All About Japan

How to Survive the Last Train in Tokyo

| Trains , Tokyo

Tokyo is very much a 24-hour city—if you do it right. Because even though Tokyo is the most populated city in Japan, trains stop running around 1 a.m., no exceptions. So around 12:30 a.m., you need to make a decision: hop on the train home or stay out all night.

For the sake of argument, assume you want to catch the last train home. There are a couple things you ought to know.

1. Tokyo rush hour trains are not nearly as bad as everyone makes them out to be

Yes, you are packed like sardines often in stifling heat. However, you are in the same boat as everyone else.

If you're in rush hour (after everyone gets off work), early morning (while everyone is trying to get to work), or taking one of the last trains home (where everyone is trying not to be left in the city overnight), you should expect to be squashed cheek-to-cheek with the person next to you. Once you accept the fact that personal space does not exist on the train, it's almost a pleasant experience.

2. There's always room for one more

This especially applies to the trains leading up to the last train. Everyone is just trying to get home—on a limited number of trains. So, of course, they will try to squish every last person possible onto that train. I don’t know what happens to the people waiting in line for the last train who can’t seem to fit because, like I said before, there’s always room for one more.

3. If you want to get on, face your back to the doorway and step backward into the train

It will, of course, be crowded. As long as you can get one foot in, you're fine. I always put my left foot in first, so I can use my right foot on the platform to balance.

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