There are many words you could use to describe the world’s busiest train station if you are foolish enough to experience it during morning rush hour!
I have both good and bad memories of Shinjuku Station, which is known to be the busiest train station in the world, based on passenger usage. The first two times I came to Tokyo I stayed at a budget hotel in the area, actually right next to the station, called Hotel Sunroute Plaza Shinjuku. The station is no more than a 1 minute walk across the road and past a few shops. I can remember being grateful that such an important station of the Tokyo Metro (no Shinkansen, though, unfortunately – you must go to Tokyo Station for those) was in such close proximity to my accommodation. This meant the whole city was pretty much within 1 train ride away, and that’s great to know when you’re still learning about the Japanese way of life. However, one morning, I forgot about rush hour in Japan and foolishly tried to head to Ikebukuro just as all the salarymen and women were on their way to the office!
If I told you that Shinjuku Station has 36 platforms then you can realise how confusing it is to navigate, even at the best of times. But when a swarm of people obstruct your path it becomes even harder! Trains comes and go from virtually every platform every 90 seconds or so. This is in stark contrast to the delay-laden rail network I have grown up with in London, where sometimes trains arrive at 8 minute intervals!
When your train does arrive at the platform, I would always advise to stand well-clear of the platform’s edge, just in case you get pushed in front of the oncoming train (accidentally, or otherwise). Even though it may be tempting to get closer to the edge to make sure you are one of the first to fit in the carriage, I still wouldn’t risk it. The Japanese are usually much more orderly than those infamous Beijingers, who will simply trample you if necessary to make sure they get in the carriage in the Chinese capital.
Another thing that separates Japan and China is the quaint jingle that plays over the PA system every time a train arrives at the station. It can get annoying at times – especially seeing as there are so many trains arriving at Shinjuku Station!
When you’ve finally made your way out of Shinjuku Station and are enroute to your destination, you can finally breath (albeit still cramped inside the train) and rest assured that you will soon see clear air again as soon as you arrive in your desired station.
Do you have any stories from crowded commuter trains? How did you survive?