train music how do you get to train video . i have often seen a mystery drama where the murder...
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38 Japan Railway & Transport Review 29 December 2001
Copyright 2001 EJRCF. All rights reserved.
Riding Japanese Trains
Yasuaki Daniel Amano
Take your pick of services on parallel lines. (H. Taura)
I came to Japan on a 1-year internship atthe JR East Safety Research Laboratory.Like most people, I took the train to workand occasionally had the opportunity totravel around Japan. I would like to sharea few of my thoughts and experienceswhile riding Japanese trains.
One of the things that foreignersimmediately notice about Japan is theplatform music played before the traindoors close. In America, you only hearthe whistle and a conductor yelling AllAboard. But in Japan, passengers aretreated to a 10-second tune or song.While most Japanese do not pay muchattention to these tunes, I found severalwebsites that list all the tunes played atevery station in the Tokyo area. Curious,I conducted a survey in my office aboutwhich stations had the best songs. Themost popular was Kamata Station whereKamata koushin kyoku (Kamata MarchingSong), a tune from a locally set movie, isplayed. Perhaps playing popular localsongs to indicate that the doors areclosing lifts the spirits of Japanese people.For example, Yurakucho Station couldplay the Japanese classic oldie Yurakuchode aimashou (Lets Meet at Yurakucho)and Chigasaki Station could play a songby Southern All Stars, a famous pop groupfrom the area. I can only see greatbenefits coming from this.
Trains can be seen everywhere in Japan,from movies to cartoons and videogames. I have often seen a mystery dramawhere the murder suspect is caught withthe help of a train timetable. The policewould discover that the suspects alibiwas false because the train timetable didnot match the suspects statement.
One of my most interesting encounterswith trains involves two trains racing fromstation to station. In Tokyo betweenTabata and Tohoku, the Yamanote andKeihin Shinagawa lines run side-by-sidefor 14 stations. During my morning andevening commute, both trains arrivesimultaneously at the station and I haveto choose which train will take me to mydestination faster. Sometimes, I see peoplejumping from one train to another, simplybecause the doors closing music startsearlier on the opposite train. I usually takethe less-crowded train, but some peopleare set on cutting a few seconds off theircommute by jumping to the other train.Not surprisingly, a train racing game cameout recently. You would never seeanything like this in the USA.
Train Video Games
Another thing that surprised me is trainsimulation games like the popularDensya De Go! (Lets Go By Train!)
When I told my friends in America aboutthis game, they did not seem tounderstand the point. So you just pusha bar back and forth, making the train gofaster and slower? You dont race anycars or shoot any enemies? they ask. Ihad to explain that because trains areeverywhere in Japan, many kids dreamof taking control of a train and that youoften see people watching the driverthrough the front car. However, a newcomputer game was recently releasedthat involves two trains racing each otheron parallel tracks. I dont understand thisgame at all.
How Do You Get To...
Mobile phones are incredibly popular inJapan. Apart from calling friends, acommon feature of these phones isInternet access. Since the display is rathersmall, the number of easily readable sitesis limited but there are many new phone-friendly sites created every day. One
39Japan Railway & Transport Review 29 December 2001Copyright 2001 EJRCF. All rights reserved.
Yasuaki Daniel Amano
Mr Amano is a student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) studying for his M.S. in
transportation. He worked at Kawasaki Heavy Industries and at the Safety Research Laboratory
at JR East while studying for his B.S. in civil engineering at MIT.
such site allows users to input an originand destination station and displays alltrain routes between the two stations. Itwas by using this site that I realized howincredibly complex the Tokyo railwaysystem is. For example, if I wanted totake a train from Tokyo to Yokohama, Icould take any one of the JR East TokaidoLine; JR East Yokosuka Line; JR East KeihinTohoku Line; Eidan Ginza LineTokyuToyoko Line; Toei Asakusa LineKeikyuLine; Tokaido Shinkansen JR EastYokohama Line; JR East Chuo LineOdakyu LineSotetsu Line.Luckily the website prioritizes each route,letting you know which is cheapest, mostconvenient, and fastest. Hey, maybe trainracing isnt so crazy after all!
Navigating the train system in Japan isdifficult, but it is just as difficult to findyour way through major stations. Moststations are separated into two parts:inside the ticket gates where peopletransfer freely between trains, and outsidethe ticket gates where there are largebookstores, clothing stores, restaurants,food retailers, etc. In Tokyo and
Shinagawa stations, there are largerestaurants and retailers inside the gate.I was amazed to see how these placeswere often packed with customers.I now realize that Japanese train stationshave become more than ju s t acommuting venuethey have becomesmall cities and community centres.Osaka residents go drinking at theunderground mall in Umeda, the centraltrain station. Kyoto residents shop atIsetan Department Store within theenormous ultra-modern new KyotoStation complex of stores, offices andrestaurants. If you ask a New Yorkerwhere they live, they might say, TheUpper West Side. If you ask a Tokyoite,they might say, Shin Okubo Station onthe Yamanote Line.Riding the trains in Japan is truly a uniqueexperience from the packed-like-sardinesrush-hour trains to the sudden change
from cityscape to mountain valleys.Anyone who visits Tokyo should not beintimidated by the rail systemEnglishsigns are plentiful and help is readilyavailable. However, driving in Tokyo isanother story.
Large bookstores and restaurants inside ticket gate of Tokyo Station (H. Taura) Books store in Tokyo Station packed with customers (H. Taura)