A Well-Trained Country
Are you reading this while riding the train? Are
you hanging from the strap with one hand, while trying to hold the
newspaper with the other? Are you having fun? If I were to ask you at
this moment what you thought about our Japanese trains, how would you
I certainly hope you would have a positive answer,
but I suspect you may not be quite so complimentary. If you are like
most of us, when it comes to something you see and use every day, you
probably don't notice the beneficial aspects of it, but tend to focus
only on the negatives. I am sure that you complain about the crowds
on the trains, and I suppose also about high ticket prices. But I
hope that you can also appreciate what a truly wonderful thing your
train system really is.
I think it's a bit easier for me to understand
this, because I grew up mostly in places where there were no trains,
where everything revolved around the automobile. So when I first
arrived here and faced that amazing smorgasbord of a Tokyo train map,
I thought I was in heaven. All those destinations! All those trains!
Just buy a ticket, pass through the gates, hop on the train ... and
you're there! What a special treat this is - and it's there for all
of us to use.
Almost anywhere I want to go, and at almost
anytime of day, these wonderful trains are there waiting for me.
Sometimes as I stand on the platform, I play an imaginary game. I
imagine that this train pulling into the station is there just for my
benefit - at my command. "Your train for Shinjuku has arrived, sir",
intones my imaginary servant. I thank him, and step aboard. Of
course, there are other people sharing 'my' train, but I don't mind.
I'm quite magnanimous, and they are welcome to come along for the
ride. When we reach my destination ("Your station, sir"), the doors
are automatically opened for me, and I stride grandly out of the
coach, having been magically transported all those kilometers, and in
such a short time ...
Please don't laugh at my little game, for our
trains really are a system 'fit for a king'. Of all the billions of
people on this globe, how many have access to something like this?
Not many, you can be sure. I am simply recognizing it for what it is,
an incredibly sophisticated and complicated system, operated by
thousands upon thousands of employees, all dedicated to one thing and
one thing only - to getting me from 'A' to 'B' whenever I feel the
desire to go. Just over a short century ago, not even the richest or
most powerful men alive had access to such service.
So let's please hear a few less complaints about
our fantastic trains. You think they're crowded? You think they're
expensive? Just try and imagine what our life in Tokyo would be like