I’m in love with the Japanese train system.
I’m infatuated because despite the fact that I can’t read or recognize even one Japanese character, I had absolutely no problem navigating the subways, airport express trains or the famous Shinkansen (Bullet) trains. The maps are clear and easy to understand. The trains are on time. One of my trains was due to arrive at 9:29 and it arrived at exactly 9:29, right on the dot.
The trains (like the whole country) are incredibly clean. I could do a sterile dressing change on the floor of the platform, if the need arose. Japanese people are polite and helpful, always responding in whatever English they know. The conductor politely told me on which station to disembark and then he bowed as all Japanese do when concluding an interaction. I could really get used to that. There is something almost reverent about a bow which makes me feel peaceful and serene.
And the trains are quiet, not just the train itself, but the people on the train. In fact the whole country is quiet. Well, at least a whole lot quieter than what I know. The trains and terminals are quiet, the streets are quiet and the malls are quiet. Conversations are kept very low and huge, giant gestures are absent. Honking in traffic and loud talking on streets are not that common. I went to see the new Star Wars movie (very disappointing btw) on the IMAX in Yokohama. During the pause between the end of the previews and the start of the movie, where one would expect to hear conversations or at least some talking—it was pin drop silent. This was in a jam packed theatre, filled with at least 250 people.
Oh, and when you are going up or down the long steep escalators or walkways to use the subway—there are the sounds of sweetly chirping birds, piped in just to make you feel calm and Zen.
I have taken trains all over the world– NYC, DC, Philadelphia, Chicago, Rome, London, Delhi just to name a few. I hate driving and if I can take a train or subway somewhere; I take it. But I just can’t get over the remarkable efficiency, cleanliness and just the pure joy I felt when traveling by train in Japan
I just love the trains in Japan.