Tokyo’s trains are too crowded for just a top 10 list, and the worst is one that runs at almost double 100-percent capacity.
Measuring how crowded something is isn’t as simple as just counting the number of people present. For example, three people isn’t considered crowded in most environments, but it definitely would be if we were talking about, say, a public restroom stall.
So in order to calculate how crowded trains are, Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism does a quick calculation. They count all the available seats on a train, add in the number of straps standing passengers can hold onto, and call that the standard, 100-percent capacity. Then they compare that to the number of people actually on the train during rush hour, and make sure they’ve got a cup handy so they can catch their eyeballs as they pop out of their skulls in shock at how far beyond 100 percent the trains are packed.
The ministry has just released the most recent results of its annual study, and the one bit of good news is only 11 train/subway lines (all which are in the Tokyo area) were over 180-percent capacity at rush hour, compared to 12 last year. On the other hand, that still means a ridiculously camped commute, so let’s take a look at the five most crowded:
5. Tokkaido Line: 187 percent
As with many lines on the list, the Tokkaido Line connects downtown Tokyo offices and outlying residential neighborhoods. The line runs through salaryman meccas of Tokyo, Shimbashi, and Shinagawa Stations and out to the cities of Kawasaki and Yokohama (Japan’s second-largest city) and then western Kanagawa and eastern Shizuoka Prefectures beyond.
4. Nambu Line: 189 percent
The Nambu Line may not reach the heart of Tokyo, but it runs diagonally along its southwest edge, connecting Kawasaki and Tachikawa Stations, a swath of land where some of the area’s most affordable housing is. It also connects to Musashi Kosugi Station in Kawasaki, from where trains run to both the west and east sides of downtown Tokyo.
3. Yokosuka Line: 196 percent
Like the Tokkaido Line, the Yokosuka Line’s last three stops are Tokyo, Shimbashi, and Shinagawa. At the other end, it runs through the town of Kawasaki and Yokohama, as well as historic Kamakura, beach-loving Zushi, and port town Kurihama, three cities where the price of a quiet lifestyle can sometimes be an aggravating commute into Tokyo.
2. Chuo-Sobu Line: 197 percent
So far, we’ve been looking at a lot of lines that connect Tokyo with communities to the south. The expansive Chuo Sobu Line, though, ties the city center into town to the east and west, with classy Kichijoji Mitaka (home of the Ghibli Museum) on one end, and Chiba Station, in Tokyo’s neighboring prefecture to the east, on the other. Like with the southern stops of the Yokosuka Line, these are fashionable and/or affordable places to live, but for work and school, residents hop on the Chuo Sobu Line to get to downtown’s Shinjuku, Iidabashi, Akihabara, and Ryogoku Stations.
1. Tokyo Metro Tozai Line: 199 percent
Finally, the most crowded rail line in all of Japan is actually a subway line (and yes, it’s designed as such — it’s not a train line that simply sank into the earth when it got too weighed down with passengers). The Tozai Line’s east/west endpoints are Nakano and Nishi-Funabashi, and stops between them include Takadanobaba and Waseda, home of one of downtown’s largest university campuses and multiple specialized schools, as well as Otemachi and Nihombashi, where several titans of the Japanese business and financial worlds have their main offices. Add in the fact that both Nakano and Nishi-Funabashi are transfer stations for the Chuo-Sobu line (the second-most crowded line), with some trains running straight through to the Chuo-Sobu, and it’s easy to see why it’s practically double-capacity on the Tozai at rush hour.
The remaining lines in the top 11 are:
6. Nippori Toneri Liner: 187 percent
7. Keihin Tohoku Line: 186 percent
8. Saikyo Line: 185 percent
9. Denentoshi Line: 185 percent
10. Chuo Rapid Line: 184 percent
11. Sobu Rapid Line: 18 percent
It’s also worth noting that aside from the Tozai, Nippori Toneiri, and Denentoshi Line, all the lines on the list are operated by Japan Railway (a.k.a. JR), so you might want to avoid them if you’re traveling on the all-inclusive JR pass. On the other hand, sometimes there’s no alternate route to get where you’re going, so all you can do is grit your teeth and accept the crowded trains as being one more part of the full Japan experience.
