The most crowded train and subway lines in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya are ...

By Krista Rogers

Even though I could praise Japan’s efficient public transportation system for hours on end, there’s one major drawback about it that has left me traumatized on several occasions and never fails to induce terrifying flashbacks whenever I’m surrounded by too many people. You can probably guess what I’m talking about, right? Yup, it’s about how unbelievably crowded the country’s trains and subways can get during rush hour.

Anyone traveling in the Greater Tokyo Area or other metropolitan centers of Japan should be forewarned that the experience is not for the faint of heart – nor for the claustrophobic. I mean, you know it’s a bad sign when there are actually station staff on hand during peak rush hours to squeeze as many passengers as possible into each car. That said, if you’ve traveled or happen to live in Japan’s capital, you can undoubtedly sympathize with the following ranking of the most crowded train and subway lines in Tokyo at rush hour. And just so you don’t think Tokyo gets all the love, we’ve also thrown in the lists for Osaka and Nagoya, too.

About the only negative memory I can recall from my study abroad days in Tokyo was navigating the Chuo Line every morning and evening on my daily commute to and from school. On rare days, I could just manage to do some homework reading while standing up; on even rarer days, finding an empty seat felt like winning the lottery. On the worst occasions, I would be shoved up against a total stranger with my arms stuck out at odd angles, all while trying to politely ignore one another’s existence. After moving to the rural countryside and emptier trains of northern Japan, I actually experienced culture shock whenever I visited Tokyo and rode on public transportation there again.

The website for Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism recently released 2013 data about the most crowded train and subway lines in Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya, three of Japan’s most populous cities. Each ranking comes with a percentage value which indicates the degree of crowdedness inside the train. The graphic illustrates the different percentages.

For your reference:

At 100%, you have no problem finding your own personal space near the door and stretching out.

At 150%, you can still easily spread open a newspaper and read it.

At 180%, you can read a folded newspaper with some difficulty.

At 200%, you’re feeling a bit cozy, but you can still manage to read small books or periodicals.

At 250%, it’s just like what the picture shows–you’re squeezed in like a can of sardines. Things may get a little awkward…

Now, let’s finally move onto the actual ranking. Here are the top ten most crowded train and subway lines during rush hour in Tokyo (the specific stretches of track between two stations are listed in parentheses):

1) Keihin Tohoku Line (from Ueno to Okachimachi), JR East: 200%

2) Tozai Line (from Kiba to Monzen-Nakacho), Tokyo Metro: 199%

3) Chuo-Sobu Line [Local] (from Kinshicho to Ryogoku), JR East: 199%

4) Chuo Line [Rapid] (from Nakano to Shinjuku), JR East: 194%

5) Yokosuka Line (from Musashi-Kosugi to Nishi-Oi), JR East: 193%

6) Odawara Line (from Setagaya-Daita to Shimokitazawa), Odakyu: 188%

7) Den-en-toshi Line (from Ikejiri-Ohashi to Shibuya), Tokyu Group: 183%

8) Tokaido Line (from Kawasaki to Shinagawa), JR East: 183%

9) Sobu Line [Rapid] (from Shin-Koiwa to Kinshicho), JR East: 178%

10) Chiyoda Line (from Machiya to Nishi-Nippori), Tokyo Metro: 177%

Yikes! Eight out of the ten most crowded lines are above that 180% mark. Now let’s see how those numbers stack up to Osaka’s top ten most crowded lines:

1) Kobe Main Line (from Kanzakigawa to Juso), Hankyu: 142%

2) Takarazuka Main Line (from Mikuni to Juso), Hankyu: 139%

3) Nara Line (from Kawachi-Eiwa to Fuse), Kintetsu: 135%

4) Midosuji Line (from Umeda to Yodoyabashi), Osaka Municipal Subway: 135%

5) Osaka Line (from Shuntokumichi to Fuse), Kintetsu: 133%

6) Katamachi (from Shigino to Kyobashi), JR West: 131%

7) Kyoto Main Line (from Kami-Shinjo to Awaji), Hankyu: 129%

8) Koya Line (from Mozuhachiman to Mikunigaoka), Nankai: 125%

9) Hanwa Line [Rapid] (from Sakaishi to Tennoji), JR West: 124%

10) Minami-Osaka Line (from Kita-Tanabe to Koboreguchi), Kintetsu: 123%

In other words, Osaka’s most crowded line at 142% is equivalent to the 26th most crowded line in Tokyo (which happens to be Keio’s Inokashira Line).

