Trains in Japan can get pretty hot and sweaty even without the sweltering summer heat mixed in, and some commuters have voiced concerns about the conditions on trains that have to wait at the station for more than the usual barely-enough-time-to-get-on-and-off 30 seconds. However, one of Japan’s major rail companies has come up with an innovative solution to keep passengers a mite cooler.

To keep the cool in their carriages, JR East (East Japan Railway Company) has implemented a new system on their trains departing from stations such as Tokyo and Shinagawa along the Tōkaidō Line. From now on, the usually open doors will remain CLOSED before departure, requiring passengers to physically press a button to open the doors and board the train. Yep, that’s it folks – their grand idea was to shut the doors.

Trains starting out from Tokyo Station usually wait at the station for around 10 minutes prior to departure with the doors open so that passengers can hop on and take a seat. According to JR East, people were complaining of hot air in the carriages, and the air conditioning being insufficient. This might sound a bit pathetic, but anyone who’s experienced Japan’s brutally hot and humid summers will no doubt sympathise.

So, starting from August 19, passengers will be required to manually push a button next to the train door to open them at five stations along the Tōkaidō Line. JR has also introduced this system onto some trains at Ueno Station, and is deliberating whether to expand it further based on the response from commuters. As well as keeping people from being overwhelmed by the heat, it also has the added bonus of potentially reducing cooling costs and making the trains more environmentally friendly.

Now I don’t mean to overreact, but I was seriously worried when I heard of this new development. Most of Japan’s millions of rush-hour commuters seem to pour on and off the trains in a hypnotic trance, sometimes not even moving but just letting the hordes behind them push them into the carriages. I imagined half-asleep salarymen stranded on the platforms, waiting for eternity for a door to open before them…

Fortunately, it seems like my fears were unfounded; since the implementation there’s been no confusion reported and commuters seems to be taking to the change like ducks to water. Phew!


Source: NHK (Japanese)
Image: Wikimedia Commons