Well, the karmic payback for whatever I did in my past life continues as I wait out Covid-19 here in Orlando, Florida, U.S.A. unable to return to Japan. So, I will fantasize and keep the memories alive. This blog post started out as a Top 10 reasons why I miss living in Japan, but I reached more than 800 words in less than an hour just writing about subways and trains.
Japan’s Subways and Trains are Convenient
I have a serious love affair with Japan’s subways and trains, and Europe’s for that matter. And it’s not just because I won a photography contest Osaka Metro sponsored, which I found out about by riding the subway! But it’s just so wonderful to live without a car! Just a few blocks from the apartment or anywhere you can hop on a subway, transfer to a train or Shinkansen to get anywhere you want in the country.
You stay in shape, too, walking everywhere and climbing subway steps, hauling groceries or books at a station and not having to walk across an ugly asphalt parking lot lagoon like here in the USA. Japanese trains are impeccably on-time. A conductor even apologized for leaving the station 20 second ahead of schedule. The only problem on subways in Osaka for me was rush hour. Because of the claustrophobic, human rights abusing packed conditions, I couldn’t get on a subway between 7 and 9 a.m. There’s a reason for women only cars…. An invisible ink was developed to identify gropers.
I loved zipping up to Tokyo from Osaka on the Shinkansen in 2 ½ hours. Being able to relax, look out the window and spot Mt. Fuji, sleep or be able to work on the comfy train safely is a blessing. No road rage, cell phone distracted drivers or annoying long stop lights you could write a novella while waiting for a green light. You can even commute to Tokyo from Osaka! They’re clean, comfy and all you have to do is step on and off you go. It’s grounding and just like flying, except not the pain in the ass airport and security nightmare you have in the USA.
One of the most amazing things is that a train takes you right up to Universal Studios Japan. No expensive, walk-across-the-lengthy-asphalt-parking-lot hell like here in Florida. Trains also help you get along with people and is egalitarian. You’re not isolated in your car. In fairness, crazy shit happens on Japan’s Shinkansens too, like random stabbings. But it’s pretty rare. They have charming trains too, like the Eizan Electric Railway in Kyoto. Sakai City, Hiroshima and Nagasaki still have electric trams. Love it! Sadly, the Shiden, as the trams are called, are in decline in Kyoto and elsewhere in Japan.
The Sad State of Trains in the United States of America
Compare that to the shambles our trains are here in the USA. Florida newspapers daily are filled with deadly car crashes and pedestrian deaths, with Florida having one of the highest pedestrians death rates in the US. That trip to Florida you have planned will be spent mostly staring at a lot of bumper to bumper traffic. Thank god President Biden likes taking Amtrak, and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is looking into high-speed trains to catch America up with the world. I rode Amtrak a lot from Denver to Los Angeles many years ago. I tried Amtrak from DeLand to Orlando five years ago. The first time worked well with a small delay. The second time it was delayed I asked the attendant when it would show up. She said, “I have no idea.”
Getting into a car in the USA is one of the most dangerous things you can do each day. Florida’s Interstate Highway 4 has ranked as the most dangerous in America! I’m sure it’s because of the ubiquitous personal injury billboards that blight Orlando roads, unconsciously programming drivers to contribute to the local economy by crashing into each other so we can read how “Dan got me $500,000!”
Then there’s rabid support for driving on the beach in Daytona Beach, even on pristine areas that haven’t been driven on in decades. That’s right. As if there aren’t enough cars in America to keep you from the beach because it is an inexorable traffic jam to get to it, they want to keep driving on the beach, even if it kills people. I won’t get into the more private toll roads-to-nowhere to be built that the Gov. Ron DeSantis’s pals want to enrich themselves with by destroying more pristine nature.
There are a record number of hungry Americans, evident by the lines of cars in breadlines. People would have all the money they need to afford food if they didn’t have that car and insurance payments, gas and oil change charges, new tires and windshield wipers and myriad other expenses for this artificial necessity. In DeLand, there isn’t a public bus to the High School or Community college! My daughter wouldn’t had to catch a public school bus at 6 a.m. for the 5 minute drive to the high school. When I drove her, it was a nightmare traffic jam cops had to direct. Fucked up!
I celebrated when they built SunRail here in Florida, and I loved being able to walk out of my DeLand house to take it, even if it took 2 hours to get to Orlando and meet my husband-to-be. Problem was I couldn’t get back, the schedule is so limited and doesn’t run on weekends! Now they are actually considering linking it to the Orlando International Airport! What a concept!
I could go on and on and on about my love of Japanese transportation. I realize the biggest issue for most Americans is that they just don’t know HOW to not drive a car, read a bus or train schedule or carry a grocery bag to get anywhere, unless you are poor and have to ride the bus, which is racism plain and simple. I grew up in Boulder, Colorado where I rode a bike in the sleet and snow to get around, at least before I turned 40. And you see Japanese in the summer riding bikes clothed head to toe in 100 degree weather. It’s an adjustment, but a good one. Your health, sanity, survival and the environment depend on it. I have hope for America yet!