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December 10, 2010 3:32 PM   Subscribe

Tokyo Compression.
posted by bwg (35 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
And I thought the N Judah at rush hour was the most horrible public transportation experience one could have. I clearly need to do more traveling.
posted by quadog at 3:47 PM on December 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


yes, quadog, I'm afraid you do. maybe try the commuter trains in India where the 2nd class seats are the luggage racks above the 1st class seats?

my spouse experiences something similar to these photos on the Nagoya City subway lines 4 mornings a week...but it's his day off today and after viewing the portfolio I have a sudden urge to go make him the best breakfast ever.
posted by squasha at 4:07 PM on December 10, 2010


Wolf is great at capturing these, he's a fine photographer.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:25 PM on December 10, 2010


what an odd interface
posted by nathancaswell at 4:31 PM on December 10, 2010


My Japanese language teacher, Nakayama Sensei, told us a story about when she was a (tiny and light) young woman in college. I forget which city it was but she said she was able to rest her feet on the train at rush hour by just picking them up. The crush of people would hold her in place.
posted by Babblesort at 4:41 PM on December 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


Its a fantastic photographic project, but man, how depressing (as opposed to compressing). Like the Dead Marshes in the Lord of the Rings movie.
posted by Namlit at 4:44 PM on December 10, 2010


Don't show this to our new Governor, Scott Walker... Think he hates public rail, now, just wait til he sees this!
posted by symbioid at 5:08 PM on December 10, 2010


Also? You're welcome, California.
posted by symbioid at 5:08 PM on December 10, 2010


The crush of people would hold her in place.

That line is very poetic and evocative. I'll definitely steal it, if you don't mind, for use in a song sometime.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:14 PM on December 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Why don't they just add more cars? I would go insane if I had to do that.
posted by Bonzai at 5:55 PM on December 10, 2010


Saw these a couple of days ago and it reminded me of the tight traps that the London tube and the prams (trams?) in Prague can be. In London, I had folks screaming and laughing as they dragged myself and others into the over packed cars. It was pretty hilarious and fun to be held by my my arms and back lest I, and others, fell out at stops.

The Prague situation was much cooler as we had a marching band stuck in the car with us. They were held up so they could play their instruments and I and many others produced bottles of various sorts which were happily passed around by the commuters.

Take that Tokyo metro!
And thanks to all the late Friday business men who manage to puke on the floor in that environment.
posted by artof.mulata at 6:13 PM on December 10, 2010


Just a hint, for anyone planning on visiting Tokyo: avoid the Tozai line. You're lucky, as it's not a very tourist site laden line, but dear god. To put things in perspective, 100% capacity is reached when every seat is taken and every strap or handrail is being used. The Tozai line reaches 200% capacity every day. My own personal nightmare of a trip involved an old salaryman who just decided to use my back as a pillow, even though we were both standing up. I couldn't move, and there was very little I could do to dislodge him. For twenty minutes that fucker just snored away in the middle of July, and the air conditioners weren't all that effective. When I got home, my shirt was covered in whatever pomade he used, and had to be thrown out.

In other words, avoid the Tozai line.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:52 PM on December 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


Why don't they just add more cars?

Because the length of the subway platforms are fixed. You can't just keep adding cars! Perhaps you mean why don't they add more trains? And that would probably be because they are running as many as is possible, essentially.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:31 PM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Bonzai: Why don't they just add more cars?

flapjax: Because the length of the subway platforms are fixed.


So some cars don't open at their doors at the stations where the entire train doesn't fit. I don't see why they can't add more cars, unless the topography(?) of the rail line won't accommodate trains past a certain length?
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:58 PM on December 10, 2010


super fucking cool. thanks for posting
posted by lakersfan1222 at 8:59 PM on December 10, 2010


The photos were poignant, the site was distracting in its design. Doesn't this just test the the limits of humanity? Perhaps the only way these people survive is that they see this (previously) instead of pomade-encrusted old men.
posted by ~Sushma~ at 9:03 PM on December 10, 2010


that said, i'm not sure about this guy's earlier work
posted by lakersfan1222 at 9:04 PM on December 10, 2010


SuperSquirrel, the thing is, the people who planned and implemented the Tokyo subway system? They know their shit. They have hundreds and hundreds of trains running every day, with every stop planned down to the second. They do constant evaluations of traffic patterns and commuter flow. If there were a better, feasible way (such as lengthening trains, widening cars, increasing the number of trains), they'd likely have already done it. In other words, they have top men working on it. Top. Men.

