Readers in Council,
The Japan Times, 5-4,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
On the weekend of August 13thI watched NHK’s bilingual news and once again listened to the annual descriptions of the O-bon holiday traffic rush out of Tokyo, and the U-turn rush too soon afterwards.
Personally, I think that if one has to rush to do anything at all then one is probably not going about it the right way, and/or it is not worth doing in the first place. Because, if something is important then a person ought to take one’s time about it, relax, and proceed with slow and careful deliberation. And so, a proper holiday ought to consume weeks (plural), not days.
I am always startled by descriptions of Shinkansen capacity at these times. I admire the bullet trains as marvelously high tech, efficient, comfortable and prompt transportation. But I always feel soured by the television’s news reports of trains that are up to 150% over-capacity. In other words, passengers were standing in the aisles of non-reserved seating cars, perhaps all the way to their destinations - which could amount to several hours of standing. I do not understand this. 100% means “full.” If a train is full, then by definition more passengers would be an impossibility, and boarding more people should be an illegal safety violation (or an illegal mental violation). Bullet trains are not commuter trains. Would passengers standing in the aisles of 150% over-capacity aircraft be acceptable? Well, maybe in Japan.
Published on Wednesday, August 31, 2005 as “Mental lapse on the bullet trains.”
Over crowded commuter trains have long been a common sight, although I believe that congestion is not nearly as bad as it once was, possibly a reflection of the declining birth rate resulting in declining numbers of commuting students and working adults. The surprising thing about bullet train, or “shinkansen” tickets is that you must buy one ticket just to get on the train, and another ticket for the right to sit down on the train. That means that many travelers stand for the duration of their trip, even if that means traveling for several hours. Those are conditions that Canadian law and values would not tolerate.