December 2015

Train Thoughts



Taken around 7:oo AM some time in July 2015 after singing karaoke from midnight until sunrise. We took the Yamanote line from Shinjuku to Takadanobaba.

As someone who barely used public transportation growing up in California, the train system amazed me with its incredible timetable that laid down everything to the minute and the train lines operated by various companies from point A to point B, all the way to point Z. Everything operated in sync. I was constantly in awe by the train system in Japan because it’s so fast, so efficient with its schedule, so courteous to its passengers, even if operations delay by a minute. (Perhaps LA can take note of the public transit system in Tokyo, hah.)

But where’s the courtesy toward the people who jump the tracks and cause a jinshin jiko(人身事故), or “person-inflicted accident”–a total euphemism for suicide attempt? Nothing is accidental about being on the train tracks with a train approaching toward you.

Unfortunately this happens on a weekly basis, if not more than a few times on different train lines within a week in Tokyo. This causes a huge inconvenience for the thousands of people who jam themselves into a train compartment heading to their destinations,  whether it be school, work, or a meeting. Mind you, punctuality is vital in Japanese culture because people tend to plan things ahead of time and stick to it.

There’s a few times when I’ve waited for a train but it delayed because of those jiko. I saw other people nearby roll their eyes, sigh in irritation, or worriedly search for the alternative train routes on their smartphones. I suppose we get so caught up in our own lives and schedules that any unexpected occurrences like this can completely throw off our plans.

I’ve heard rumors that the train company will charge the family of the person who caused the “accident” a fine. Kind of like an inconvenience fee, I’d like to think. But why not provide the person a set of resources and/or guidance to a trained mental health specialist who can possibly help the person? I don’t know what that person is going through in life, but maybe that person needs some love, some support, some affirmation that their existence is valid and important.

I can only hope for a little more sympathy from the people who get agitated, annoyed, or upset when this occurs on their train rides…


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