You should keep in mind, this is a subway (and rail system) where apologetic announcements are made when the train is going to be 30 seconds late. I'm not usually one to use the word competence when talking about a large Japanese company, but they really, really have thought this through. The system, while it does work, is strained to capacity, and ways of dealing with it are, well, in the planning, and it takes a while.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:34 PM on December 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


~Sushma~, it only really tests the limits of humanity if you're not used to it. For most people using the system, it is how it is, and it's always been that way. When I lived in China, the buses were (to me) terrifyingly crowded, and always unpleasant. One time, though, I managed to get on a bus where I was the only passenger, and for me, it was glorious. I told my students about it, and they said it sounded scary, and they probably wouldn't get on the bus. When I ask them if I had possibly boarded some kind of dangerous rogue bus or something, they said no, just that the idea of being on a bus without other passengers seemed bizarre and unpleasant.

That said, people have their own ways of dealing with it. I'd say that somewhere between 50-75% of the people on any given train are wearing headphones. A number of them will be listening to music, watching video or tv, or texting. Some people read. A lot of them sleep. The goal is to just shut out the crush and focus on something else. I know that the 15 year old me living in western Michigan wouldn't have been able to deal with that Tozai line situation, but I'd been using that train for a couple years at that point, and knew what to expect. It sucks, but you 我慢, you gaman, you put up with it, you endure it, because well, there's nothing you can really do about it.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:49 PM on December 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


A Japanese coworker told me that before smart phones, the common reading material was a newspaper tightly rolled up into a scroll, showing just a line of vertical text at a time, so as to conserve the very limited space. The more practiced one became at it, the easier it would be to shift over to the next line of text without unrolling the scroll. The mental picture of this made me smile: these pictures make me hold my breath!
posted by eegphalanges at 9:59 PM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I guess you can get used to anything but I would still freak out. If I was born there I'd have to emigrate to Montana or something.
posted by Bonzai at 10:43 PM on December 10, 2010


Jesus fuckity fuckpots. Why is it that photographers and restaurants (Photographers, and restaurants FFS!) have the absolute goddamned craziest-Ima-let-you-finish-but-geocities-had-the-best-websites-of-all-time-of-all-time unviewable websites in the history of the world ever?

I mean shitting quackdongs, is it that hard to whip up a few tables - or better yet, see a frigging website that, you know, doesn't make your eyes start bleeding after three fucking seconds and think "You know what? I like that design, I'm going to do something just like it on my website so that people aren't reduced to setting themselves alight in the square in protest against my clunky, off-centred, "characterful", java-pustule infested POS random ascii generator that I am currently calling a website?"

Why? Why dear god? Do you want me to view your photos, or is this like some kind of quest when only after much suffering am I granted - an inevitably small, usually popped up - glimpse of Shangri La? If you don't want me viewing your frigging photos - and it certainly doesn't feel like it over in User-Experience Land - why are you putting them online??? Is it some kind of prank, a nematode-bejewelled carrot to lure the canker-coated donkey that is I, pathetic internet user, into dementedly cantering after your pixel-trove, only to be abused and laughed at?

Do you, artist or restaurant owner, ever use the internet? Do you know what a website is? Understand its purpose? Accept that people are viewing this on a screen, usually a computer screen? Or do you think it's some kind of shadow-puppet allegory, built on the whimsy of pixies and the haunting notes of wavelets in a loch, gently purling onto sand spun from the gossamer threads of dreams?

I mean goddamned finger-banging marmosets, it's not too much to ask is it? IS IT??

(Note: this tirade is the culmination of many restaurants and photographers. The current one was merely the last fucking straw)
posted by smoke at 1:13 AM on December 11, 2010 [7 favorites]


The real story here is the age old battle between photographers and web usability.
Photographers seem to be winning.
posted by signal at 5:16 AM on December 11, 2010


Ghidorah: "In other words, they have top men working on it. Top. Men. "

So do you know why have these Top. Men. decided that "Add more cars to the train" is not a feasible solution? I really am just curious, I'm not trying to question anyone's competence. I can see why widening cars would be rejected - that would also require widening the tracks, which could be prohibitively expensive or not physically possible in certain areas. And adding more trains could be unsafe if the system already is running the maximum number.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:15 AM on December 11, 2010


I am not a train engineering type person but one possible answer as to why no more train cars can be added is that train cars are heavy and any given engine car can only pull so many. No motor has a limitless capacity.

