Saturday, June 07, 2008

"People are Holding Back!"

I've noticed over the past couple of years that some people are not as eager to get on a train when it's crowded than everyone used to be. Rarely in the old days (1980's) but not so rare in 2008, is the sight of a few people who could easily get on the train if they just tried - with a little contact effort - but who stand there on the platform and (gasp!) just let the train go! They actually wait for the next train when they could have gotten on the train sitting in front of them with its doors open. I'm telling you, this is shocking behavior! Kidding tone aside, it really is surprising to me to see it, so used have I become to packing myself onto trains, no matter how crowded they are.

But what really surprised me was the Shinjuku/Ikebukuro-bound Yamanote Line platform at Shibuya Station a few days ago at about 8:30 p.m. The train took on a load of passengers, and could have taken on a lot more, but there were something like eight people per door (32-48 per car - some cars have four doors, some six) who just held back and waited for the next train. That's actually sensible behavior if you only have one one to use, but for those with multiple transfers (hello...), one lost minute can snowball into a lost 15-30 minutes if it makes you miss long-distance express train connections, not to mention the possibility that a whole string of trains will be similarly packed anyway.

So I remember that scene, and have to step back for a minute and look at myself... who was amazed at the high-density trains for the first several years I lived here, but then grew accustomed to them, to the point where it seems abnormal that people - recently - don't want to force their way onto a train, no matter how crowded it is!

I think there's an image of culture movers getting used to a new culture, and then knowing it. I don't recall ever - until it happened to myself that is - contemplating the concept of learning a culture, and then having that culture change from under your feet. Change of culture versus change of generation. Either it's something travel writers have not encountered or thought about, due to overly strong focus on the initial transitional years in moving into a new culture; or the pace of change has accelerated to the point where cultures fairly radically change in a decade or less, rather than... a century or at least several decades.

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

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