Thursday, July 10, 2008

"Train & Lifestyle Perceptions"

Groan... no - not more text about the Tokyo sardine run trains!?! Well... it's an ongoing issue! The comments section of some of the copy postings have thousands of responses and some of them are worth taking a look at (if not for their content, then for what they suggest about culture, or lack thereof).

Responses to views of sardine-run commuter train conditions in Tokyo vary drastically, but there are two main categories, which correlate with the vantage point of the viewer: 1) Mega-City dwellers, who typically say something along the lines of "Ah, that's nothing! My city's trains are more crowded than that!" (which they tend not to say for the "Actually Full Train in 1991 (Why Flex-Time is a Good Idea" video) BTW, and 2) Car Culture city dwellers who are horrified by it and either say "That's got to be fake!" or "You've got to be kidding!", or "After ten minutes in there, people will be dying from lack of air!", etc. (I rode trains like that for many years, and lack of air wasn't an issue - heat in the winter was though, with the windows closed, it would sometimes get to be very hot in there.)

It's interesting to me how it becomes a badge of honor for Mega-City dwellers to brag about how crowded their trains are ("I'm strong enough to endure this! Ho-ho!"?), and how horrified non-train riders are, sounding as though they have just viewed something unimaginatively horrible from the fringe of the universe - not something any human is likely to be able to endure for long without dropping over dead.

And - overall - I've been disappointed & shocked at the lack of any evidence of effort to understand what the pictures are, and what they mean, not to mention the racist and nationalistic insults that people post. Who are these people who blithely insult people and cultures they know nothing about? I'm hoping they're middle-school students, because if they're adults, then this world is in some serious trouble, with too many of the human race having retrogressed into idiotdom.

And... something else... what was it? ........ Hmmmmm..... there was something else I wanted/needed to say.....

I can't remember what it was, but there's something else I've noticed. There is endless speculation about the video, where it was taken (Japan? China?), whether it's real or fake ("It's fake!", "It's real!"), what it must be like inside the train, etc. etc., and no one seems to consider the concept that someone took the video and that person not only took the video, but rode that train line and trains just as crowded as that one for more than a decade. That person is me, and I'm still shaking my head about the idiotic comments I see and the claims I see for it. I KNOW what's what with that video, but it seems to be very difficult to get the truth out.

Traffic jams versus people jams.
In a traffic jam, you've got your personal space, but you don't have any kind of dependable time-line for exactly how long it will take you to get to work. More cars on the road means slower speeds and increased waiting at lights, etc. There is some variation to train travel as well (not so much in Tokyo usually), but whether a train is empty or is completely packed, it travels down the rails at the same speed. So, while it's not fun being smashed in together with a bunch of strangers, the crowded conditions don't actually slow you down. It's less pleasant than an empty train, but still speedy!

So, to sum up - I think Tokyo's trains are probably more crowded than the trains in New York and London (that depends on the line of course - there are many train lines in Tokyo, some more crowded than others), and for people who find the "Actually Full Train in 1991 (Why Flex-Time is a Good Idea" shocking - I can report that it's not as bad as it looks. And I know what I'm talking about - I've spent many years riding trains like that.

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

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