So here it is then! A sequel to a popular article from SIX years ago! Back in April 2007 I published an article on here about the various characters to be found in Japanese fast food restaurants. After I recently, and rather randomly tweeted a link to that article I was on the train going to work and realised that a similar thing could be applied to the types of person seen on the trains in Tokyo.
First impressions are that all seem efficient and orderly, and it mostly is with the majority either reading, sleeping, playing with their keitai (mobile phone) or just staring into nothingness. However, on closer inspection, as you ride the trains more and more, you start to notice the strange actions of a few individuals including some exclusive-to-Japan behaviour. These people have even prompted the Tokyo Metro to advertise for better standards from its commuters via a pretty bizarre poster campaign over the last five years or so. Here are some of the characters…
Seat Switcher – One of the most common sights is seeing someone shuffle along or even switch sides when the prestigious end seat becomes available.
Seat Hogger – This particular person certainly likes to spread their wings…or rather their legs so that they take up more than the allocated seat space. In a similar vein, anyone who takes up two seats, without being a fat b*stard, is annoying and deserves to be scrutinised in a poster campaign. Oh, thats already been done has it?!!
Standing Sleeper – Self explanatory really but this species is fairly common due to the overcrowding on Tokyo’s trains. They fall asleep like a prisoner hanging on a cross.
Preening Queen – The difference between when this girl gets on and off the train is astounding! She spends the whole journey “putting on her face” and has the skill to continue putting on her eye-liner despite the odd bump and jump here and there.
Home Station Bypasser – So engrossed in their game are they that they don’t even notice that they have missed their intended stop…which is quite a feat in a city with continuous announcements.
Sports Team – You’re sitting on a quiet and fairly empty train and then the doors open and on step the whole Japanese high school sports team with their bags tossed on the floor.
Porn Magazine Reader – In what other country can you get away with reading what basically looks like a porn magazine with either a real model with big boobs or an animated girl with big boobs on the front in some suggestive pose?!!
Drunken Sleeper – Quite possibly the most interesting specimen and the one that attracts the most attention. Us foreigners are particularly fascinated by them and there are even photographic websites out there showing westerners the strange positions and places that drunken Japanese can sleep in.
Hand Wanderer – Never seen it myself but this pervert (痴漢) is seemingly a fairly common problem for Japanese women and girls. There are even ‘women-only’ carriages on some trains at certain times of the day as a result.
Door Hogger – For some reason, there are certain types who almost want to sniff the doors as the train moves along. This person is ready to burst through the doors as soon as they open. The need to exit first is so important to them that they get off the train at each stop and go to the back of the line on each platform so that they can board last and thus have their position in front of the doors.
Pretend Sleeper – The best way to deal with the possibility of being confronted by a more needy person wanting your seat is of course to just close your eyes and shut it all out. This is a very common sight in the priority seats.
Keitai Whisperer – I’ve always wondered how the person on the other end of the phone can even here these peoples whispers into their mobile phones. In true Japanese fashion, their hand is covering their mouth in an attempt to hide the fact that they are speaking when they shouldn’t be. Instead it just attracts more attention to it!
Studying Schoolgirl – Her intentions are good but whilst studying that essential Eiken exercise she falls asleep. Whilst enjoying a bit of shut-eye the pages of the book turn a few further on or back but she doesn’t seem to realise this on waking up and just continues on obviously not taking in any of what she’s reading.
Beer Guzzler – Often a fairly harmless character but there are a few ojisan who just wanna have a drink of beer on the train no matter what time of day it is.
Newspaper Reader – Confined space. Broadsheet newspaper. The two just don’t mix well. Reading is fine but maybe the reader should have to commit to that one page only during their journey.
Big Backpack Person – With space so limited this person really isn’t a welcome sight. They seem to be determined to keep their backpack on (even if they sit down!) which just gets in the way knocking a few other passengers about a bit in the process.
Diving Salaryman – Whether its diving onto the train as the doors are closing or waking up at his station and stumbling out of the door in time he always seems to make it.
Noise Leakage Lad – The kind of guy (maybe!) probably has their earplugs in from the moment they wake to the time when they go to sleep and probably without speaking to anyone all day.
Lonely Foreigner – The natives sometimes just don’t wanna sit next to the strange foreigner and when they do its often the last choice! You could take it to heart or you could just think of the extra bit of room you’ve got for yourself.
Falling Sleeper – Are they gonna fall to the left or the right? How long is it gonna be until they fall again? Will the person next to them give them a shove? Will they move away? This character is always a fun one to observe.