It’s a barbershop so crazy they’re actually giving away Kim Jong-un haircuts!
They say you can’t truly understand a person until you’ve walked a mile in their hair. That’s the philosophy (I’m assuming) behind Peace Barber, a one-day barbershop being set up by Madame Tussauds wax museum on 16 July.
The shop won’t be held in the actual Tokyo museum, instead it will be at a dedicated pop-up shop space in Shibuya called n_space. If you go there now you can see a wax figure of Donald Trump tweeting in anticipation of the big day as well as other figures on display. He will be joined by six other celebrities from Japan and abroad.
This barbershop is unique, not only because it only offers the distinctive coif of North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, but also because it’s absolutely free for those willing to take the plunge. However, these cuts are also being referred to as “performances” by the event organizers, so you might have to get your despotic do done in front of a crowd.
Afterwards you can get a photo taken with the wax figure of President Trump and re-live all the pageantry of their summit together in Singapore.
Potential customers had a range of feelings over the offering, with some severely tempted by the price.
“Too bad they don’t offer Trump hair as well.” “It’s like a black telephone factory!” “Can I get back my hair afterward?” “But I’m bald….” “I wouldn’t put my own body up as a gag.” “…they did say it was free though.” “Might as well. Not like women are flocking to me anyway.”
That’s the spirit! If you too have no sense of vanity whatsoever, why not try out this once-in-a-lifetime offer? I suppose the premise is that by wearing the hair of Kim Jong-un you can maybe see things from his perspective. This in turn will help build bridges of peace throughout the world.
100 bars and restaurants in and around the capital are part of bargain that costs less than two normally priced beers.
Many would say that after a long, hard day as a working adult, there’s no better way of rewarding yourself than with a nice cold beer. But part of being a working adult is paying for your own adult beverages, so any way you can stretch your drinking budget is a definite plus.
And therein lies the beauty of Gubit. For a monthly fee, the mobile app offers users one free alcoholic drink (beer, sake, wine, shochu, and cocktails are all options) per day at its participating partner restaurants and pubs. The service currently has 100 participating locations in and around Tokyo, including traditional izakaya taverns, swanky French restaurants, and craft beer bars. You’re free to redeem your drink at a different location every day, or, if like some kind of old-enough-to-drink Goldilocks, you’ve found a place that’s just right, you can hit it up for a cold one day after day.
To use the app, first you select the restaurant you want to go to, and you’ll be presented with a list of available free drinks (there are multiple beverage options for each location). Once you’ve chosen one, you’ll be given a redemption code/screen, and all you have to do to get your free drink is show the screen to your server.
▼ The interface has pictures, making it easy to navigate even if you don’t read Japanese.
As with any investment, the critical calculation is to determine your break-even point. In Tokyo, a draft beer or chu-hi shochu sour cocktail will usually run you somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 yen. Gubit charges 980 yen (US$9) a month, which means to make it worth your while, you only have to use it twice a month. As for your maximum economic gain, since Gubit is usable on both weekdays and weekends, in a 30-day month you could easily be downing 15,000 yen worth of free drinks, which makes the 980-yen outlay feel like a serious bargain.
There are two things to keep in mind. First, it’s common for izakaya and bars to charge a per-person service fee, usually about 500 yen. If the restaurant you’ve picked does so, you’ll have to cover that cost yourself. Second, Gubit is usable every day from 3 p.m., so you can’t use it for early-afternoon drinking (though it remains an option for late-afternoon festivities).
While Gubit is starting with the Tokyo area, in the future it plans to expand its partner list to include bars and restaurants in Osaka, Nagoya, and Fukuoka as well. If the service sounds like a one-month commitment you’re willing to make, it’s official website/registration can be found here.
In this summer heat, though, eating an ice cream sandwich is going to be a messy experience. Luckily, right now we can get the same delicious flavors in a Crispy Sandwich-flavored milkshake at the newly opened Häagen-Dazs Crispy Sandwich Beach Cafe, which is now open in montoak, a cafe and lounge in Omotesando, Tokyo!
