Moshing for fun and profit

Welcome to a daily commute on the Metro in Tokyo! The Tozai line is well-known even in a crowded city like Tokyo for being one the busiest and over-loaded lines. Unfortunately, this is the line I catch to work.

Having learned some difficult lessons in my first week here, I usually get later trains and avoid the height of rush hour. One this particular day, however, high wind gusts shut down the line for a while, which created a backlog of commuters and intense crowds. So, following an old adage, please enjoy the following refreshing beverage I was able to produce from this less than ideal situation.

Just as I was editing this first photo, I was thinking – look at that poor fella in the door, he doesn’t look too happy. Then I realised that shortly after this photo, I was that poor fella. My sympathy waned somewhat after that.

Gripping on to the top of the door frame like that to make sure you don’t fall out of the train seems to be a pretty common technique.

On rush hour trains, passengers are packed so tight you literally cannot scratch your nose. Your limbs are usually trapped at some awkward angle, crushed up against the other passengers. Careful pre-planning of things you might need access to during the journey is an excellent idea.

Entering the train can be an interesting experience too. On my first peak-hour train ride, the passengers came right up to the edge of the door, so I prepared to step back and wait for the next train. The people behind me had other ideas, though – they packed down into a scrum (which I was generously allowed to participate in) and became a human wave surging on to the train. I then discovered the difference between ‘full’ and full.

Just before the doors close, people riding near the doors try to cram themselves in as best they can. Often, there are also platform staff wearing white gloves who can assist passengers to fit all their appendages on the train before the doors close.

A few final trips for train travel:

  • Get an MP3 player, put on some relaxing music, close your eyes and pretend you’re actually snugly under a big, warm duvet.
  • Take the famous Aesop’s fable more literally than intended, and act like a flexible reed as people ebb and flow around you.
  • Don’t get too stressed out the first time you catch an intensely crowded train, causing you to get off a station too early, in turn making you late for your first day of work. That would be bad.

4 thoughts on “Moshing for fun and profit

  1. Hey Chris.

    Please dispel my ignorance.

    Is that really you in the photo at the door? It doesn’t look like you.
    And how did you manage to take a photo of yourself during a crowded rush?

  2. Sounds like a great way to pickpocket for contortionists. Has anyone felt you up thinking they were touching the woman next to you?

    Mmmm, train awkwardness.

  3. Badping – sorry, bad wording on my part. I actually meant that it would soon be me – that’s not me, of course. Unless I had the most awesome camera ever.

    If you’re in the middle of the carriage and you need to get out (very likely), there’s not really a graceful way to exit. You just start pushing through and everybody in front gets the idea. At some of the stations, 1/4 of the standing passengers need to get out to let others off, then re-pack themselves back on to the train.

    Hmm, regarding “friendly” fellow passengers… it’s difficult to tell. Embarrassment really is a luxury in this type of situation. Since you’re wedged in so tight, you sometimes can’t tell which limbs and parts belong to which people. Which might be a good thing, on the whole.

    Generally, the protocol seems to be that everyone is packed in facing the same way. This way, you can only see the people who you’re sticking your elbows into, not the people who are sticking their elbows into you. And eye contact would be kind of awkward at 10 centimetres.

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