Print Story "Gokai-darake (Rife with Misunderstanding)"
By lylehsaxon (Sun May 18, 2008 at 01:34:47 PM EST) (all tags)
Not being an expert on YouTube and how people use and abuse it, I posted my video clip "Actually Full Train in 1991 (Why Flex-Time is a Good Idea)", to Google Video, without bothering to post it to YouTube (Huge Mistake!).  I noted with interest how viewings climbed up to 200,000 on Google Video, and just when I was thinking everything was going well, I received a message from an e-pal who tipped me off that there were rip-off copies of my file on YouTube, with no attributes, just blatant theft.  I figured some people might download the file and share it with friends, but I never thought people would just take it and post it as though they personally owned it. It's... so... shamelessly audacious/rude/wrong/etc!

And born of this theft, and helped along by bad titles like "Crazy Japanese Train Loaders" (over one million viewings!!), "Crowded Chinese Train"(!!), etc., there have arisen many questions, misunderstandings, heated arguments, and even one death threat (directed at an entire nation).  And this is what makes me the most angry about the current situation of about one view of my posted material per 20 views of copies with bad titles and missing information.  My title "Actually Full Train in 1991 (Why Flex-Time is a Good Idea)" alone would have eliminated something like 30% of the questions, maybe more.  But since there is a sea of misunderstanding arisen over the theft (many times over) of my material, I'll do what I can to answer some of the questions I saw in the comments section at that over-a-million-viewings site.

They're Not Crazy!

The title of the over-a-million site - "Crazy Japanese Train Loaders" is wrong and dangerous.  There were (correctly I feel) some complaints in the comments section over this.  Nobody on the receiving end of the shoves was complaining - and I've been there myself.  Notice the three people at the second door who were told to give it up by the man trying to help people aboard there.  They look quite unhappy at not being able to get onto the train.  Being shoved for no reason is one thing, but being given added force to get onto a train you really want to get onto (for time, not because there's anything pleasant about it) is another.  There's nothing crazy about the men doing the shoving - what would be better?  To stand around on the platform and do nothing while the passengers fight it out along and the train sits there for ten minutes or more because the doors won't close?  Take a close look at the time - the video begins the moment the doors open (a little before that in my recent and belated post to YouTube), everyone is aboard with all the doors closed in 70 seconds (within 60 is probably the goal), and the train is on its way in 80 seconds.  In spite of this, there were comments saying that the time spent getting people aboard would be better spent in getting the train on its way quickly and bringing in another train!  Ha-ha!  Idiocy!  Time any train at any station, and 70 seconds is not exactly glacially slow - and they got everyone (save three) aboard!  No, while I think the management of the Seibu Corporation leaves much to be desired, and they should have invested more in track and train expansion much sooner than they did (they are notorious feet draggers when it comes to spending money), the railway employs are doing a good job of keeping the trains running on time - even when grossly overcrowded.

People Want to get to Work on Time!

Basically covered above under "They're Not Crazy!", the people being shoved aboard are not being abused - they're being assisted in getting on the train.  The train on the opposite side of the platform was going in the same direction, so anyone not up for the high pressure express train, could have walked across the platform and gotten on the lower pressure Junkyu (next fastest to the express that had just left), and if they're not up for that, they could wait for a local train.

There are options... (sort of)

There are options, and people who can't take the pressure of the sardine runs often escape the situation in one way or another.  Number one on the list is moving within walking distance of school or work.  At the company I'm at there is one guy there who moved specifically for that reason.  He hates the sardine runs, so he moved within a ten minute walk of work.  I get off of four trains (90 minutes), feeling like I've just come back from war, and I'll see him come ambling up to the company yawning - having gotten up fifteen minutes before....  My walking distance from the nearest station is further than his walking distance from home to the company!  He automatically has an extra three hours per day (15 hours per week, 60 hours per month) to enjoy life in.  Other options are coming to work very early (not allowed in my case as security is very tight and contract workers can't just come at any time), or take a local train (losing something like 30 minutes every morning - 150 minutes a week, etc.).  The final option - and final in every sense - is to take the Express Checkout via the rails in front of a speeding train, but that route is definitely not recommended.

