Flash forward to Shibuya Station, a major transfer point between various subway and commuter train lines in central Tokyo. It’s the closest thing to a human beehive you’ll ever see. Thousands of people stream through the perplexing warren of corridors, tunnels and concourses. There is no bear-left or bear-right rule for walking: You look straight ahead of you, pay attention and take responsibility for not bumping into anyone. It’s an admirable approach.
The trains themselves are relatively quiet and impeccably clean. Japanese etiquette forbids eating or talking loudly on the subway. Cellphone-free areas and women-only cars add to the general air of calm and order.
In this instalment of our occasional series about what Toronto can learn from other cities, we look to Tokyo and how its people manage to be civilized on overcrowded public transport
A stout middle-aged woman stared at me, stone-faced, as I pleaded with her to shift her legs enough for me to take the subway window seat. She was an aisle sitter. By blocking the path to the window, these creatures hope to get two seats for the price of one and ride in relative luxury.
“I am not putting up with this!” I shouted at the woman’s unmoving face. “Do you think you’re riding on a first-class Metropass?”
But what is the point of recounting such a mundane encounter? Everyone knows the North American transit rider is a boor — blocking, pushing, spitting, burping, farting, spilling, playing at being a DJ, using the outside voice inside. My friend who…
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