Similarly, let’s take a look at the ranking for Nagoya (note–the list only goes up to eighth place):

1) Higashiyama Line (from Nagoya to Fushimi), Nagoya Municipal Subway: 139%

2) Nagoya Main Line [East] (from Jingu-mae to Kanayama), Meitetsu: 138%

3) Nagoya Main Line [West] (from Sako to Meitetsu-Nagoya), Meitetsu: 138%

4) Nagoya Line (from Komeno to Kintetsu-Nagoya), Kintetsu: 133%

5) Chuo Line (from Shin-Moriyama to Ozone), JR Central: 129%

6) Meijo Line/Meiko Line (from Kanayama to Higashi-Betsuin), Nagoya Municipal Subway: 127%

7) Tokaido Line (from Biwajima to Nagoya), JR Central: 121%

8) Tsurumai Line (from Shiogama-guchi to Yagoto), Nagoya Municipal Subway: 113%

This time, the worst offender in the Nagoya area is equivalent to Tokyo’s 27th (the Keikyu Main Line).

Have you ever had the misfortune of experiencing an incredibly packed train ride in Japan? Feel free to share your own public transportation horror stories below.

Sources: Livedoor Blog (Golden Times), Blogos (Manshon Asobi)

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© RocketNews24

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Wow, I had no idea Keihin-Tohoku line was at the top. I used to commute on that line (though never between Ueno and Okachimachi). In fact, I used to go in the opposite direction to most commuters. It was bliss sometimes sitting there in a nearly empty carriage, watching all the people crowded into the train next to me, with faces pushed right next to the doors!

0 ( +2 / -2 )

My wife and I had the worst experience ever on a train in Japan! We had to take the Tokkaido line from Yokohama to Shinagawa station after a typhoon hit the area in 2011. It was easily said the most horrible train ride ever :( Public transport hadn't been up for about 4 hours, so we were literally canned in like sardines. The ride which would normally take about 15 minutes or so took about an hour because it went so slow (like 10 km/h). It's safe to say that train was over 300% capacity! Hope we'll never have to endure that again :o

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Riding in ttokyo trains during weekdays is a traumatic experience for mre. I cabt hadly get out bec it was packed like sardines, or even worse.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Illegal for restaurants, why legal for trains?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I think it's probably illegal to be over capacity. But I've never seen anyone investigate. One solution: why not pull out most of the seats. That would create more room on either side of the car. Just leave a few seats for elderly or disabled folks. Everyone else could stand up.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Mike DeJong.

You seem to never have been inside a rush hour carriage.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Good thing I choosed to ride on a jr train on a not so peak hour...

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

There's no way to decrease how packed the train lines are other than add more lines and add more trains. Neither are very practical, both are expensive.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Or move jobs out of the city to the countryside so that people would not have to travel in to Tokyo. Companies need to be persuaded to get out of Tokyo.

More trains line would not help. It would just mean that more jobs would move to the centre of Tokyo.

Think about this. If there were no trains and everyone had to walk to work, would it take any longer for people to get to work? I don't think so. People would have to live nearer their workplace and workplaces would have to move to wear people live instead of taking over central Tokyo.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Several years ago, my friends and I ride the chuo line in Nagoya. As the doors were about to close, we realized our small Japanese friend could not get on the train. There was a wall of people between him (at the door) and us (between the two doors) and that wall was between us.

It would have been extremely problematic had we been separated, so I grabbed a hand ring opposite our friend, grabbed his backpack straps with my other hand and did a Sub-Zero move (Mortal Kombat) and pulled him in, over the others as the doors closed.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

In the 29-30 odd years living in Japan off and on, I have lived in regional areas (Shikoku, Sendai) or really close to work in the suburbs (Yokohama, Kyoto). In 1986 in Tokushima, talking to an Irish ex-pat who had escaped Tokyo with his wife five years before was describing Tokyo trains, and he said: 'The one thing worse than riding the trains in Tokyo is getting used to riding the trains in Tokyo'.

Then moved to Tokyo, understood what he meant. I found work in Kamakura, moved to Zushi, later near Futamatagawa bang in the middle of Yokohama and just a walk up one of the very steep hills there to work. Now in Shikoku again (people ask me why and I reply succinctly, 'Work', which is true) a bit remote, but I try never to go to Tokyo if I can avoid it.

One thing about chikatetsu in Tokyo compared to Osaka, way cheaper!!!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Wow, plenty of excess capacity in Osaka and Nagoya areas, I see.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I don't live in any of these cities so nothing so bad on a daily basis, but the worst I experienced was in the Eiden line out of Kurama in Kyoto after a festival. I was so squeezed in, my feet were lifted off the floor, and my chest ached when taking a deep breath for a day or so after. Never want to repeat that!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I have claustrophobia. So by the sound of this i will never be making a visit to Japan. I lived in London for a few years and did try the underground train system for a while. Had to give it up after a while, at times it got to crowded and i had to get off. I cant use elevators under any circumstances.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Unfortunately, I can attest to the morning rush on the Keihintohoku line. It's rough.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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