The Morning Commute to Waseda

I’ve experienced a lot after coming to Japan, but one of the most — for lack of a better word — Japanese situations I’ve faced so far is definitely the adventure of the morning commute. And no, I’m not exaggerating when I say these subway rides are an adventure. 

Up until early March this year, I lived in a small apartment five minutes away from Waseda. As a result, I was lucky enough not to know what rush hour in Tokyo was like. Every time I heard my circle’s senpais talk about how early they’d have to wake up the next day to get to school on time, I would always think Dang, I’m glad I live near school. Imagine standing back-to-back with some stranger on the train first thing in the morning! 

Alas, I ended up moving out of my first apartment and am now living a few stations away from the university. Naturally, this meant that I also had to start taking the subway to get to campus. It’s worth mentioning that I live at a stop that usually lets me find an empty seat, but three months of going back and forth have taught me that standing is a much better option. Not only does sitting down mean that I have to awkwardly look down at my lap to avoid making eye contact with whoever’s standing in front of me, but it also makes getting off the train that much harder. Because not everyone in the car gets off at the same stop as I do, I have to push myself through the crowd to make sure I make it onto the platform before the dreaded “The door is closing. Please be careful.” announcement. Doing this while (1) trying to be polite, (2) holding a wet umbrella, (3) carrying a backpack that somehow always gets caught between people is truly a struggle in itself.

Personal experience aside, the overwhelming influx of passengers that squeeze in at Takadanobaba (the stop right before Waseda) always makes me wonder how safe the morning commute really is. One of my classmates lamented about how she genuinely feels like she’s being suffocated during her commutes to school -- an unsurprising comment, considering that the Tozai Line is one of the most crowded transit lines in Tokyo. The sight of multiple station employees desperately pushing people into the subway cars can be both humorous (‘We’re all a bunch of sardines zooming around Tokyo in a giant silver can, haha!) and disturbing (‘Wait, but is this safe? Isn’t this a potential fire hazard?), but I guess I can’t really complain because it’s simply another step towards efficiency. 

If you’re a student at Waseda, you’ll probably know about morning commute problems all too well. Though it can (literally) be a stifling routine, I think we should all look to the bright side and appreciate the fact that Tokyo’s public transportation system makes up for all this with extreme timeliness. (Looking at you, MTA!)