Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Suicide Trains

My long vacation finished, I dragged my sorry bones out of bed earlier than normal. Even earlier than I normally would if I was heading to class since today I was heading for a day of training and workshops in Osaka. I don't work there, but the head office of my company is located there and it's the most central location for all teachers to meet. Normally, on a good day; it should take me about 90minutes to get there. I take the JR (Japan railway) then switch in Osaka to the subway.

As I raced through Sannomiya Station (the main JR station in Kobe) and pushed my way through the crowds (a technique deemed rude here, but one I perfected in Korea) I got to the train platform and foolishly realized I should have looked at the schedule boards downstairs before making my way through the turn-styles. The trains were all delayed by about one hour and the platform was a madhouse of black-suited salarymen looking more than a little stressed. I was forced to dash back out of the station and head to the Hanshin Railway, where I had the misfortune of taking THE most crowded train I've ever been on in this point.

I've gone through this drill before many times while trying to get to work. The trains are abnormally late, or at least what one might deem as abnormally late. For those wise to the ways of the riding the JR in Japan, you'll know there's only one reasonable explanation for your train arriving one hour later than scheduled...suicide.

Jumping in front of a JR train is one of the most popular ways of offing yourself in Japan and of course, Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the entire world. People here, for a wide variety of reasons, take their lives and apparently the JR is a wonderfully convenient way to do it. What happens in the end? You have a dismembered lady or fella, a destroyed family left behind and commuter hell.

This REALLY pisses me off because it normally happens at least once or twice a week while I'm trying to get to work in the morning. I realize my opinion is quite cold and maybe even a bit on the "asshole" side, but there you have with it. If you have experience commuting here, you'd agree!

In the end, I got to my training session only 30 minutes late. Lots of people throughout the Kansai region got to work late as well. I'm just amazed at how common it really is. It's just a sad and inconvenient truth about being a commuter in Japan.

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