Today is Friday, March 7th. There’s no real significance to this day but it is the First Friday. And while it’s early in morning here, it’s deep in the PM hours on the other side of the world in my home away from home: Tokyo. During my residency, the First Friday was usually a time where I would roll out on the 6:27pm Chūō Line Special Rapid out of Fussa—dubbed the Friday Night Express by yours truly—for some fun in the heart of the city. It was rush hour with people from the suburbs flowing into the city and people in the city moving to other parts of the city. I always found the scene onboard the train very fascinating. It’s the chief reason why I loved the trains…not just because they got me around to where I needed to get in high efficiency but also the onboard experience from the announcements to the signage to the seating to the silence. The silence is what brings me to this week’s flashback moment.
How I first came across this moment? I first came across the moment in one of my very first rides on the JR East trains. Prior to my move to Tokyo, my only experience riding commuter and metro rail systems was in Atlanta (MARTA), Chicago (The L), and my time in Europe (Madrid, Seville, Barcelona, Brussels). I also rode the Amtrak a few times in my youth. But, in my experiences onboard all of those trains, there was so much happening…so much noise, so much commotion…especially during high peak times. I guess that’s just the way of the Western World or places with significant Western influence because it was the same way in Hong Kong, Seoul, and Singapore as I learned in years to come. It was different in Tokyo. The Japanese people were so settled down. Even during rush hour and with the trains filled to capacity, it was eerily quiet.
What it meant to me then? From the outset, that dynamic meant a lot to me. I’m the type of person that enjoys silence. I don’t talk a whole lot and I don’t invite a lot of action when I’m in transit. The peace and tranquility onboard the trains in Japan was right up my alley. I absolutely loved it. In fact, when I’d roll out with the entire crew from Faith Christian Fellowship, I’d be a little uncomfortable because they made so much noise and commotion. Being on those trains with so little going on around me allowed me to focus a lot more. I was able to study for tests, write poems, listen to the intricacies of the beats to the songs on my MP3 player. I’ve never gotten that anywhere else.
What it means to me now? As I just wrote, I haven’t gotten the experience anywhere else. I spent 2 years in the DC suburbs and I rode the DC Metro quite frequently as well as the Amtrak between DC and New York a few times. In just the last year alone, I’ve rode the metro systems in LA, Vancouver, Atlanta, Seattle, and Portland and it’s not the same. The ruckus that happens on those trains at times just makes me a bit unnerved. It makes me long for the Tokyo experience again.