Crap car capture

After finally swapping the busy trains for the, erm, equally busy roads, I can now happily indulge in the wearisome web practice of taking pictures of routine random stuff whilst out and about in the car.

However due to the inherent danger involved, and considering it was my first time, I somewhat cowardly made sure I was safely in ‘park’ before attempting the manoeuvre. Although I did rather rebelliously refrain from switching the hazard warning lights on.

on the road

(click image for higher-res reflective rubbishness)

Golden goodness?

After four months of hard slog since the New Year break, most Japanese can now kick back and enjoy the current Golden Week holidays. A rather aptly named spot of time off, as prices for flights and hotels double at the very least, shamelessly shafting the millions of people trying to make the most of this short vacation.

Still, why worry about money when the chance of a stress-relieving holiday presents itself? Yet whilst getting away from it all is arguably more important than financial concerns, it’s a pity that the actual getting away part is such a hassle.

Certainly doing battle at the airport is not for the faint-hearted.

There again, a journey on a shinkansen may be even worse, seat occupancy ranging from a decidedly uncomfortable 130%, to a quite frankly bloody awful 180%. Statistics that mean sights like the one below will be reserved solely for those who manage to push and prod their way on to the carriage first.

Yet being crammed and crushed on a train for several hours may well be preferable to traveling by car, with several routes out of Tokyo inflicting over 50-kilometre traffic jams on heroic holidaymakers yesterday.

That said, when they all eventually reach their destinations, it’ll at last be rest and relaxation time. A few days to idle away with the masses of other want-away workers and holiday-starved sightseers…

Comatose commuters

Despite suffering often long and stressful journeys, Japan’s hordes of commuters (furtive fiddlers aside) aren’t exactly the most imaginative bunch. Well, not according to a nationwide survey that has been kindly translated by the always informative What Japan Thinks.

The study of 5,625 train travelers – which admittedly allowed multiple answers – found that a staggering 69.6% of commuters spend their journey sleeping. Both surprising and something of a feat considering that bagging a seat is generally a novelty; an occurrence to fondly remember on the majority of other, less fortunate treks.

japan train
a rare, conscious commuter this morning

After sleeping, the second most popular pastime it seems is sending text messages. A practice that between naps a hefty 64.1% of train riders indulge in, quite possibly mailing other, similarly soporific slumberers.

Yet it’s only when we arrive at the third most regular routine that the word ‘unimaginative’ really rings true. Perhaps it’s the reason why people end up sleeping so much, but a whopping 62.2% of those questioned while away the hours by, erm, reading in-train advertisements. Now maybe I’ve got an attention span disorder, or my inquisitiveness in regards to cleaning products and diarrhea tablets is sadly lacking, but there has to be a more productive way of spending hour after hour, day after day, doesn’t there?

japanese train
some riveting reading yesterday

Apparently not it would seem, as sneaking in just behind playing mobile phone games is the mind-boggling dull commuting custom of ‘chewing gum and sucking sweets’. Those advertised on the train perchance? Either way, a hefty 44.9% of entertainment-starved travelers indulge in such sugar-based banality, monotonously masticating themselves silly.

japanese gum
a packet of gum last week

Now admittedly the list does include the rather more worthwhile habits of reading, listening to music, and even conversing with other commuters, but I’ve conveniently omitted them, as they have no amusement value whatsoever. Unlike ‘doing nothing’, which a rather worrying 14.9% of commuters do – or indeed don’t do – everyday.

And finally there’s the 0.4% of people who do ‘other’ things, which quite possibly brings us back to furtive fiddling again…

Bow W.O.W

Pet transportation it seems is the current big thing in Japan, as just a few days after the introduction of new animal train tickets, Honda Motors has unveiled a concept car that caters specifically for canines.

The W.O.W (or ‘wonderful openhearted wagon’) as it is rather optimistically named, is designed for the country’s growing number of dog owners; a purpose built glove compartment allowing space for a petite pooch. The idea being that the driver can easily interact with his or her pet. Although how this would go down with safety officials wasn’t elaborated on.

honda dog car

In the back of the car, a cage can be popped open, creating a secure place for a slightly bigger beast. And for truly mammoth mutts, a seat belt set into the floor allows them to be safely buckled in.

honda wow

Considering the type of passengers it’s designed for, the W.O.W comes complete with both removable and easy to clean flooring, plus its wide sliding doors are purpose built to keep cavorting canines happy.

Explaining the design, a spokesperson from Honda said, “We created this vehicle from the point of view of a dog, but it turned out to be a gentler vehicle for the elderly, children and other family members.” Although how grandma and granddad would react to being strapped to the floor on trips to the supermarket remains to be seen.

Canine commuters

The treatment of dogs in Japan is becomingly increasingly bizarre, with canine clothes now practically compulsory – the spoilt little mutts boasting bigger wardrobes than most men. Plus as well as sporting designer goods, they are partial to the odd drop of ’wine’. A few even getting married.

With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that the Kyushu Railway Company has come under scrutiny for its treatment of animals. Specifically the baggage tickets issued for commuting canines and cats.

In the past, this system of ‘personal baggage’ worked well, however recently these tickets have started to irritate picky pet owners, with the word ‘awful’ (amongst other things) being used to describe them. So in a bid to stop this trifling matter escalating into pet pandemonium, the railway company has stepped in and issued appropriately cute ‘pet cards’ to appease the complainers.

rail pet card

A card that cuddly young Qoo-chan should be absolutely delighted with.

nasty dog

Crazed commuters

“In packed trains, conditions are ripe to turn so-called ‘normal’ people into the abnormal.”

Doctor, and former head of the UFJ Bank health management centre, Yoichi Maitada, explaining the stresses and strains of travelling on Japan’s jam-packed trains.

The already ‘abnormal’ however just go absolutely berserk.