Japan is not a very large country. With an area of nearly 378,000 square kilometers, Japan is slightly smaller than the state of Montana in the United States (381,000 sq. km). However, the population density in Japan (about 127 million) is 127 times greater than the population density of Montana (less than 1 million people).
Such population density, along with the high level of development of the Japanese economy (third in the world by gross domestic product [GDP]), requires a highly developed transportation system. The national highway system and domestic airlines' network are well developed and very efficient. However, the most important means of transportation used by the Japanese are undoubtedly the vast grid of intercity high-speed trains, commuter trains and subway systems. Trains and subways in Japan operate like clockwork and are among the best in the world not only for their safety but also for their punctuality. Apart from Tokyo and Yokohama, seven other cities in Japan have subway systems: Sapporo, Sendai, Fukuoka, Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto and Nagoya.
Tokyo’s network of surface railway and underground trains
is among the world’s most intricate. The oldest line (completed in 1925), and nucleus of the system is the JR (Japan Railway) Yamanote Line, which loops around the city and links with other lines at all major stations. The JR Chuo Line cuts across the Yamanote Line’s loop. Additionally, there are 13 subway lines including 9 Tokyo Metro lines and 4 Toei Subway lines. Each line is identified by different color, and the stations follow the color coding plus letters and numbers.
Some of the busiest stations have several over-ground and underground levels and connect many long-distance trains (intercity), commuter railways and subway lines. For example, Shinjuku Station in Tokyo has 35 platforms at various levels and serves as a connection to 13 lines. The station is used by about 3.7 million people every day, making it the largest and busiest station in the world
Therefore, it is never too early for Japanese kids to learn about the urban mass-transport network, the complex world of underground stations, the fares and connections schemes, and the protocols and manners to be used in order to endure the intricate transportation system that allows the inhabitants of large cities to move from home to the school, the office, the industrial complex, the shrine or the hospital.
There is a real code of conduct
that most train users abide by. This allows millions of people to move from one place to another on time and with a minimum of conflict. According to Reuters News Service
, the Association of Japanese Private Railways
conducted a survey in 2009 asking 4,200 subway users about the actions of fellow passengers they find most annoying. The list of most aggravating transgressions follows:
1. Noisy conversation.
2. Turning on the cellphone and the volume up.
3. People who intrude on others’ space while sitting.
4. Not setting cell phone to silent mode and answering calls.
5. Pushing other passengers when getting on or off the train.
6. Women putting on makeup.
7. Leaving trash behind.
8. Sitting on the floor.
9. Being drunk.
10. Carrying baby strollers on crowded trains.
Japanese children learn from an early age the regulations and skills needed to use and navigate the subways. The following pictures show several groups of very young students in their training expedition in the subway of the city of Sapporo in Hokkaido, Japan.