To take a step back, we got on the subway to get to the Asakasa area where there is a huge Buddhist temple and a lot of photo-ready gates and pagodas and the accompanying commercial detritus. That’s where the fireworks were going to go up. Again, this sounds like a lovely idea. Such a lovely idea it was that the larger portion of the Tokyo population agreed and decided that they might as well come out to join us. They’re friendly like that.
I’ve written about the subway and its horrors, but to tell the truth, I’ve found a few ways to minimize the crush during rush hour.
Top 5 Ways Not To Get Crushed During Rush Hour on the Tokyo Subway:
5. Sneak in as far away from the doors as possible. Lots of folks worry they won’t be able to get out when their stop comes, so they fight for position around the door. Slide past these folks into the middle between the doors and you’ll earn yourself a inch or two of breathing room.
4. Avoid the express trains. You might think – oo! Express means faster! Faster means less time in the crush – all to the good, right? Well, kinda. Most everyone also thinks that though, so the expresses are much more crowded than the locals. And ya know what? I live an hour away, and the difference between the express and the local is a whopping 8 minutes. Feh, I’ll trade the 8 minutes for the joy of an un-collapsed lung, thanks. You can make your decision though.
3. Ride the female car. Now, I’m only suggesting this based on the story of one guy’s story about accidentally getting on the females-only car and finding it much roomier. Now that I think about it, the women were probably all staying as far away from him as possible. Ya know, only guy on the women-only car. That probably wasn’t so smart. That being said, I you happen to be blessed with the right chromosome pairing, I say give it a try. Even if it’s just as crowded as the other cars, my experience shows that you’ll end up with better smells, and I imagine most people would prefer a car with less fear of the pervy folk.
2. Carry a bag. This is actually a bit rude and I’m sure it’s cheating, but I play dirty. I’ve got one of my big pannier bags with the strap crosswise against my chest with the bag directly in front. This way I always get a little space in front of my face because no one can get closer to me than my bag. This is cheating because I usually see people put their bigger bags up on the luggage rack. I may get dirty looks, but I’ve got my nose in a book, so I usually don’t see them. Like a house elf, I bonk my head in contrition, but I still do it anyway. Bad, bad, rude Overread. Dobby would understand.
1. The Golden and Most Important Rule – Get out earlier. The difference between the 6:57 train and the 7:00 train is massive. I’ve even seen people able to open up a newspaper on the 6:50 train. I haven’t tried the even later train that we tried that first day again. Shudder.
It really is amazing how easily I get distracted, isn’t it?
I brought all that up because the ride to Asakasa that night was on a par or even maybe a bit worse than the first day I tried to ride the subway. Crazy crushed. There’s a picture of one of the cars from the outside, but it really doesn’t do the situation justice. It’s hilarious when you are smashed up against some random stranger, forced to take particular interest in the mole of the back of his ear for 5 minutes, and then you pull into a station.
You giggle a little bit thinking with a touch of schadenfreude about the poor saps who have no chance to get in the car. Maybe they’ll climb on top like they do in those old pictures from India you think with a superior chortle. A quick note – don’t actually laugh out loud. The exhalation of air from your lungs will give others a chance to squish closer. Well, that night, the joke was on me. The train pulled into the station, and there were lines of people politely queued up with hopes of getting on. Having already used my pseudo-joke about quantum train experiments and physical bodies occupying the same space, I really have no words to describe what happened next. I can only report the result. They all got on the car. I have no idea how. Although it is worth saying perhaps that there was serious consideration about how to lift one of our crew and put him on the luggage rack. Alas, we couldn’t move our arms, so the idea went nowhere.
Exiting the train was more of a panicky mass disgorging than anything else. If you’ll pardon the image, it really seemed like a birthing. People pushed with sudden urgency. I held my breath and struggled forward against the living walls around me. There were the indecipherable mumblings of the intercom voice, there was even a woman yelling out, “Itai! Itai! [It hurts! It hurts!]” I never did find out what happened to her, as I was pushed and pushing along the human surge. Finally, I was pulled gasping into the light where a man stood wearing a surgical mask. He slapped my butt and I cried.
Ok, well part of that last bit might not be exactly accurate.
This is truly becoming epic. More later.