Adventures in train jumping

No, the duck and I haven’t become action heroes (yet), though I would love to think that. Unfortunately, (for now) our only skills consist of powerful jumps to the side when we think we’ve seen a spider or cockroach from the corners of our eyes and fairly good food-catching reflexes if we or someone else dropped something (because food is precious). Those are quite impressive skills but unfortunately not exactly what you seek in an action hero. This post is, instead, about changing trains very fast and inconspicuously. Again, we have also not become super villains, not even regular ones (I hope), we just do not want our lost looks and confused behavior to give us away as the clueless foreigners that we are.


In a previous train post I mentioned that the duck and I always plan out our train journeys so that we end up paying the cheapest fare possible. Well, there also are other reasons that make planning out your journeys and actually looking at all the details, not just the departure and arrival times and transfer stations, important – that we had to learn the hard action-heroes-in-training-way! This is why:

Aaaaaand ACTION!

The duck and I are planning to meet up with our friend in Shinjuku. Same as with all the other planners that we have used so far we do the unthinkable: We enter our desired arrival time, look for the cheapest connection, check the according departure time and throw a quick glance at the transfer stations. That’s it. BIG MISTAKE!

See, other planners (in some other places of the world) expect you to be a super-tourist who admires the impeccable layout and wonderful architecture of each station – Every. Single. Time. – between changing trains, and that’s on the ‘normal speed’ setting (seriously, who needs five minutes to change onto a train that’s on the next platform which you can reach by just going down a flight of stairs – even if you’re getting off the train on the furthest end and insist on only boarding the furthest back car on the other one, you would be fine, especially since elevators are usually right next to the stairs if you need one). Japan, in contrast, believes in your fitness. There’s a reason Japanese people are considered to be generally lean and fit: the trains make them sprint!

We know how to get to Shinjuku and where we have to change trains and that’s it. We didn’t check the changing time because we never do – usually a planner doesn’t even show you connections with too little time for changing trains to save you from disappointment if luck is not on your side. But not this time, apparently.
At the transfer station we reach the platform from which our next train is supposed to depart. We see a train, but since our train navigation skills are mediocre at best we assume that that cannot possibly be our train because it is already standing there and we have just walked to our platform in a normal speed. So we stay put (especially because the doors are about to close and we do not want to be those foreigners who squeeze into the train that might not even be the right one because we had no time to read the information display).
Standing on the platform we check our two planners again just to realize that that train actually was the one we were supposed to take. Now we look for the second best option that would get us to our destination almost on time. And we find one! When (having learned from our mistakes) we check the changing time, it all falls into place (we look at the ‘1’ in disbelief – we do have some time to wait, so that gives us plenty of time to stare and scratch our heads or whatever we do when we don’t know whether this is real). We have, in fact, one minute to change between trains! But we do not want to be too late, because of the whole foreigner thing, you know? So we try: We get onto the next train, a local one, stay on it for two stops and once we reach our changing station we see our connecting train already standing on the opposite side of the platform with its doors wide open. With a quick glance at the information panel for the current time and the train’s destination we decide to try our luck and, walking very briskly (like all well-mannered foreigners), get on that train and hear the doors close right behind us. Phew!



(Okay, we did it again: we lied! Of course we did not really jump between trains, that would have been preposterous – with our short legs, sad fitness stats and… well, foreigner-self-awareness… that we sometimes conveniently pack away in our fanny packs under those cameras we carry around our necks.)
That day we learned that, in Tokyo, you have to be fit to catch your trains according to plan sometimes. Maybe we should really start running in the morning, like our wonderful and inspirational friend suggested. But let’s keep that experiment for a different post (maybe… if we ever beat our laziness… probably not)…

A quick clarification:
When the duck and I decided to not get onto the first train that was already standing at the station there was also another, not foreigner-related, reason: Usually all versions of a train (be it local, express, etc.) have you pay the same fare. There are, however, special ones, too, that are more expensive (or at least that’s what the planner says), and we don’t want to accidentally stumble onto one of those now, do we? What exactly that all means, I have no clue… yet. But we shall investigate! (Could that be my second case?! OMG, I’ll go and buy a magnifying glass right now!)

See you later (get it? Because I mentioned a magnifying glass! It’s funny, right?)!

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