They’re offering three delightful flavors: Caramel Classic, Hojicha Wa no Ka, and Triple Berry Rare Cheese, and they cost 700 to 800 yen each (US$6.29-$7.19). Each shake is blended with real Crispy Sandwiches, and topped with half of a Crispy Sandwich, some whipped cream, and other flavor specific-toppings, which means you’re going to get more than enough Häagen-Dazs from one of these babies.
We tried out the Hojicha Wa no Ka, flavored with roasted green tea, first. It’s made with black sugar andtopped with whipped cream, red beans, and a Hojicha Wa no Ka Crispy Sandwich, which gives it distinctly Japanese nuances. With each sip through the thick straw, the earthy aroma of roasted green tea fills your mouth, but just when you think that’s the end of it, a refreshing sweetness bursts forth for a lip-smackingly tasty flavor.
If you mix in a little bit of the whipped cream and read beans as you go, it tastes just like a Japanese sweet served with green tea. Plus, the pieces of the wafers that have melted into the shake give an extra nice touch to an already complex flavor. You won’t be able to stop drinking this one!
The Caramel Classic, with its crunchy topping of caramel nuts, is a very satisfying drink. It’s not too sweet, and has a hint of bitterness to it, which gives it a very mature flavor. It seems like something a rich lady would be drinking as she walks her perfectly coiffed toy poodle around Omotesando.
The Triple Berry Rare Cheese is a very summery milkshake. The berries provide a nice sweet and sour aroma to the shake, while the pink color gives it a very bright appearance. With strawberries mixed in along with a bit of jam, this shake has an undeniable fruitiness that berry fans will love.
These shakes are big. You’ll want to bring a hearty appetite with you when you stop by this stall, so we don’t recommend that you come on a full stomach.
If you want a little bit more than a milkshake, though, they also have Crispy Sandwich Shake Parfaits, but they’re limited to just 100 per day, so if you want to try one, you should get there early. They are priced at 1,296 yen each ($11.65).
Though this pop-up stand will only be open until July 29, you can still enjoy at least one of the flavors after it closes. The Hojicha Wa no Ka Crispy Sandwich is now available in supermarkets and convenience stores nationwide, so if you really just can’t live without more of that roasted green tea flavor, you’re in luck.
Cafe Information Häagen-Dazs Crispy Sand Beach Cafe / ハーゲンダッツ クリスピーサンド ビーチカフェ
Address: montoak, Tokyo-to, Shibuya-ku, Jingu-Mae 6-1-9
Take-out hours: 11:00 a.m. to 7 p.m. (last order 7 p.m.)
Eat-in hours: 11:00 a.m. to 10 p.m. (last order 9:30 p.m.)
montoak’s hours: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. (Mon-Thur, Sun); 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. (Fri-Sat, the day before a holiday) Website (Japanese only)
In the busiest city in a country famous for working employees to death, Tokyo Workers hopes to help people find the work/life balance they desire.
Once upon a time, I was offered a job by a large, prestigious Japanese company. As we were discussing the terms of the contract, I asked the interviewer (my potential boss) how much overtime I could expect. “Oh, we don’t really do overtime here,” she said, which sounded great to me. However, also sitting in on the interview was a rank-and-file worker from the department, who chimed in with “Yeah, we usually only have, like, two hours of overtime each day.”
As you can see, Japanese companies aren’t always completely upfront about how much overtime work a job requires. So in order to present a more accurate picture of their working environments, the organization Tokyo Workersfilms the Tokyo offices of major Japanese companies, in time-lapse, to see how late their interior lights are on.
▼ It’s past 10:30 p.m. when Toyota’s Tokyo office goes dark
▼ At 10:20, the majority of the office lights are still on at Sony (the central building in the video)
▼ Plenty of lights still on at video game developer Square Enix (the top three floors) at 11 p.m.
However, Tokyo Workers’ goal isn’t necessarily to expose and shame companies that burn the midnight oil. The organization even admits that, all else equal, simply reducing working hours will have a negative impact on a company’s output. But what Tokyo Workers wants to do is close the gap between how much overtime work job hunters expect to do (based on information available to them before joining a company) and how much they’ll actually end up doing.
