trains

Switching to manner mode: The importance of social etiquette in urban Japan

Ask someone to describe the Japanese people in ten words or fewer and more often than not ‘polite’ or ‘reserved’ will appear somewhere in the mix. Japan is known the world over as a safe, pleasant place to live where people are on the whole helpful and courteous; few people visit Japan and return home with tales of rude airport staff or inattentive waitresses.

When I first came to Japan, I had the pleasure of living for five years in a pretty little town in Fukushima Prefecture, surrounded by rice fields, rivers and some of the deepest greens I have ever seen. Of course, I experienced the warmth of locals’ hospitality and kindness first-hand, but it was only in when I moved south to Tokyo in 2011 that I came to understand the real meaning of the word manā (‘manner’), and began to appreciate how much more important it is in urban living.

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Riding the B Line in Argentina? Better bring a Japanese dictionary

There’s apparently a running joke in Beunos Aires, Argentina, that if you’re planning on riding the subway’s B Line, you’d better bring a Japanese dictionary. No, Argentines don’t have a bizarre and nonsensical sense of humor; it turns out the country imported the B Line’s trains from Japan and didn’t even bother to change all the Japanese writing.

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Transit authorities offer commuters in Singapore free off-peak fares in effort to alleviate morning rush

Japan is of course not the only country that experiences crowded trains and subways during rush hour. Over the last 10 years Singapore’s population has increased by 30 percent, putting pressure on its public transportation system, especially during the morning rush. Though Japan is trying to alleviate overcrowding with wider trains, Singapore is taking a different approach to the problem; free fares until 7:45 a.m. for anyone getting off at one of 16 stations in the downtown core.

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New train carriages on Tokyo’s Saikyo Line allow more sardines to be squeezed into the can

Bringing commuters to Tokyo from neighboring Saitama Prefecture, the Saikyo Line, operated by the East Japan Railway Company (JR East), is one of the busiest in the metropolitan area. During morning rush hour its trains are packed to 200 percent capacity. On June 30, however, E233 Series trains were introduced to the line, and officials are hoping the new carriages, which are a whole 15cm wider, will reduce crowding by ten percent.

That’s right. Now instead of having to endure bone-crushing, suffocating, sucking-the-will-to-live commutes in trains packed to 200 percent capacity, riders will be able to breathe, and perhaps move just a little, while enjoying the relative luxury of a train crammed to just 190 percent capacity!

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The Tecchan house: where your train collection can lower your rent!

Hey, do you like trains? And I don’t mean in a “that’s a long train, let’s count the cars” kind of way; I mean like going out and taking hundreds of pictures and traveling hours to see rare locomotives “like” trains.

While there may not be all that many train hobbyists among you, there are plenty of major train enthusiasts here in Japan. And now some of them are living together!

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Ninja travel tips: See Japan by rail without breaking the bank

Ever wanted to cross Japan by rail but hate the idea of being stuck on the train, watching the scenery flash by without ever being able to get out and experience it? Today we’re going to let you in on a little secret few foreigners are aware of so you can explore further, without having to pay extra for the privilege.

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A Rare Sight in Japan: Commuter Train Operates while Carriage Doors Remain Open

Commuter trains in Japan are known for being among the most punctual in the world. The entire rail system is a well-oil machine. When a train is scheduled to depart its station at 09:42 and arrive at its destination at 10:33, it almost always leaves the station at 9:42 and arrives at 10:33; a mind-boggling concept perhaps in some other parts of the world.

Close to 40 million passengers use the rail system daily in Tokyo alone, so when trouble does occur, it needs to be sorted out quickly. Still, it would shock anyone who has been living in risk-averse, safety-first Japan for any length of time to see their local commuter train run down the tracks with a passenger carriage door wide open.
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New Rising Barrier System for Japan’s Stations

A new barrier that rises and falls with trains’ arrival and departure is due to be trialed at a busy commuter station this year, a report from Japan’s IT Media has said.

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Japan’s ‘Women Only’ Train Cars: Is it a Crime for Men to Ride?

Women-only cars on Japan’s railways have existed in some form or other for more than 50 years, with “hana densha” (lit. “flower train”) carriages originally being introduced as a way of keeping female students safe from the advances of lecherous men during the peak hours. Now considered by many to be a vital part of many inner-city rail services, the train car closest to the driver’s cabin is often reserved for females only and is clearly marked both at boarding locations on the platform and inside the train itself.

