The first week of April heralded the start of the new fiscal year, which means many salarymen began commuting to new assignments. This obliges their having to relearn the tricks getting to work via public transport with a minimum of hassles, so that "tsukin" (commuting) does not deteriorate into "tsukin" (a made-up word intended as a pun of the former, written with the characters meaning "painful" and "job").
To encourage corporate warriors that the drudgery of their daily commute can be made better, if not necessarily a pleasant experience, Nikkan Gendai (April 9) introduces "Zukai: Densha Tsukin no Sakuho" (An illustrated guide to accomplishing rail commuting), an 188-page book published last December by Media Factory Shinsho.
The book's author, Ichiro Tanaka (a nom de plume), is said to be a 45-year-old gentleman who commutes to the capital daily from Kumagaya City in Saitama Prefecture -- a two-hour trip in each direction. Based on his 28 years of commuting experiences, Tanaka observes that grouchiness is contagious, and that a cranky passenger on board infects the morale of others around him.
The secret of getting to work with a minimum of mental (and physical) angst is to "go with the flow" -- or in another way of putting it, not to go against the flow. "The secret of a pleasant commute is to let yourself melt into the rail car's interior" is how he puts it.
Tanaka advises against being in the first rank of passengers waiting to board the train. For one thing, that puts you in the line of fire by those disembarking, and a pushing match is likely to ensue. "And it's also likely to put you on the side of the train away from the doors, making it more difficult to disembark," he says. "Stand so you're second or third in the queue, and that way you can board more smoothly."
Even if you're at a station where empty seats are still available when the train arrives, Tanaka thinks standing can be more pleasant than being jammed between two large (or drunken) passengers. "It's less stressful to stand." If you do see an attractive female who looks like she's been imbibing, you still need to be suave when sitting down beside her. "Politely murmur 'Shitsurei shimasu' (excuse me) in a low voice, and then slip into the seat after those on each side of the space have slipped over," he advises. "Let yourself down slowly. And don't slouch."
The proper protocol is to take about 5 seconds before sitting down, to let the others avoid contact with their clothing or possessions.
Tanaka also writes there are three things that seated passengers should refrain from, out of consideration to those standing near them, so as to avoid giving a false sense of hope that they'll be disembarking at the next station. These are closing the book they are reading, looking out the window at the platform, and making a cell phone call.
"I never do these, as it's inconsiderate to give them false hope that they can have my seat," he tells the tabloid. A much better way is to extract a commuter pass from one's pocket and then make eye contact with the person standing in front of them.
Tanaka also offers this suggestion for negotiating a crowded station platform or concourse. "Find somebody who's big and walk behind him," he says. "Even if you're moving against the flow of the crowd, you'll find that forging ahead becomes surprisingly smooth."
And rather than becoming annoyed by people who converse on their cell phones while on the train, Tanaka says he eavesdrops on the conversations. "Trying to analyze the contents of what they're saying can be interesting," he grins. "That makes it fun."© Japan Today