▼ The offices of manga publishing powerhouses Shogakkan (left) and Shonen Jump’sShueisha (right), where a lot of employees probably aren’t getting home in time to watch the start of the late-night anime TV programming block.
▼ Two buildings owned by Kodansha, another publisher with strong ties to the anime/manga industry
The organization cites a late-2016 study by Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare which found that 31.9 percent of college graduates end up switching jobs within three years, which is a startlingly high number for a country where lifetime employment with the same company was the norm just one generation ago. Through its videos, Tokyo Workers aims to give job hunters a better picture of the featured companies’ corporate culture, so that they can avoid jumping into a job they don’t understand the reality of and eventually quitting, forcing them to look for new employment and the company to find a new employee.
▼ A wide shot of Tokyo’s Tennozu district, home of JAL (Japan Airlines) and JTB (a.k.a. Japan Travel Bureau).
▼ Past 1 a.m., there are enough lights still on at the East Japan Railway building (seen on the right) that some employees probably won’t finish work in time to catch their last train home fot the night.
Tokyo Workers acknowledges that the connection between what time the lights go off and what time work stops isn’t absolute. Some office lights might remain on for security reasons, and in this digitally connected era, just because people aren’t in the office doesn’t mean they’re not still working. Still, it hopes that these candid videos will be of use in letting prospective employees know what they’d be getting into before they decide to sign an employment contract.
Before you head to Mori Building Digital Art Museum: EPSON teamLab Borderless, there are a few things you’ll need to know.
People around the world added a new destination to their Japan bucket list on June 21, when world-leading Japanese digital art collective teamLab unveiled their new awe-inspiring permanent digital art museum.
Produced in collaboration with local urban landscape developer Mori Building Co. Ltd., the amazing light displays are housed in their very own building, spread out over two floors in a huge space in Tokyo’s Odaiba district.
Described as “Tokyo’s most Instagrammable spot“, we decided to stop by to see the place for ourselves, and as soon as we stepped inside we were blown away by the truly amazing works.
▼ Take a look at our video below to see some of the beauty in store for visitors.
Given that this is unlike any other experience in Japan, the Mori Building Digital Art Museum is quickly becoming one of the country’s most popular destinations. However, there are a few rules and tips you’ll need to know before going, so we’ve prepared a visitor’s guide to help you get the most out of your time at the museum.
So come with us as we walk you through our visit, complete with 10 tips on how to enjoy the space and a run-through of the highlights you won’t want to miss.
1. Wear white or light-coloured clothing.
You don’t have to do this, of course, but it makes things a lot more fun, as you get to blend into the light displays as they float across your body, creating a much more immersive experience.
Dark-coloured clothing tends to blend into the shadows while light colours capture the light and reflect the patterns much more vividly.
It’s the small details that make a big difference, especially when it comes to capturing the perfect Instagram photo!
2. Wear flat shoes
This is an important point, as there are a number of places in the museum where heels and sandals aren’t permitted. And if you think the organisers aren’t serious about this then think again – if you don’t have the appropriate footwear on, you’ll be sent to the shoe rental area where you’ll have to borrow a free pair of shoes.
Some of the places that require sensible footwear are: The space-themed “Multi Jumping Universe” trampoline area…
▼ The interactive “Sliding through the Fruit Field” slide…
▼ The climbing trees in the “Light Forest Three-dimensional Bouldering” area.
▼ Another climbing area, called “Aerial Climbing through a Flock of Colored Birds“.
And the Floating Nest, which was so popular when we visited it took us half an hour to get in. One of two light shows play here, while viewers lie in mid-air on a netted trampoline-like structure.
3. Stow your backpack in a locker before going in
While staff permit backpacks in the building, they do a good job of suggesting you stow them in the free lockers at the reception area, and for good reason. Some of the installations are set up in tight spaces that can become congested during busy periods, so if you have a backpack on (and not even a very bulky one at that), staff will ask you to wear your backpack on your front before entering some of the rooms.
