There’s a lot to like about Tokyo’s trains and subways, which are clean, convenient, and reliable. That doesn’t mean they’re always a joy to ride, though. At rush hour, the trains are packed to a comical, and sometimes even painful, degree, as commuters are pressed into one another on the crowded carriages.
Even worse, sometimes gropers, called chikan in Japanese, take advantage of these congested conditions to feel up victims. With the trains being so crowed, it can be difficult to quickly discern that the touching in intentional and where it’s coming from, often allowing the chikan to make an escape and exit the train before being identified, confronted, or apprehended.
As a countermeasure, some rail operators designate certain cars as for female passengers only. Not every line in Tokyo has them, but the number that do is about to get a little larger, as the Tokyo Metropolitan Bureau of Transportation has announced that women-only cars are going to be instituted on the Oedo Line.
The Oedo Line is the newest line in the Toei Subway network that the Metropolitan Bureau of Transportation runs. Among the neighborhoods it passes though are Shinjuku, Shiodome, Daimon, Roppongi, and Aoyama. Those are some of the most office-dense districts in the city, which means crowded commuter trains, and so starting in mid-January, Car 4 of Oedo Line trains will be designated “Women Only” during the morning rush on weekdays.
▼ Notices will be posted on the car’s exterior as well as on the section of the platform/platform gates where Car 4 stops.
The women-only rule for Car 4 will be in effect for:
● All trains between 7 and 8:30 a.m.that began at Hikarigaoka Station and departed in the direction of Roppongi and Daimon Stations
● All trains between 7:15 and 8:10 a.m. that began at Tochomae Station and departed in the direction of Iidabashi and Ryogoku Stations
▼ It sounds complicated, but that’s because the Oedo Line has an unusual fishhook shape. Essentially, the entire line will be covered by the women-only rule for Car 4 during the weekday morning rush.
While some rail operators designate women-only cars for both mornings and evenings, a morning-only system isn’t all that unusual. The logic is that while most office jobs in Japan start at 8 or 9, the time that people are leaving work varies by company and individual, and may or may not coincide with the time that workers are actually going home. Between overtime, company drinking parties, and personal socializing and leisure in downtown, the rail passenger flow on weekday nights isn’t nearly as concentrated in a small block of time as the morning rush.
The Oedo Line becomes the second Toei Subway to introduce women-only cars, following the Shinjuku Line in 2005. While the cars are designated as “women-only,” though, the Bureau of Transportation included in the announcement a clarification that boys elementary school age and younger, adult men with mobility issues, and their caretakers are also allowed to use Car 4 during the “women-only” time blocks.
The women-only cars go into effect on January 18.
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