I ride the train to work every day. It’s a long ride—more than an hour and a half. Factor in the time it takes to go back and I’ve got more than 3 hours of train ride every day.
Yamanote Line (you’re lucky if you get a seat)
That’s a lot of time, I know. So if I’m not careful it could easily go to waste browsing SNS on my phone…
How about you, what do you do during that time?
First, let’s check out what the Japanese do.
Tired or Simply Quiet?
Having ridden trains to work for more than 15 years now, I can tell you what the Japanese tend to do on their train rides.
Most Japanese sleep (60~70%) especially in the mornings. The rest tinker with their phones (30~40%), and very few read books or do something on their laptops (5%). Almost all (99%) who are standing on the train are looking at their phones.
I sometimes think of the Japanese as a bunch of tired people because of their tendency to sleep on the train. Compare that to our kababayans who I sometimes share train rides—they seem to have all the energy in the world to talk. ^^;
Maybe you’d say, “Oh, that’s just because they’re together. When you’re with someone you talk.” Nope, I also see Japanese couples, families, and acquaintances riding the train in groups. They don’t talk that much. Sometimes you wouldn’t even know they’re together until it’s time to step down from the train when one tells the other “it’s time to go.”
What I can infer about this is that “not talking on the train” is a Japanese custom. When they do talk, it’s mostly whisper-like—you won’t be able to hear it even if you lean in to listen.
There are exceptions, of course. Drunk Japanese salarymen for example can be loud even inside the trains. I don’t know, alcohol tends to strip Japanese people of their natural inhibitions.
My routine inside the train
As for me. I’ve honed my train riding into a skill over the years. I now have a to-do routine inside the train. This is my train ride routine in the morning:
・I meditate for 10 minutes
・I write a bunch of stuff on my laptop (I’m writing this now inside the train)
・I read or listen to a book
・I write about my day
That’s only me. I sometimes fall asleep too, especially when I’m tired from work, but overall that’s my routine during train rides.
Now let’s talk about you
I have a few questions prepared below. You could answer all, a few, or any one of them.
・How about you, what do you tend to do inside the train?
・Do you notice anything strange about the Japanese when they ride the train?
・Do you feel annoyed when people next to you are talking in a loud voice? Why?
・Can you tell a story about an interesting experience you’ve had when you’re riding a train?
・People ‘round the world laud the Japanese’ etiquette on the trains, do you think so too? Why?
Chaos in Shinjuku Station