April is a month that attracts many foreign visitors. Again, I am asked in hushed tones, are Japanese wearing masks because of Fukushima and fears of nuclear fallout? Anyone who lives here knows it’s allergy season, and many people wear them out of a combination self-treatment and courtesy to others. Masks, normal and even polite in Japan, are perhaps the most common form of exotic costume when seen by foreigners.
A green city with lively pedestrian streets requires an excellent public transit system. I have already posted about some simple but effective station signage about the workings of the system and the neighborhoods surrounding the stations. Just recently, a foreign researcher pointed out an ubiquitous chart that I had overlooked and that can be found on every Tokyo Metro platform.
From left to right are the number of minutes to reach the next stations, the names of the next stations, whether the car doors open on the right or left side (in red), and details about which car to board if you are switching to other train lines, needing a bathroom, elevator, escalator, station office, station agent, or wheelchair assistance.
The efficiency and communication is astounding. The contrast with US transit is total. In Japan the transit system treats its riders with courtesy, respect and dignity. In the US, riding transit carries strong feelings of failure, disrespect and lack of care.