First of all - I moved to Morishita today. Everything went fairly smoothly, though you never get used to having that much weight on your back (for those who don't know, my backpack is too big). Got everything taken care of at the old place, including getting my deposit returned, so should be rid of that place. Might move back one day if I live here, though it'll be in one of the single rooms.
I mentioned a while back that I wrote a post on the subway system here in Tokyo, but that I lost it when my computer shut down. Tonight I think I'll give it another try.
I've always liked the subway. I don't know why - I guess it has a feeling of a monumental undertaking. An undertaking that connects people together and becomes a part of their lives. When I first went to Chicago, I remember enjoying the train almost as much as I enjoyed the city. That was very true of New York as well, but SF's metro transit system - Caltrain, Bart, and Muni, were a huge disappointment.
That may explain why I spend so much time writing about the train system here: for a train and subway lover, Tokyo is paradise. There are two subways - The Tokyo Metro and the Toei lines - and several lines run by 9 companies (all of the lines are listed here) , the most important of which is JR East. Most people travelling within Tokyo, though, will spend most of their time on the two subways and the JR lines. When I talk about the transport system or "subway" (the JR lines are above ground, so they aren't part of the subway), this is what I mean.
I thought the other day I would love to write profiles of all the stations on the main JR line - the Yamanote line that I've spoken a little about before. If I get a chance to stay here, I think I will, as a matter of fact - go to each stop, take pictures, get a feel for the area and learn its history, and compile an "authoritative guide". In fact I'd love to do that for the entire system, learning the meanings of the names of the stations, characterizing the atmosphere, learning the history of areas near the stations as well as the makeup of the stations themselves. Make a great (if ridiculously huge) coffee-table book. Anyone willing to back me? No? Well, I'll bide my time.
One thing that interests me about the transportation systems of the world, and especially Tokyo, is how they both embody and modify human behavior. According to the Japanese embassy in Singapore's site, the average commute on trains in 1995 was 69 minutes, and I'm guess it has gotten much longer in the past ten years (though I believe many younger workers are more reluctant to take these kind of jobs than the generation before them). When these averages are given, I wonder if they mean actual time on the train or if it includes transfers and walks from the train to the exit. If the former, the actual commute would be much, much longer. I lived just outside the main part of the city, and if I were to commute to, say, Shinjuku, it would take about 20 minutes, though that doesn't include the 15 minute walk to the station and the perhaps 8-10 minutes I spend in the stations themselves. That could be almost twice as much if you add it all up.
What I'm getting at is that the train is an integral part of life in Tokyo, as it is in many other large cities. You really can't walk from one place to another - even driving from, say, Morishita to Shibuya would take perhaps a couple of hours with traffic - so if you go somewhere you are very likely going to use the train. Thus the way that train system works has a huge influence on your life.
To start, there are two points I'd like to make here. First, the trains in Tokyo are perhaps the most reliable on earth; second, because they shut down at about 1 every morning and start again at about six, they greatly influence the way the people of Tokyo party