I have been in Japan almost 21 years. Before arriving here in 1992, I had never taken a train to work…not even once.
In California, I had been driving since I was 16. I drove to high school, to work, and even to the convenience store.
My car was a very personal place, it had an awesome stereo, air conditioning and four doors…which allowed me to shut out the world, and have personal breathing space.
However, in Japan, I have never had personal space after stepping out the front door. We all have to be together, most of the time.
Trains are one example.
So, what can we do on trains? I travel for up to three or four hours per day on trains…and there is only so long you can stare at other people.
Some read, some look at iphones, some listen to music…and others do stare (I am usually the only Westerner on the train).
Twenty years ago, there were even fewer Westerners on the train. When I saw another Westerner on the train, it was like that scene in “Ghost”, where Patrick Swayze sees the other ghost, and they stare at each other..a very weird feeling indeed!
I no longer mind being stared at…as I realized that I do my own fair share of staring too.
One day, I figured out how I could best spend my time on Tokyo trains. I study all the time.
You may have seen the Twilight Zone where Burgess Meredith can’t keep his eyes away from printed words – novels, periodicals, anything he can get his hands on.
That is me, exactly. From the moment I am waiting in line, to the time I arrive at my destination, either my earphones are on, and my head is focused on my iPad, or I am buried in a text book (iPad again).
The only time I cannot, possibly study on Japanese trains is during the morning rush…look at these photos…it is EXACTLY like this!!