▼ Backpack on your front when making your way through the “Memory Of Topography” experience…
▼ And also in the Crystal World room.
4. Wear trousers
This might sound like an odd tip, but when you look down at the floors in many of the rooms you’ll understand the downside of wearing skirts and dresses in the museum, given their expansive use of mirrored floors.
▼ This is the floor in the Crystal World room.
▼ The floor in the Light Sculpture room.
▼ And the floor in the Forest of Resonating Lamps
This isn’t something that’s gone unnoticed by organisers – outside these rooms are racks with black wrap-around skirts, along with a sign that warns visitors about the mirrored floors, advising them to use these to protect their modesty.
5. Enjoy a one-of-a-kind tea ceremony at the En Tea House
Depending on when you go, there might be a line to get in as this experience is incredibly popular with visitors.
You can stop and take a quiet break here, with four different types of green tea drinks available to purchase, all priced at 500 yen (US$4.50) each.
There are three wrap-around benches inside, where visitors are served tea in a serene, dimly lit environment.
Staff will come and place an empty tea bowl in front of you, on the straw mat surface of the table, before pouring your green tea for you.
And that’s when the magic begins, as your tea slowly starts coming to life with different floral patterns forming on the frothy surface.
The light display continues inside your cup until you lift it up to take a sip, and then the flowers burst on your table, sending petals scattering out in all directions.
It’s a zen-like experience that makes you feel like you’ve left Earth and gone to another world, with everyone lost in their own thoughts as they gaze into the unique patterns in their cup.
6. Touch everything
Part of the beauty of the museum is that guests are free to explore and make discoveries on their own. Nobody will tell you about it before you go in, but if you touch the images on the walls around you as you walk around, the images will react to your movements.
▼ These ghost bunnies will turn and face you if you touch them.
▼ And these musicians will turn around and give a wave to those who give them a tap.
This ghostly installation, called “Peace Can be Realised Even Without Order” consists of a seemingly endless number of life-sized holograms, which react to movements individually and together.
One of the most popular places to play with light is this tiny room, where visitors can manipulate sound and images on “A Table Where Little People Live“…
And on “A Musical Wall Where Little People Live“. Watching the little people and other cute little objects interact with you is a mesmerising experience that both children and adults enjoy.
7. Download the App
TeamLab have a number of light shows that can be manipulated by visitors using a special smartphone app that’s free to download from the Apple Store or Google Play. Inside the museum, the Crystal World changes in colour and pattern as users participate in the light show with the app, adding to the interactive experience.
8. Be prepared to lose your inhibitions and act like a child again
From climbing light trees and swings to zipping down slides and stepping out on to a floating nest, the museum aims to stimulate all your senses and help you lose your sense of gravity in a fun, exciting way.
Even when you’re walking through the balloon-filled Weightless Forest of Resonating Life, you’ll feel like a child again, as playing with your surroundings here will set off lights, sounds and patterns that enhance the experience.
There’s even a special interactive “Sketch Aquarium” where visitors can create their own digital sea creatures. Simply pick up one of the templates and use the coloured pencils to add some colour and design to your creation.
Once you take your completed masterpiece over to a member of staff, it will soon appear on the wall, bobbing about underwater for all to see.
9. Take your time
There are so many areas and displays to enjoy, and with no time limit on how long you’re allowed to spend in the building, you can easily spend an entire day here. A visit to the museum is something you certainly won’t want to rush so be sure to allocate at least a few hours here to really enjoy the experience.
▼ After all, where else can you spend some time colouring in and relaxing as colourful whales swim past you?
The “Black Waves” room is a beautiful place to relax and rest your legs, with bean bags in the centre and Japanese-style waves crashing about on the rounded walls all around you.
▼ You won’t want to miss the laser light shows…
And you’ll need to allow some extra time for lining up to view the more popular attractions like the Floating Nest and the Forest of Resonating Lamps.
10. Don’t forget your camera…and your manners!
All the works in this museum are just begging to be photographed, with moving light shows and all the colours of the rainbow on display, making it perfect fodder for Instagram junkies. While there’s a lot to capture on camera here, the number one spot everyone is interested in is the insanely beautiful Forest of Resonating Lamps.
