reason to pick your train home wisely.

For your reference, we’ve created an illustrated guide to the 12 Yōkai of the Tokyo Rail System below.

1. The Defender
This Yōkai appears in front of the platform-side doors when passengers attempt to exit the train. Regardless of the crowd of people standing at his back, the Defender will firmly hold his position even after the doors have opened and people struggle to squeeze past him before the train departs again. No matter how hard you push and shove, the immovable Defender brandishes his back and maintains a perfect defense.

For the love of god, just step off the train to let people off. You can get right back on after.

2. The Backpack
This Yōkai appears on a crowded train hauling a large backpack and stands obliviously in the center of the train, preventing people from passing.

Please, just take off the backpack and carry it in front of you. It’s not that hard.

3. The Push
The Push is an impatient Yōkai that appears in the center of the train when the doors open to let people on and off. Seemingly unaware that people are indeed moving toward the doors, the Push repeatedly shoves the people in front of him to urge them forward.

If the Push appears, be sure to exercise extreme self-restraint: cases have been reported of victims of the Push suddenly becoming Pushes themselves in retaliation, throwing the entire train into chaos.

4. The Gap-Tease
Standard bench seating in Japanese trains sits 7 people, 3 in the case of priority seating. The Gap-Tease is a sneaky Yōkai that carefully chooses to sit in a way that leaves a gap on one of both sides of him just small enough to prevent other passengers from sitting down. The result is that only 5 or 6 people have a place to sit on a bench that should hold 7.

Seriously, why? Look around you. It’s a full train. Each seat cushion is even defined so you know where to sit. Why would you not sit there? Why?

5. The Bar Fly
This stubborn Yōkai clings on desperately to the metal bar next to the door no matter the circumstance. Even if there are seats open and his stop is still stations away, even if people are pushing against him as they pour in and out of the train, the Bar Fly will guard that bar with his life for the feeling of safety it provides him.

Though the Bar Fly doesn’t ever move, his location at the corner of the door makes him harmful only during the most busy of times. Just keep your distance and pray there are no Defenders in front of the door as well.

6. The Bouncer
You’re rushing to get on a commuter train before the doors close. The car in front of you looks at about 90% capacity and, spotting an opening, you rush forward to squeeze yourself in. Suddenly, someone from inside the car steps forward to block your entrance or sticks their leg out from the side as if to say “We’re full! You can’t come in!”

You’ve just been blocked by the Bouncer, a Yōkai that is a nuisance to those trying to board a train but a savior to those already in the car.

Those who encounter the Bouncer usually take one of two actions: try and enter the train from the next car, which is legitimately over-capacity in most cases; or, challenge the Bouncer with a full-on charge into the train right before the doors close, sending the other passengers stumbling back.

7. The Background Music (BGM)
This Yōkai has his mp3 player at full volume so that the sound leaks through his tiny earphones and can be heard by those around him. In the worst situations you can even hear the vocals, and the BGM always makes sure to choose songs that straddle the border between music and headache-inducing noise.

8. The Megaphone
These Yōkai always appears in pairs and speak far too excitedly in a voice that resounds throughout the train. The Megaphone will most often assume the appearance of an arrogant teenager and choose a conversation subject that embarrasses those around them just by listening.

We know you’re with your friend. We know you want to talk. But you’re speaking too. damn. loud.

9. The Floor-Squatter
This Yōkai, for some reason, squats in the middle of a crowded train like they’re about to relieve themselves all over the floor.

While it’s unclear whether or not the Floor-Squatter is just tired or feeling sick, he certainly isn’t aware that everyone else around him thinks he’s an ass.

10. The Lid
The Lid just likes being near the door and is, most of the time, harmless. He hovers around the door while the train is moving and, unlike the Defender, usually steps off the train to let others in before resuming his position in front of the door. In short, he’s the lid that caps the flow of passengers into the train.

11. The Silent-but-Deadly (SBD)
Need we even explain? The SBD is a Yōkai that appears in the middle of a crowded train, pinches out a softy, and disappears back to the netherworld. While the SBD is careful not to make a sound, his product is truly rank and sets of a wave of paranoia as the passengers begin to glance at each other suspiciously.

Those standing near ground zero have it the worse, as they must bear the brunt of the stench and suspicion, and usually end up having their feet stepped on a little more than usual by passive-aggressive passengers on their way out.

12. The Drunk
This well-known Yōkai goes by a variety of names: the Plastered, the Rat-Faced, the Shmammered, the Pissed…

Whatever you call him, the Drunk is perhaps the most feared of the 12 Yōkai, often mimicking the behaviors of the other 11 Yōkai without restraint and while reeking of booze. In extreme cases, the Drunk will collapse onto the floor of a crowded train or even reproduce his dinner all over whatever or whoever may be near.

Needless to say, if the Drunk appears before you, create as much distance as possible.

Author: Chosyu Chinami, Illustration: Teriine Fujiko
[ Read in Japanese ]