Sunday, May 2, 2010

I Wanna Get Off!

You'll undoubtedly be riding some of Japan's notoriously crowded trains in the course of your travels. As more people get on, you may be pushed farther and farther from the door. Then suddenly you've arrived at your station and there there's a crowd of people between you and the exit. What do you say?

On our first trip to Japan, we rode Hokkaido's picturesque Hidaka line. This train was a two unit one-man which meant the entrance and exit were the front. I never would have expected to encounter a crowd on this rural line, but it was late afternoon and the train filled with schoolchildren, and we were pushed farther and farther to the back of the train. Our station was coming up so we had to push our way up to the front with our luggage. All I knew to say was すみません, すみません (excuse me, excuse me) as I bumped into one kid after another with my luggage. One of the kids said to his pals, with a clever rhyme, すみませんをわかりません。 (He doesn't understand the meaning of excuse me). Later, in Tokyo, where people are bumping into each other all the time, I realized that it would be kind of ridiculous for everyone to be saying "excuse me" to everyone else all the time. I also learned the word おります (I'm getting off), when I saw a elderly woman use it when exiting a crowded Yamanote line train with a shopping bag in each hand. It's like a magic word. Speak it, and the sea of people parts before you.

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