Before I got to Japan I’d been told a thing or two about trains, as well as having my own expectations of differences based on train travel in the UK. For most the train is an invaluable asset for travel. Whether it’s for work, study, meeting friends and so on, people all over Japan use the train. Of course that isn’t to say everyone uses it everyday for any old reason. As I’ve shown in the past, walking can be just as … hmm … I was going to say fun, but I don’t know if the idea of a 7 hour stroll matches everyone’s idea of fun.
Trains themselves can get really busy, particularly during rush hour (which by the way are longer than an hour) periods. Unfortunately for me, my usual travel time for coming from and going to University falls in these slots, so not only does the chance of getting a seat rest somewhere between zero and a rock, but often it’s a bit of a tight squeeze, occaisionally requiring station staff to push people into the trains. The rule of thumb seems to be something along the lines of “if a fly can get in there, then there’s room for more”. The YouTube video below shows how bad it can be.
Now although trains in Japan, well the Hankyu line anyway, are regular and you don’t normally have to wait longer than fifteen minutes for another to come by, many people are always determined to run and catch the current train if possible, possibly because they’ll end up being late for something or other. I’d seen people run and just make it to the train literally as the doors were closing and dive in Indiana Jones style, making it by the skin of their teeth. Others, not so lucky arrive just to see the doors shutting. Though I’d never seen anyone get wedged between the closing doors … until tonight … no it wasn’t me.
After Uni I boarded my train at 岡本駅 (Okamoto station), taking a standing position opposite the door due to the lack of available seats. As the doors began to close I saw a high school student in the distance sprinting up the stairs like his life depended on it. I thought to myself how annoyed he must have felt, having run all that way to have missed the train by a hair (something that happens to me on a regular basis at 淡路駅 (Awaji station)). I then noticed his pace change. He didn’t get slower but instead ran even faster in the direction of the door. Taking a dive that would make a world-class goalie look like a little girl playing hopscotch, I could only watch as I expected his face to soon be decorating the train window.
Squeezing through the narrowest of gaps, his body somehow emerged inside the train and promptly hit the floor, his leg stuck in the door. After squeezing his leg on the train I helped him up where, clearly embarrased (and relieved) he slowly hobbled down the train moving onto a different train cart muttering “痛い、痛い (ouch, ouch)”. I have no idea why he was that desperate to get that train, rather than wait ten minutes for the next, perhaps he had an important date, or his mom had cooked curry rice for dinner.