An Ode To Japanese Trains

Okayama Shinkansen Platform

The shinkansen platform at Okayama

I had a dream a while back that I was in Tokyo trying to get somewhere on a train, but I couldn’t because it kept skipping my station. When I woke up I decided that it was probably the Keihin-Tohoku Line. No one likes that train.

But I do love other trains in Tokyo. I’ve ridden the Yamanote Line all the way around the loop, just for fun. And it was awesome. JR East and I are bros. I’m not as close to the Tokyo Metro, because I’ve never had to rely on it too much, but I’ve also never got myself horribly lost traveling that way. The trains are easy (the map makes it look worse than it is), they’re convenient (unless it’s the Keihin-Tohoku Line), and I love them. It sounds weird, but the trains are one of the things I miss most. And one of the reasons I don’t ever want to live on Shikoku again. Shikoku is the most backwater part of Japan and, accordingly, JR Shikoku and Iyo-Tetsu, Ehime’s local transit, suck.

Don’t get me wrong, I actually really like Shikoku and I wish more foreigners would visit. It’s a great region. But the longer I lived there the more I realized that trains and Japan go together for me. The first time I visited Tokyo from Matsuyama, I took the very last shinkansen up from Okayama on a Friday and, as we pulled into Shinagawa Station in the middle of the night, I stared out the window at Tokyo neon and just sighed because it was such a perfect moment. That’s my Japan and I’d missed it when I was living down south, where it’s rural and beautiful, but a little out of date.

When other people think of being in Japan, they think of temples, or sushi on conveyer belts, or UFO catchers in arcades. I think of Tokyo late at night when it’s glowing and busy, or very early in the morning when the shops haven’t opened and it’s quiet. I think of chatting with shop staff. I think of the most delicious mozzarella tomato cream pasta in the world, from a chain that shouldn’t be anything special, but somehow is.

And very, very often, I think of trains.

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