This one will be best for residents of London who think they have a hard time commuting on the Tube. Get up early one weekday, and take the train out of the centre a few stops on one of the commuter rail lines. Be sure not to take any luggage or anything too fragile. Rush-hour is quite early in Tokyo – so aim for trains arriving into town around 8:30am. Now just take a train back to central Tokyo. First trick will be getting on – if the train is full then just get on anyway – you walk into the people already on-board and they all get crushed closer together. Then heaps more people will get on after you until your arms are jammed beside your body and you can’t move at all. The next big event will be the doors closing – there’s often an arm or a leg gets caught half-in and half-out – but the train companies have a solution: they hire special part-time workers for rush hour, who run up and down the platform and shove any offending limbs inside. Once this is achieved the train will pull away, only for the same proceedings to repeat two minutes later with the next train.
Just in case you think I might be exaggerating a bit, I’ve put this video here so you can see a manin densha for yourself
Once underway, there’s no need to worry about falling over, as there’s no space to fall into – the bodies of everyone else around you will keep you upright. You can even take your feet off the floor and you’ll be held wedged upright by your neighbours. Most Tokyoites agree that this is the worst aspect of life in their city – and once you’ve experienced it I’m sure you’ll agree. Trains in Tokyo run well over capacity most of the time – but the phrase manin densha is reserved only for the most extreme examples. The experience is so surreal that it’s hard to believe it really goes on day after day at hundreds of stations around Tokyo – but if you can convince yourself when you get home that it wasn’t all a figment of your imagination, you’ll never complain about overcrowded trains again.
Access: Try taking the JR Tokaido line from Yokohama to Tokyo Station – it’s one of the most overcrowded.Shimokitazawa Shibuya