Timing of government’s extension of nationwide state of emergency could be contributing to worse commuting conditions.

From last Monday to Wednesday, Japan celebrated Constitution Memorial Day, Midori no Hi (“Greenery Day”), and Children’s Day, the three holidays that make up the tail end of the spring vacation period called Golden Week. On Thursday, though, it was back to work, and that, unfortunately, meant a return to crowded conditions for some of Tokyo’s most heavily used trains and the stations they service.

▼ “Every bench on the train was full, and every hand strap was taken too…Things got even worse when we passed through Ikebukuro Station, and Shinjuku was the worst…And so many people weren’t wearing masks!”

It was also shoulder-to-shoulder on the Marunouchi Line subway car Japanese Twitter user @YKbtzNIVTrCSKA3, who works as a member of a hospital’s cleaning staff, was aboard.

▼ The Marunouchi Line passes through Shinjuku, Akasaka, Kasumigaseki, and Ginza neighborhoods, some of the densest clusters of office buildings in the city.

And it’s not like Tokyo office commutes only affect Tokyo. Many people live outside the city limits in neighboring prefectures were housing is cheaper, then ride the train into the city center, creating massive morning migrations. This packed Thursday morning platform, for example, is at Funabashi Station in Chiba Prefecture, Tokyo’s neighbor to the east.

▼ Another commuter crowd walks through Tokyo’s Shinagawa Station on Thursday.

While Tokyo’s number of new coronavirus infections took an encouraging dip during the vacation period, Thursday’s commuting conditions had many online commenters fearing that it will all have been for naught with people pressed up against each other on trains once again, reacting with:

“This is scary in so many ways.”
“Haven’t they been asking companies to stagger their starting times?”
“THIS is what they call operating under a state of emergency?”
“Commuting is still its own special kind of hell.”
“I think part of the problem is that when the government announced it was extending the state of emergency [which happened on Monday], most companies were already on vacation, so the people who make the decisions to let employees stay home weren’t around to do so.”

However, as those who’ve had to make their way through Shinagawa Station during rush hour can attest, ordinarily the station is even more crowded that what’s shown in the above photos, and the difference is even greater for the first day after a vacation period. Still, what passes for competitively less crowded in Tokyo is still a lot of people but just about anywhere else’s standards, and with the coronavirus still out there, hopefully employers will make changes that allow for fewer people having to commute to the office, or at least not so many at the same time and on the same train.

Source: Hachima Kiko
Featured image: Twitter/@YKbtzNIVTrCSKA3
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