▼ This particular colour display is called “One Stroke“
The lamps here change in colour and intensity when they sense people near them, and this movement creates a number of different patterns as the signal is sent out to other lamps nearby. If you’re worried about getting to see all the patterns, you can rest assured that you’ll be able to see most, if not all of them, in the time it takes to wait outside before entering the room.
▼ “One Stroke, Flame“
Once you get in, though, you’d better have your poses planned, as staff members time each group’s entry and do a good job of politely guiding everyone out after their allotted time, which seems to be limited to just one or two minutes.
▼ This is the ending of “One Stroke, Fire On Ice“
While TeamLab encourages visitors to photograph the works in the museum and share their experiences on social media, staff make it very clear before you enter that the use of tripods and flash photography are not permitted, and if you bother other patrons they reserve the right to escort you off the premises. So as long as you watch your manners and consider the people around you while capturing the awe on camera, you’ll have a truly awesome experience.
One other tip is to buy your tickets online in advance before going to the museum. Once the tickets are sold out online, they won’t let other people into the museum on the day, so if you turn up without a pre-purchased ticket, you’ll be turned away at the door.
Tickets are currently available to purchase online at a discounted price of 2,400 yen (US$21.67) for adults until 31 July, after which time the tickets will be priced at 3,200 yen for adults and 1,000 yen for children.
Mori Building Digital Art Museum: Epson teamLab Borderless
Address: Tokyo-to, Koto-ku, Aomi 138, Odaiba Palette Town
東京都 江東区 青海 1 3 8 お台場パレットタウン
Hours: Mon, Wed, Thu: 11 a.m.-9 p.m./Fri: 11:00 a.m.-10 p.m./Sat: 10 a.m.-10 p.m./Sun: 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Closed Tuesdays. Website
A surprising number of young adults are considering trading the hustle and bustle of Tokyo and other cities for a slow-paced rural lifestyle.
Tokyo and Japan’s other large cities are, in many ways, awesome places to live. They’re where you’ll find the majority of the country’s academic and professional opportunities, and also the wealth of its cultural and entertainment options.
But life in Japan’s neon-soaked concrete jungles isn’t for everyone. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport recently released the result of a 5,000-person study in which they asked participants if they want the government to put greater effort into programs helping urban residents of Japan relocate to rural areas, and it got the biggest call to action from respondents in the 20-29 age bracket.
23 percent of participants in their 20s said they wanted greater government promotion for relocation to the countryside, which was five percent more than any other group. That number was even higher among young people living in our around Japan’s three largest metropolitan areas, specifically those centered in Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya, where 25 percent of people in the 20-29 demographic said they hoped for more programs to help those looking to move out of the big city.
As to why, experts say a number of young people have become dissatisfied with the ironic isolation that can come with living in a population-dense area. City folk tend to lead busy lives with little interaction with their neighbors, and this lack of a sense of community and personal connections, and in some cases the resultant lack of trust, is commonly cited as a factor by those considering moving out of Tokyo and other major cities. However, the poll’s statistics don’t cover whether respondents envisioning a more interpersonal lifestyle in the countryside are basing such expectations on personal experience living in less populated towns, or simply on beautifully relaxing YouTube montages.
▼ Before you quit your job and start a farm, remember that getting to this…
▼ …requires a lot of time spent doing this.
There are already organizations, with offices set up in major metropolitan areas, that offer advice and assistance to people looking to move to less populous parts of Japan. Local municipalities have also tried such tactics as covering the dating expenses of newly arrived residents or giving them a free house. Still, the young survey respondents want to see even more done, and it’s not just young people living in large cities who feel that way either. 25 percent of respondents aged 20-29 who live in towns with populations under 50,000 also said they want to see more programs to make such moves easier, as did roughly 27 percent of those between the ages of 60 and 79, with such support likely stemming from a desire to prevent rural communities with dwindling populations from becoming too small to sustain themselves.
Of course, if too many people dreaming of small town life move to the same place, it stops being a small town, so while the survey gives the ministry an idea of what people want, it also gives it a tricky tightrope to walk.