The Japanese train engineering type persons surely do know their shit. There are "a train door will be open here" zones painted at platforms' edges. When the train stops at your platform the doors will open at the exact bounds of that loading zone. If you stood in that zone and stepped forward at the moment the clock ticked to the designated arrival minute 95 times out a hundred you'd step onto a train through an open door. The schedule and placment is that exact.
posted by Babblesort at 8:09 AM on December 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


> yes, quadog, I'm afraid you do. maybe try the commuter trains in India where the 2nd class seats are the luggage racks above the 1st class seats?

You haven't travelled in India until you've done a 20 hour journey in a third class only train.

I agree though that these Tokyo trains look nice by comparison.
posted by walrus at 8:20 AM on December 11, 2010


Babblesort: "I am not a train engineering type person but one possible answer as to why no more train cars can be added is that train cars are heavy and any given engine car can only pull so many. No motor has a limitless capacity."

Oh, that makes total sense. Thanks!
posted by SuperSquirrel at 9:09 AM on December 11, 2010


And how do they get that way? There are pushers whose job it is to, well, push people onto trains. (I thought I had seen this on Metafilter, but I can't find it now.)
posted by whatnotever at 10:15 AM on December 11, 2010


why have these Top. Men. decided that "Add more cars to the train" is not a feasible solution

Usually they put as many cars as possible in order to completely cover the platform length. Any more and you have cars you can't enter/exit safely.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:48 AM on December 11, 2010


Aside from the physical limitations babblesort points out, the logistics are pretty difficult too. If you've got a platform 10 cars long, and you have a train that's fifteen cars long, you're relying on everyone knowing exactly where to get on the train, and exactly where to get off the train.

Now, a lot of hardened commuters know exactly where to stand to come out closest to the exit (Sobu line, car seven, first door, for the escalators at Makuharihongo, car six first door for Nishifunabashi, dear god, help me), but a lot of people don't really pay that much attention/reach that level of commuter-nerditry. As I mentioned earlier, people like to escape to their own world on trains, and the resulting mess when, on average, three or four people (though probably more)per car that doesn't open, who then panic and try to get to the opened cars, would be hellish. When I was talking about the people planning this stuff, I'm sure they've thought about it pretty carefully, and have most likely considered doing that, but found it to be unfeasible.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:29 PM on December 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


These lucky riders. Not only do they get to enjoy the squash and stench of their fellow riders, they get to get photographed doing it. This is why I never apologize for wearing sunglasses on the subway. At night.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 11:38 PM on December 11, 2010


stench of their fellow riders

Dude, it's Japan. People don't stink here like they do in most other countries.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:00 AM on December 12, 2010


So do you know why have these Top. Men. decided that "Add more cars to the train" is not a feasible solution?

They have actually been doing this ever since rail lines in Tokyo have been open. Although urban planners try to assume what usage will be like when they design new lines, inevitably population growth will outpace their estimates. Since buying land to extend platforms and build new lines is quite expensive (especially in a country with severe fiscal deficits like Japan), construction cannot keep up, and crowding occurs.

Train crowding in Tokyo has actually gotten much better since the 1970s and 1980s. This is due not only to longer trains and new lines but also to new routes made possible by interconnections between existing lines. Especially now that no new major rail construction is planned for Tokyo, increasing throughput where possible is the main objective. Even that is reaching its limit on some lines (e.g. during the morning peak, a train comes once every one minute, 50 sections).

I am not a train engineering type person but one possible answer as to why no more train cars can be added is that train cars are heavy and any given engine car can only pull so many. No motor has a limitless capacity.

This is not really relevant in Japan, where most passenger trains are made up of multiple units with motors in every second or third car.

Dude, it's Japan. People don't stink here like they do in most other countries.

Come summer, the lack of deodorant among the middle-aged salaryman class will make itself apparent.
posted by armage at 5:56 AM on December 13, 2010


haha! yeah, you're right, armage. I guess I'm just lucky that I'm very very rarely on rush hour trains. Tell you though, one thing that bugs me is having ladies with waaay too much perfume on sit down next to me. On occasion I've had to get up and move to another car.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:03 AM on December 13, 2010


Totally missed this thread earlier, but the double brought it to my attention... I was born in Beijing and the buses there were and are ridiculously crowded. The first time I got on a bus in Austin, I ran up the steps to stake a spot... and there were maybe 5 seats occupied on the whole bus. It was a different world.

I also remember taking the train from Beijing to Lanzhou. I think I was 3 or 4. My parents actually passed me (and some luggage) through a window to stake a spot on the inside while they tried to squeeze through the crowd at the doors.
posted by kmz at 3:37 PM on December 13, 2010


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