Wednesday, February 16, 2005

subway pushing

most people have heard the stories of people employed to pushpassengers onto the tokyo subway. the pushers (oshiya) have a prettyimportant job; trains arrive every 2 minutes and at rush hour are atsomething like 230% capacity as they bring the greater population (20+million) to work. at the same time, you can't help but think theyform part of japan's hidden unemployed (the job isn't required on anyother subway that i've been). assuming this was an exaggeration i hadnever been too bothered to experience it.

today it was raining so i got the train one stop to the office ...

arriving at the subway i had the usual moment of "these japanese arecrazy ..." there was a long line of people queueing perpendicularlyfrom the platform across the island. typical japanese; rather thanpeople trying to bustle closest to the doors, people are obedientenough to stand in a queue that leaves them with no chance to boardthe next train.

i missed the first train .... one door had jammed on a young guy andfrom nowhere 3 pushers (oshiya) appeared in order to "remove theblock" - the unfortunate bloke looked like he was having theequivalent to an invasive massage. the door was closed and with thesatisfaction with a job welldone, the oshiya retreated back to theisland pillars and the train depart on time.

the next train pulled up and i naively stepped onto the train ...within seconds i was hit by an inhuman force from behind; somethinglike strong wave. it forced me across the train and straight into theback of a guy on the other side. the strange thing was the exact samewas happening to everyone around me. this is a part of life here;people are very accepting of being forced into someone else's face andthey remain very calm about it.

i had my laptop bag with me which i was holding in my hand. thisforced me to make a social blunder ... we had been warned previously that if we were ever pushed into a train, to remember to keep our hands in the air, there are a number of perverts in japanese society thatare only too happy to be in close contact with girls on the train ...regrettably i travelled the couple of minutes to work with both handson the bottom of two young girls to my left and right ... i'm justglad they weren't men or grandmothers ...

when the doors opened in tameiko-sanno we poured from the train ...again i underestimated the force and speed and had to do everything inorder to keep my balance ...from now on i think i'll bring an umbrella and just walk ...

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