Japan Life: The riding rate of a commuting train

At the end of July, Yuriko Koike won the Tokyo gubernatorial election by a wide margin. She is the first woman governor in Tokyo. Before the election, she set her goals in her speech; “no crowded trains” and “no overtime work.”

I think it’s impossible to reach the goals. But, the goals are not bad vision. If the new governor gets rid of a half amount of crowded trains and overtime work, it will be a historical milestone because the crowded trains in Tokyo give a huge impact to the quality of Tokyo life.

Do you know how horrible the crowded trains in Tokyo are? You can find some videos on YouTube by searching with the keywords; “crowded train Japan.”

Here is interesting PDF reported by Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT). By the PDF, the average of the riding rate in Tokyo in rush hour is 165%. It’s average, not the maximum percentage. Different lines have different riding rates. The maximum is over 200%.

But, what do over 100% means? MILT classified the riding rate as the following;

  • 100%: Everybody can have a seat, hold a strap or hold a pole.
  • 150%: Everybody can open a newspaper to read.
  • 180%: Everybody can read a newspaper but cannot open it.
  • 200%: Everybody has a contact of other people, but they can manage to read their weekly magazine.
  • 250%: Everybody cannot move their limbs.

I don’t know why this report sticks with reading something. But, the figure illustrated why Japanese game market moved on mobile. Even if the riding rate is 180%, we can tap on the screen of our smartphone to play a game.

And, this is why Japanese work-life balance is not good. Also, the commuting time is not short because expensive rent in Tokyo let people far from the central of Tokyo. In the fact, when I worked in Tokyo, I lived in Yokohama, Kanagawa prefecture because rent was one-third from Tokyo’s rent. (But the commuting time was three hours in round trip.)

I can say that people working in Tokyo ride on a crowded train, which the riding rate is about 165%, in a long hour and then work overtime. The work-life balance is, of course, not good.

How to avoid the crowded train?

If you have a plan to work in Tokyo, I have three advises to reduce stresses from the crowded train.

At first, find a job which your work starts at 10 am or 11 am. The rush hour in Tokyo is from 7 am to 8 am because a lot of company starts working at 9 am. Even if your work starts at 11 am, it may be difficult to take a seat on the commuting train, but you can keep your personal space.

At second, to shorten your commuting time, live near your office. This advice is not to avoid the crowded train, but to reduce stress from the commuting time. (While you have to pay a lot of money for your micro apartment.)

At third, avoid the crowded line. It’s not easy to find non-crowded lines, but you can find “worst 10 lines” quickly.

Note: By the PDF, the riding rate 165% is the lowest rate in 40 years. The graph in the PDF shows that the average in the 1970s was 200%. It descended slightly and remains steady.

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