Sunday, June 30
Mari chan and I made a visit far to the south of Tokyo to see a baseball game. The Baystars versus the Dragons!
The Yokohama Baystars have recently been purchased by the mobile gaming company, DeNA. They were the last team in the pros to have a corporate name prefixing their team name. They are also a constantly under-achieving team. But that didn’t deter us.
We picked up drinks and snacks at a convenience store and made our way inside. We splashed out a little and bought the ¥ 3,000 ($30) tickets. We sat in the nosebleeds but we were positioned along the first base line. The sun roasted us and the beer was quickly warm. But it was a great day. The local team, the Baystars, won on a walk off single in the bottom of the ninth. A thrilling conclusion to a good game.
How could I have gone this long without talking about Japan’s famous train culture? Much as the automobile occupies a very special place in American culture, so too does the train in Japan. Japan is a highly industrialized country with a huge population, squeezed into very narrow corridors. With few to none natural resources, it quickly became important to develop a shared infrastructure. And so the train came to Japan.
Books have been written about the history of trains in Japan. Movies produced. Songs sang. I’ll leave those mediums to the professionals. Instead I’ll talk about what trains mean to me, the average person. By now you know me, the eternal optimist. So let’s start with the good.
Good: The train system offers a (relatively) cheap means of transportation. They’re convenient, most stations are designed for traffic flow. They’re really convenient; in Tokyo entire towns grow around stations. Shopping, entertainment and living can all be found just outside, and often inside, the station. They’re efficient; in a city of 40 million people they help transport people around with few problems. Shinjuku station (新宿駅) alone moves nearly four million people a day. They’re punctual; so punctual in fact that I’m highly irritated if my train is more than two minutes late. They’re clean; again 40 million people, and they’re clean. Amazing.
Bad: Japanese sexual predators love the trains. Chikans (痴漢) (molesters) are world-famous for groping women on crowded trains. The trains are crowded. Overcrowded. To the extreme. A while back I saw a train poster promoting an upgrade. They were going to reduce rush hour traffic from 125% of capacity to 118%. Great! But keep in mind rush hour is about six hours a day in Tokyo, two in the morning and four at night. If you factor in the trains are down between 1 AM and 5 AM, you have a 20 hour day. Thus for 6 out of 20 hours, or 30% of the day, Tokyo trains are running in excess of 100% capacity. Suicide by train is also a tremendous problem in Japan. In a person’s final act of desperation they will throw themselves in front of train killing themselves and causing delays for millions of people. Kind of gives a new perspective to the rat race, doesn’t it?
Just like with all things in life, we have to take the bad with the good. Sometimes a person will give up their seat for the elderly and sometimes they won’t. That’s life. All I can do is be nice, keep my hands to myself and squeeze in.