By TAKUMA FURUKAWA
A platform during rush hour. Photo by Sushipaku | PAKUTASO.［https://www.pakutaso.com］
How long do you take to commute to school or work? Twenty minutes? Forty minutes max? I take three hours there and back when commuting to campus. Being shoved around in over-crowded trains and holding on for dear life to the handgrips, I make the journey every morning to Komaba campus.
When I have 1st period from 8:30am, I have to wake up at 6am (a.k.a. the crack of dawn for college students) to make it in time. Wanting to cut down time between switching trains, I choose the train car closest to the stairs leading to the platform that I need. Even when rushing, though, I wait for the second-arriving train so that I will have a chance to hold onto the handgrips instead of relying on a crowd of people to keep me from falling over when the train is in motion.
After I finally board the train, the realization that I have a long ride ahead of me is disheartening. I always wish to utilize my time wisely by studying or working on homework, but the constant shoving and wave of crowds makes it impossible to concentrate on anything other than standing upright. A thirty-minute train ride later, I finally arrive at my transfer station. As soon as the doors open, I am swept up in a wave of dark suits as businessmen rush through the station to change trains as fast as possible as though their lives depended on it. Each time I change trains (three times each way), I face this "torture." Because I go through this situation every morning, I have accumulated a few useful tips on how to make long commutes during rush hour as bearable as possible.
Avoid Rush Hour:
The most obvious, but often overlooked, way to avoid over-crowded trains is definitely to avoid rush hour. Generally, rush hour is from around 7:30 to 8:30am. Its peak is at around 8:00. You can avoid this time zone by waking up earlier or leaving home later. In fact, when I really want to avoid rush hour, I wake up at five in the morning. To board the train as soon as possible (around 5:30 a.m.), I sometimes skip eating breakfast at home. This way, I am able to arrive at campus by seven - before rush hour even begins. The earlier in the morning you leave, the greater chance you have of finding a seat so that you can catch some shut-eye. In other countries, it might be unheard of to sleep in trains due to safety issues or uncertainty, but I guarantee that many other people will be doing the same as you, making it the perfect opportunity to utilize your commute time.
Use Smartphone Applications:
However, it is sometimes hard to avoid rush hour. It sometimes happens that you have to get in trains during rush hour. Then "NAVITIME Transit Tokyo Japan" is a very useful transfer app that allows you to search for a roundabout route to avoid crowded trains. This app also offers the information on how crowded each train is.
Choose a Strategic Position:
Getting on the car at the tail end or at the front is also effective. Many people have not tried choosing the farthest car from the stairs. Once you try this, you may no longer go back.
Move Further into the Train Car:
Even if you have to get in the crowded train, there are some ways to ride trains as comfortably as possible. For instance, getting the position in front of seats is important because there you can hold on to the handgrips, and it is not so crowded compared to the area near the door. If you have a large backpack, you should carry it in front of you or put it on the overhead luggage rack because it might make maneuvering in an overcrowded train very difficult.
By combining these strategies above, you can make your commute bearable. The crowded commute may be one of the most serious problems you have to face as a worker or a student in Japan.