Once you get past the somewhat unintelligible twists and turns of the many lines taking you to and from. Once you are able to discern a path through the throngs of people snaking around (and at times into) each other, and once you grasp the concept of checking the maps to see which exit to use (less you be sent off miles from your intended destination), the Tokyo metro can be quite a pleasing experience.
Almost everything about the metro is designed for your comfort and convenience. The trains glide gracefully into the station without the typical grinding squeaking clamor. When the doors open, a brief classical music tune can be heard. Each station has a song, this is to assist the blind and young school children who ride the metro to school find their stops.
Many of the stations have gates surrounding the platform, you do not have to worry about a crazy person pushing you into the tracks, or fainting before an oncoming train in the humid heat of August.
Before boarding the train, awaiting passengers on the platform form civilized queues. There is often a conductor, with white gloves, to help ensure all passengers make it into their cars.
Each train can be tracked. You know exactly when your chariot is scheduled to arrive. If you are in for a long wait, no worries. You can help yourself to a coffee, a beer, or a soda, from one of the many vending machines. Or perhaps you’d like to patron the waiting station, an enclosed (in case it is winter) area with seats.
Once you’ve boarded your train, upholstered seats await you. The trains are clean, as are the stations; you will not see roaches or rats.
Are you pregnant, elderly, on crutches or riding with a small child? No worries. There is a designated seating area just for you. Usually people will move aside so that you can take a seat.
Darn, couldn’t grab a seat and you’ve got a purse and a grocery bag, perhaps a brief case and a suit jacket? No problem. There are ledges above the seats where you may place your items, nobody will take your belongings, and you are free to relax. In fact, feel free to pull out your I-phone without worrying about it being snatched from your hands by a gang of teenagers.
Halfway into your commute and suddenly have to use the restroom? Well you’re in luck; every few cars are equipped with a bathroom (yes they’re clean). Transitioning from car to car is easy, most trains are open, and the doors separating the cars remain unhinged to allow for smooth passage.
Sound too good to be true? There are no catches here, this is more than a commuter’s fantasy, it is real. Welcome to Tokyo, where the metro is designed for your comfort- almost. The metro is, to be fair, a navigational nightmare if you don’t speak Japanese and are unable to decipher characters.
And warning to the night owls, the trains completely stop running at one am. Wherever you are in your commute, at one, even if you are on a train and are halfway to your destination, the service will shut down. Luckily taxis are lined up outside of the stations but they are very expensive, very, very expensive. Many a late-night club-hopper can be found sound asleep on the sidewalks near the train stations on weekend mornings.