1991 Folks - It's Better Now... Mostly

The video was taken in 1991.  Around 1986 or so, the private lines were all given permission to raise their fares in order to pay for rail expansion to cope with overcrowding.  Some of them honestly and forthrightly set to work and improved their services - such as the Keio Line, which added more express stops (all the lines already had full-time double tracks, but having four tracks at more stations enables fast trains to stay fast, getting around more trains at more stations) and then lowered their fares after they had finished construction.  The bloody Seibu Line, by contrast, did almost nothing at all for ten years.  They just took the extra money people were paying.  This fact still makes me angry when I remember riding trains like the one in the video every day - suffering for the greed of bad management.  I used to be in one of those trains, smashed in there like a sardine, thinking "they should force the management of this railway to ride this train every day until something is done to increase capacity!".  Finally they actually did invest in some construction and even that line was improved.  It's better today (but still crowded of course).

Ten-Car Trains (Some are Fifteen...)

Many people said "Why don't they add more railway cars?"  The trains are already ten-cars long and the platforms have to match the length of the trains - you can't just send people out on the rails and gravel and expect them to climb up into cars with ladders or something - that's insane.  Some of JR's main routes have fifteen cars per train.  Fifteen cars is a lot for a commuter train!  The platforms for these lines are quite long already and it's not really practical to have more than fifteen cars I don't think....

People are Usually Considerate of People Getting Off

One of the most persistent questions was "How do people get off?".  This is a simple matter in my mind because I've been living with & on the system for 24 years, but I realize it's sort of complicated when I have to explain it.  Number one - when the density is very high at sardine-run times, you need to know which stations are main ones (large numbers of people get off and it's not too difficult to get off with them), and which are minor stations that will be difficult to get off at if you're too far into the train.  If you have to get off at a minor station, you expend effort (sometimes a lot of effort) in making sure you're reasonably near a door.  Generally this is done either by getting into the corner by the door and clinging to the bars there fiercely, or by getting off at one of the major stations before the one you need to get off at, and then getting behind the people getting on there - last on, first off.  Often there's competition to be the last one on.  Not only do you get a window... spot, but you only have people pressed up against you on only one side, instead of all sides.  And best of all (aside from being able to get off whenever you want), you become the front-runner in the race for the platform stairs, so you can run and get on the next sardine run (I get on eight trains per day - four in each direction).

And I almost forgot - even when you're away from the doors, generally if you say "Orimasu! Orimasu! Orimasu!" ("I'm getting off!  I'm getting off!  I"m getting off!) and start pushing towards the door, people will either lean far enough in one direction or another, enabling you to squeeze past, or the group by the door will get off, enabling escape to the outside (after which they get back on).  Sometimes it pays to get off at each and every station on the journey, just to keep yourself near the door.  In the case of the train in the video, its next stop was Shakujikoen, where likely very few people could get on, and after that Ikebukuro, the last stop, where everyone gets off.  One final detail being that the doors at Shakujikoen open on the other side, so anyone "lucky" enough to get on that express is guaranteed a ride all the way to Ikebukuro once they're on.  The thing that's rough if you're the last one on, is the shoving procedure at Shakujikoen can be pretty intense.  As you can see in the video, people really want to get on!  I can remember being pushed up against the door with such force that I was afraid I would end up with cracked ribs, so I tensed up my muscles to help take pressure off of the bones.

No, That's not Fake!  It's Real Dude!

One of the comments posters repeatedly posted a "It's Fake!" blurb.  Many people who know the Tokyo train system repeatedly told the guy it was not fake, but he persisted.  I am in the best position to know - since I was there and I rode on that line every day.  Dude!  It's real!  It's very real!  That's no movie set and those are not actors!

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

"Actually Full Train in 1991 (Why Flex-Time is a Good Idea"

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