Whether you have traveled here yourself, had a buddy who lived here or just happened to stumble upon a YouTube clip, you most likely are already aware of how packed Japanese trains can get during rush hour.
However, if you are only traveling through Tokyo for a short stint and don’t leave your hotel until after 9 a.m., you will surely miss the tsunami of human flesh flooding stations between 7 a.m. and 8:50 p.m. every Monday through Friday (except national holidays). But those of you like me, who live and thrive in this metropolis, stuffed trains, elbow wars and crushed toes are a daily ritual in the land called Japan.
But no longer. If you follow my 10 tips, I guarantee you will be able to grab a seat on any commuter train during rush hour, starting your day a lot less stressful than most other salarymen.
Stand in front of people sitting down
This is basic. Standing by the door or anywhere else besides directly in front a person already sitting down will greatly diminish your chances of grabbing a seat. Whenever possible, head straight for the an open spot in front of sitter and weigh yourself down like a sumo wrestler after an all-you-can-eat chankonabe party.
Fill in the gap
If you play sports, you probably know what I mean when I say body block your opponent. Line yourself up right in the middle of two sitters and when one of them gets up to disembark, naturally use your body to “guide” them to the exit you want them to use while blocking would-be sitters from grabbing your seat.
Know the popular stations
One basic fact of all humans – even Japanese – is that we are lazy. And all lazy people want to get to work with the least amount of effort possible. Instead of choosing a train car that puts you closer to the exit at your desired stop, pick a train car that lines up next to an exit at a heavily trafficked station. Once the masses exit the train, you’ll find that you’ll have your pick of the litter of the best seats available.
Look out for bobblehead syndrome
These people are my favorites. Anyone who arrives at a station and suddenly peers outside of the train with a “What…where am I??” look on their face is, most likely, about to be getting up soon. Line yourself up right in front of them and enjoy.
Sitters sleeping on packed commuter trains are doing so for one reason only – because they can. These people are most likely riding to the last stop (or somewhere close to the last stop). Aiming for this person’s spot is a pointless endeavor.
Babysit the kids
As a general rule, office districts and schools are not usually located in the same place. Although some junior high and high schools are located in the boondocks, most will be in the vicinity of where you actually live. This might take you a few rides but try to remember which stations students wearing a certain uniform get off. Also, as another general rule, the younger the child, the less they will be traveling (and the sooner you will have their seat).
Look out for the elderly
Like young children, the elderly do not travel far. (Note: Watch out for the "bucho" trap; avoid elderly Japanese men in dark suits because they are most likely making the long haul from their happy homes in the suburbs).
Spot who’s left holding the bag
When getting off a packed commuter train, grabbing bags from the above racks can be a formidable mission if not timed right. Sitters making use of the above racks are not worried about the time it takes to grab their bags and shimmy through masses before the doors close because they, like people sleeping on the train, are in for the long haul. Instead of lining up in front of these sitters, aim for those with bags safely placed in their laps or within arms reach.
The end of a chapter
Be on the lookout for sitters engulfed in reading a book but suddenly stop and store it away. If you are not in front of this sitter, get yourself next to this person ASAP because they are preparing to give one lucky person their seat. However, if they fall asleep after closing their book, run the other way.
Fumbling on the train
The last one is based on the same theory as the previous two. Be on the lookout for any sitter fumbling with their bag. This is the most obvious sign that the sitter is preparing to get off the train and your future seat will be vacated soon.
Follow these 10 tips and rest assure that your time riding commuter trains in Japan will be a whole lot less stressful.© Japan Today