Many unwitting foreign males have no doubt hopped on board these carriages during rush hours without realising it. Although foreigners usually escape relatively unscathed, when native Japanese men dare to cross that pink line and invade the sanctity of the josei senyou sharyou (women-only carriage), more often than not they are berated by the women on board until they alight or switch cars.

But is it actually illegal for a man to ride in the women-only car? Surely when other carriages are packed to the rafters, men shouldn’t be forced to squeeze in when the first car would be much less tortuous? Yahoo! Japan News spoke with legal professional Ikki Hashimoto as well as representative from Japan Rail to get the facts about men’s rights when it comes to riding the pink car.

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Make Tracks to Tokyo’s Train Bars

There are train hobbyists and then there are train hobbyists. Japan’s particular breed of railway aficionados are referred to by the somewhat-affectionate term densha otaku, or train nerds, and are famous for feats like memorizing complex, phonebook-size timetables or visiting every single one of the country’s almost 10,000 stations.

Of course, when they aren’t trying to increase their encyclopedic knowledge of all things rail-related, they are out looking for like-minded people to impress with it. As it turns out, Tokyo offers the densha otaku a wide selection of appropriate watering holes, or perhaps we should call them bar cars. So grab your subway map and let’s go see this elusive creature in his natural habitat. Read More

Japan’s Trains: Bringing Joy (and Anger) to Millions Every Single Day

By now we’ve all either heard stories of their efficiency or ridden them in person, but Japanese trains remain something of a source of amazement to many tourists visiting the country. They’re so clean! People obey the rules (well, usually…)! And the doors open exactly where they’re supposed to!

The following videos are examples of just how precise Japanese train drivers are expected to be, and how the simple process of lining up the doors of their train’s carriages with a couple of arrows painted on the platform is something that can bring great joy to many when they see it happen, and incredible anger and irritation to others when it doesn’t quite work out.

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Japanese Winter Luxury at its Finest: The Kotatsu Train

Nothing says winter in Japan like the kotatsu, a low wooden table frame covered by a heavy blanket, upon which a table top sits. Built in underneath is a heat source, either electric or charcoal.

Similar to the image of a Western family sitting in front of the fireplace on Christmas Eve, the scene of a family huddled around the kotatsu, usually placed in front of the living room TV, eating mandarin oranges and watching New Year’s programming is what comes to most people’s minds when mentioning the winter holidays in Japan.

With this in mind, Sanriku Railway Co., which operates two lines along the beautiful Sanriku coast of Iwate Prefecture, Japan, is offering passengers the ultimate Japanese winter relaxation experience with their “Kotatsu Train” (Kotatsu Ressha), a special two-car train equipped with 12 kotatsu so you can enjoy the scenery pass by from the comfort of your own (simulated) living room.

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High-Speed Chocolate: A Look at the New Shinkansen Kit Kat and Other Cool Japanese Kit Kat Packages

Japan gets all the cool Kit Kats. Since 2000, Nestlé has introduced over 200 flavors and varieties of the chocolate bar to Japan, from chestnut and espresso to baked corn and soy sauce.

Some flavors come and go with the seasons and others are exclusive to certain regions; at the souvenir shops of my home prefecture Nagano you can find the tasty Shinshu Apple flavor and the questionable Ichimi Ground Red Pepper flavor.

One of our Japanese reporters recently came across a new variety of Kit Kat at Nagoya Station that we thought was pretty cool. While the Kit Kat bars themselves are the regular milk chocolate flavor—which, mind you, differs from country to countrythe box art is inspired by the Tokaido Shinkansen line and should be familiar to anyone who has ridden the bullet train in Japan.

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From Spitting to Sh*ting: China’s Ten Worst Subway Manners

In any country there are both written and unwritten rules of etiquette that people are expected to follow while riding the subway. In many cases, these rules reflect some of the more unflattering quirks of that country’s people. In Japan, there are women-only commuter cars because some guys just can’t help themselves from recording up a girl’s skirt with their smartphone.

As China has been working to expand its subway network over the past few years, including a nearly 50% increase to the Beijing Subway that as made it the fourth longest metro system in the world, the country has developed its own brand of metro manners— or the complete lack thereof .

So just what kind of offenses do Chinese subway commuters have to endure on their train rides to and from work? A local newspaper in  Tianjin, China’s fourth largest city, surveyed 894 people to find out what they think are the “most unforgivable subway manners.”

Take a look at the survey results below!

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