Julia Windom Temple Japan

Subways; From NYC to Tokyo

I studied in New York this past semester, and it amazes me the differences between the two cities. Although there are lots of similarities because they are both global cities, the differences are noticeable. What first caught my attention was the difference between the subways, aka the trains, the fares, the stations themselves.
In New York the subways are gross to say the least. There are a few lines that are in good condition, but mostly they are rundown. The platforms are covered with gum and cockroaches. The tracks have their famous large rats. There are music performers and beggars on the platforms and in the trains themselves. However, Tokyo is entirely different.
Although the trains can be uncomfortably packed, they are of a higher quality. The train cars have cushioned seats. There are heaters under the seats to keep you from getting cold, without making the car stuffy. Everything is bright, clean, and welcoming (excluding the kanji). However, It is not because the cars and stations are newer, but because they are well kept. The platforms and tunnels are cleaned regularly. The sides of the hallways have drains for the regular cleaning. I have even seen people scrubbing the tactile paving on the platform, so it gleamed bright yellow. There is no gum on the ground, there isn’t trash lying around, it is kept clean. Why? I am no expert, but I believe it is for the well-being of those who use the train. Japanese culture is very keen on community. It would be culturally incorrect to trash a publicly used area or allow it to become undesirable.
In addition, many people wear masks on the train. Many where masks in general, but I have noticed it becomes more common than not when on the train. This is for personal preservation and as to not share whatever cold you might have caught while sitting in such close proximity to another. It is polite, and another reflection on how they are aware of eachother’s personal space in public areas.
In addition trains are mostly quite. You would never have break dancers barge in with boom-boxes to preform. That would be disruptive to everyone sitting in the car. In Japan conversations are minimal, and spoken quietly again out of respect for those sitting next to you.
The one thing you have to be careful of is rush hour. I have ridden in rush hour in New York and it was very uncomfortable, however Japan is worse. I am not sure how people do it, but there is no room to breathe when in a car during rush hour. I even found myself lifted when people were leaving before my stop. There are train cars reserved for only women in the rush hour, and if I find myself again riding at this time, I will make use of these cars.
Also, New York’s trains are fairly easy to navigate; they run parallel to each other, following the main avenues. The trains are owned by the same company, and each fare is the same price no matter how far you go, $2.25. If you get a month pass you can travel any where in New York without worrying about fares. Japan has many different lines and prices vary depending on how far you go. You can get a commuting pass, but it only covers from the two stations, which you use from home to work.
All in all there are some benefits to each cities’ subway system. However, since living in New York and now commuting in Tokyo I have decided to ride a bike. I do not want my mornings spent underground. We will see what observations I make from this experience. I am not an experienced biker, but I am a runner. Hopefully this helps.がんばります!


  1. good luck! and don’t drop anything on those crowded trains!
    (have you noticed there are no garbage cans on the platforms either?)

  2. I haven’t noticed! I will have to look next time. I know there are a lot of recycling bins everywhere… In the streets it is easier to find recycling compared to trash cans…

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