Sleeping on the train in Japan. Why is it such a popular/normal/acceptable thing to do?
Everybody sleeps on trains in Japan. Old people, young people, business people, students. It seems to be something that is conditioned into them, that when you get a seat on the train, it’s sleepy time. Time to catch up on some zzzs. Time for a cat nap. Or time to sleep off a bit of the booze before getting home. And why not? The train is ridiculously silent (talking on phones is strictly not allowed), the seats are cushioned AND heated in the winter (warm butt = sleepy time), and chances are they may have a good hour or more before arriving at their destination. In fact, every time I go out, I budget at least an hour to get there by train. And I live in the middle of the city!
As I might have hinted before, Tokyo is a f***ing massive city. I don’t know any other way to say it. It’s mind bogglingly big and it takes forever to get around. For example, going from the west side of Tokyo to the east side of Tokyo — and to still be within city lines — can take up to three hours on the train. Three hours! Just to cross the city! You could drive all the way across Trinidad in three hours!
But I’m not sure which is worse… millions of hours spent on a train, or millions of hours spent in traffic? Every year the traffic in Trinidad seems to get worse and worse. And ironically enough, in Trinidad, the reason why there is such a ridiculous, never ending traffic crisis is because of ‘roll-on roll-off’ second hand cars imported from Japan by the hundreds of thousands. Personally, I would choose the train over traffic, and I guess in a way I have. I haven’t driven a car (or owned a car) since I left Trinidad some five years ago. You simply don’t need a car in these big Asian cities because public transport is amazing.
Tokyo has the population of Canada, over 30 million inhabitants, and obviously no one wants 30 million cars on the road. So they have gone to great lengths to make sure you are always close to a bus stop, and that the buses go to all the train stations, and in general it works. Except for when you barely manage to get the last train home, and the damn bus stops at midnight and you have to walk home drunk, but that’s another story. And I have to admit, walking to and from the stations, and running for trains, and climbing up millions of steps, is great exercise.
Here are the other things that Japanese people like to do on trains, other than sleep:
1. send text messages (no talking allowed on trains)
2. apply make-up, especially eyelash curlers, for some reason
4. vomit (Friday nights, especially)
5. look at porn
Really, lots of people read porn. See?
Aren’t trains in Japan great?
10 thoughts on “Sleeping on the train in Japan”
No talking allowed at all? Or just not on phones? I can’t imagine riding the train for hours sitting with a friend and not talking!
I’ve got this thing where I fall asleep within minutes of being on transport so I always sleep on public transport and cars. I somehow miraculously wake up before my destination (thank God). I think I’ll fit in just fine in Japan on transport but no talking? Damn, how do these rules even start?
Interesting post, thanks for sharing.
Oh, good point! No it is just no talking on the phones. But even when talking with friends people talk in VERY hushed tones. It’s called ‘manner mode’… seriously! This is probably why two nights ago taking the train home VERY drunk with my husband I probably made a huge ass of myself being loud and happy. Oh well. Such is life.
Nice, well-written article. I agree, the Japanese seem to have no inhibitions about sleeping on trains. And yet I never saw anyone miss a stop…
Amazing isn’t it how they wake up at the very moment the train arrives at their destination? I think some tiny part of their brain stays awake to be on the look-out for the station.
No talking, but porn is okay. I think I may have to go to Japan 🙂
Oh yeah. Perfectly fine to read manga porn where a lecherous octopus is doing unmentionable things to a big breasted Japanese girl with blue eyes and huge mammaries. The weirdness just never stops around here.
Sounds like my husband.
Ummm…not the lecherous octopus doing unmentionable things…
What I mean is, I think his parents hypnotised him when he was a kid or something. There is no other explanation I can think of.
He wipes out completely the moment he sits/stands still.
He can be talking to you and in mid sentence he goes into snore-mode. I am talking full R.E.M. babe!!! Yet he can awake and tell you exactly what he was just dreaming and answer the question you just asked =•
In his early years, many a teacher has fallen prey to his deviousness. They have caught him with head thrown back in full dream sequence and yelled “What have I just said?!!!” and he has awoken and correctly answered their question. Now he entraps many an innocent employee/union representative. He is a favorite distraction to all the kids in church =)
He is a phenomenon unto himself. A constant source of amusement to my mischief. I have told him he should donate his body to science.
Trinidad & Tobago
Trains are pretty great. Thanks for also supplying proof of the porn readers. It sealed the deal.
Oh how I miss Tokyo!
I have to admit I miss the ‘no talking’rule on the train. It was so nice to make my way to work in peace n quiet, without hearing someone screaming into their phone (Hello NY I see you).
But the transportation system in Japan is just out of this world overall.