April 14, 2006
One of our male clients asked me why I think living in America is better than living in Japan. One big reason is that I can live in America without suffering the daily crush and rush of being on Japan's rail and subway system. Since cars are the normal form of transportation in the USA, I do not have to get on a train every day to get to work, go shopping or to be out with friends and associates for a social event. Actually, most American people can never imagine how terrible the rush hour in Tokyo is; it is like a low-grade, temporary hell that all have to endure until they get to their particular destination. Every compartment of trains has more than 200 percent of occupancy and there are many station attendants at each door whose job it is to push people like so many varicose veins are pushed into a tight, stiff sock. Since most people naturally seek comfort, they push, kick and grab other people in order to gain any sitting or preferable standing position to that of other people. I once saw a man forcefully push his hand into a window resulting in a bloody hand. One of my sister's classmates fell down in the crowded steps at a station and then passed away. She was only 17 years old. It was sad accident, but she should not have had to die. On the other hand, some people (many people?) who want to commit suicide choose a station to for their final act. When those people jump in front of a morning train, the digital diagrams of a train schedule has to be modified thus further panicking commuters in a heightened chaotic situation. (The suicide rate in Japan is higher than in any other developed country: more than Japanese 30,000 people die annually from their final, high- profile acts this providing less hope to other Japanese people in their own lives.) Inside of a typical train, people are supposed to stand facing and hugging strangers whom they don't know for about 30 to 60 minutes - or more. Standing face to face in such tightly packed compartments can be claustrophobic and lead to breathing problems. If it is a humid summer day, or wet rainy day of June, the rooms are like a steam sauna. The morning train is better than the evening train because there are markedly less drunks in the early AM compared to after 10 PM when salary-men and party-goers are usually in transit. The whole compartment can start to smell of liquor and some drunks even start to fight each other and vomit in the train. Sometimes even murder cases happen in this kind of situation, so the life inside of the trains of Japan in the 21st century can be dangerous. It is disgusting especially for ladies because sometimes (many times) ladies become a victim of lewd, kinky men in a locked container. It is especially a serious social problem in central Tokyo; recently, some train companies have started to provide a women-only compartment in morning and evening rush-hours to protect women from the unwanted advances of such impulsive and criminal behavior. (Please see the pictures) I myself was tired of such stressful life in Tokyo; actually I lived in a very central in Tokyo in order not to use trains every day. Fortunately, I haven't experienced using trains since I came to the USA. I enjoy my 20 minutes walk to school every morning and evening. I can feel the seasonal wind and breathe fresh air under the sunshine. I can see the singing birds, wild rabbits and squirrels, snails and ants, greens and flowers, and a lot of natural creatures which make up the beautiful living environment. In this way, I feel more connected to the wonders of earth. I appreciate that I live in America now. This is one of the reasons that I think living in America is better than living in Japan.
Posted by Naoko Matsumoto at 10:19 AM