Last night, while waiting on my flight from Atlanta to Miami, I decided to venture into Terminal B at the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport because there was nothing to do in Terminal T—where my flight gate was—and Terminal A has historically sucked at that airport. So I hopped on the Plane Train and it was unusually packed for a Thursday night…like sardines in a can, Tokyo-style packed. For the 2-minute or so ride from T to B, it was some visibly uncomfortable folks on that train but I just stood there all comfortable in my space. I guess the experience of living through that everyday kicked in. That brings me to this week’s moment in the Flashback Friday series: the Takadanobaba Yamanote Line video.
How I first came across this moment? It all started when a friend of mine in Tokyo told me about an indoor ice skating rink in a section of Downtown Tokyo called Takadanobaba. After laughing hysterically at the name of that neighborhood, I researched it, finding the ice rink and the quickest way to it. The neighborhood’s sole train station was serviced by the JR East Yamanote Line, the Seibu Shinjuku Line, and the Tokyo Metro Tōzai Line. As I was traveling from Fussa via the Chūō Rapid Line, the Yamanote Line was the fastest mode for me because it was a JR East to JR East transfer at Shinjuku. At that point in time—March 2009—I had been living in Tokyo for 22 months (including the 5 months I spent in Iraq) and one of my Stateside associates asked if I could take a picture of the inside of the trains since I raved about them so much in my old blog. I did one better…I made a video. The video was a basic look at the experience of taking a Yamanote Line train from Shinjuku Station to Takadanobaba Station, explaining some of the differences in Japanese culture and giving a live look on how packed a Yamanote Line train gets at 11am on a Saturday morning…despite the 3-minute interval between trains. The Sony CyberShot point-and-shoot camera I used at the time only recorded a maximum of 10 minutes so I didn’t get to record all the way to my exit of Takadanobaba Station but I got enough footage that people commented heavily on my old Facebook and YouTube accounts about how clean, quiet, and orderly everything was concerning the trains. The video was the first of many videos I recorded of my experiences in Tokyo…and of other places domestically and internationally.
What it meant to me then? At the time, it didn’t mean too much to me. It was simply a video that showed an aspect of life in Tokyo…something that many of the people I knew hadn’t experienced and wouldn’t likely experience.
What it means to me now? Looking back on it today, I showed flashes of why most that knew me during the Tokyo days called me “The Train Guru”.