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Veteran strap-hanger gives upbeat advice for surviving daily commute

23 Comments

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

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

23 Comments
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After a mere 7 years doing the Tokyo commute, I'm still in the 'GET OUT OF MY WAY!' frame of mind. It gets me down, so I hope to develop Ichiro Tanaka's approach if I choose to do it for the long haul.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

This guy could make a week in the stocks or 5 minutes of electrocution sound nice.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

I suppose he also looked forward to his three annual vacations, which were spent in bumper to bumper traffic jams stretching for 50 kilometers on the Kanetsu Expressway.

8 ( +12 / -4 )

"The secret of a pleasant commute is to let yourself melt into the rail car's interior"

Therein, lies the rub.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

The secret I found is to work so you dont have to rude with the masses & even better find something so you can avoid the trains for the most part all together!

The commute in/out of Tokyo or other big cities is soul sucking, life wasting, inhuman, zombie creating, life destroyer.

Seriously these sad sorry commutes WILL take years off your life, get off the rails, out of the traffic jams, it can be done & if you can you will be SO much better off for it, I'd NEVER go back to commuting here again, the negatives for the majority vastly out weigh any positives!

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Two weeks into bracing the famous "tokyo tsukin jigoku", i suffered stress related hives. Three weeks of medication cleared them but the scars remain..... If i didn't love my newly found job so much, i would have thrown in the towel!

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I get up early and catch earlier trains. 2 out of 3 times I get to sit down on the first train and always on the second train that I catch. It costs me an extra 15 minutes a day but is well worth it. (I was woken by my own snoring this morning!)

On weekends, I prefer to arrive a bit later by travelling on futsu rather than kaisoku, depending on how far I travel. I dislike changing trains unless I really have to.

If I know I will have to stand, I sometimes make for the first or last carriage. There's a rail on the cab partition for the driver/conductor and I use an S hook to hang my bag there while enjoying the view,etc.

Show the ride who's boss and blow that stress away!

8 ( +9 / -1 )

I am curious to know what the illustrations are in the book. I bet they are exciting.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

"False sense of hope"???? lol...

1 ( +2 / -1 )

learning to be zen on the train, being patient and understanding is the key. The prob with tokyo is space comes at a premium...lack of space causes people to get agro...commute peacefully and you'll enjoy it more...well at least it wont get on your nerves as much.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Densha boredom-- 188 pages on how to commute on a train?

Sheesh. Won't be buying that one.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

i found the answer..live somewhere where you dont have to change lines to get to work, i only use Oedo line and its so nice

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Or live at a terminal station. I get to sit every morning and every afternoon, and for some reason those extra 20 minutes of sleep make a huge difference!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I found a better solution to ease my commute, I simply rented an apartment near my office and walk to work. It's more expensive, but not as expensive as the countless hours I wasted on the train. They say "time is money", but you can always get more money, wasted time can never be recovered.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

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.

Actually, I sometimes enjoy going out of my way to give people a false sense of hope.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I'm getting rather fed up with the rush hour trains, so I get off earlier and walk, which takes more time but i think its nice to have a 30 minute walk in the morning and the evening to clear my head. I might even cut out the trains all together and cycle the 12kms.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

After suffering a 90-minute commute on the Odakyu and Chuo lines, I eventually decided to move closer to my workplace. Talk about a better quality of life; my level of stress was cut in half! Moving is a pain in the you-know-what, but you'll reap the benefits five days a week!

8 ( +8 / -0 )

"After a mere 7 years of doing the Tokyo commute, I'm still in the GET OUT OF MY WAY! frame of mind"

That's exactly how virtually everyone else sharing the trains/buses/streets with you feels.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I eventually decided to move closer to my workplace.

I often wonder why certain companies (mine included) move their offices every few years when they could be making their employees' lives much easier by staying in one place and letting the employees move close to work. Sometimes I think employees like having their workers commute because in the evenings people, dreading the train ride, will be more willing to stay at work longer.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

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.

A much better way for what? Giving them false hope?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@sangetsu03 Well said. Few companies do much to help this situation (telecommuting, flex-time) so you have to take measures in your own hands. If you can work away from Central Tokyo.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Sorry if anyone disagrees, but I have talked to a lot of people regarding this for many a year. Reducing commuting times is an" "elephant in the room" as to quality of life that needs to be addressed (but rarely is).

0 ( +0 / -0 )

My way of diverting myself from the reality of commuting is to count how many girls there are within touching distance that I'd consider slleping with. Then I increase the range bit by bit and see how much the numbers rise.

Variations include choosing a number before I get on the train and then having to find that number of girls. Sometimes I have to choose some shockers, or if there are a good few hotties, I have to exclude some cuties (can't go above my number).

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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