In the spring time this year the Tokyo subway trains underwent some kind of reorganization. Many of the various private subway trains were amalgamated into a new umbrella group, called Tokyo Metro. As part of the reorganization a lot of stations underwent facelifts this year. I admit that the facelifts are becoming, because they make the underground facilities look brighter and more spacious. Many public service signs pointing directions in Japanese and in English were replaced with identical signs of different color, which was less called for and less useful, I think, than the renovation work done on walls, ceilings and floors that made the stations look brighter. (Perhaps the new color scheme - predominantly sky blue - was judged to be more compatible with the brighter appearance of so many of the station buildings.) But as I have written before, Japanese adore/revere/respect/credit appearnace over function, so for that reason alone there may have been irresistable motivation for changes that had no clear benefit.
One of these is a mystery to me. All of the train lines in the Tokyo Metro retain their old names as private companies. For example, the Marunouchi Subway Line on which I live. And all of the stations retain their names: Nakanofujumicho, Shinjuku, Yotsuya, Akasakamitsuke, Ginza, Tokyo, Nihonbashi, Otemachi, Ikebukuro, and so on. But now, under Tokyo Metro “inovations,” every station in the city has also been given a numerical identifier in addition to its actual name. So, my station, Nakanofujimicho, is also now known as “m-3.” Shinjuku Station, one of the major commuter hubs and business districts in the city, is also known as“M-8.” Toyocho Station on the Tozai Subway Line, where I work, is now also known as “T-9.”
This double nomenclature is supposed to make things easier. I have seen posters in the subway system showing foreign tourists asking, “How do I get to Ginza?”The answer, provided by a smiling and English-speaking subway employee is, “Go to M-16 Station.” But I do not see this as any improvement over saying, “Take this train to Ginza Station.” Calling it“M-16” is not one bit easier than calling it Ginza Station. In fact, since two systems of nomenclature are now in effect, the new system can be said to be more confusing than helpful. It makes more sense that if I ask directions to a place, and that place has a name, then I will be directed there by name. But I could be wrong.