(T)rainy days

After our celebration of spring earlier this week the weather thought that it’d be hilarious to punish us for our optimism by presenting Tokyo with lots of rain and even snow(!) in the past few days. Even though the duck and I usually only like rain when we don’t have to leave the house, sitting on a train (right now), watching and listening to the constant patter of curious raindrops against the wide windows does have its charm and is inspiring us to assemble our favorite train observations from the past few months while we’re sipping at our imaginary cup of hot matcha latte. Today, I thought I’d share some of them with you – only in text form because I’m not that much of a creep that I take photos of random people (well, I do take pictures of their shoes sometimes) – but first, feast your eyes on yet another duck train selfie, this time with a rainy spring backdrop (which also serves as the general theme for today’s snapshots)!

Spring Station Duck

Because rainy weather turns me into a low-key romantic (add the duck and my love for train rides and you have a huge pile of cheese), please proceed at your own risk:

Five scenes on trains, five moments of connection (hehehe, get it?)

Homework
The long summer vacation has come to an end, leaving behind vivid memories of shrilling cicadas, split watermelons and summer festival fireworks. The school day is over, the sun about to set. Rush hour has not yet begun; the local train is half-empty. Still excited about their newfound maturity, four young elementary school boys have turned the train ride home into a collective mobile homework session. They are wearing the same uniform, the same bags lined up at their feet, and they are working on the same homework. Their legs serve as desktops and the textbooks and folders are a white stream of numbers and formulas, mirroring their little white hats that, from a bird’s perspective, would make them look like little white wooden balls on a school abacus which, of course, they are now too old and smart to use. The late afternoon sun is streaming through the train windows and time seems to have stopped for a moment.

Spring station 4

After a hard day’s work
The evening rush hour is dying down; two businessmen in their business suits, one hand holding onto the grab handle, the other gripping an open can of beer, are chatting vividly, but quietly as not to disturb the other passengers, taking a sip out of their cans from time to time. The long workday is over, now it’s time to wind down and share curious findings and exciting ideas – about their day? Their life goals? The next holiday? As one is speaking the other listens intently, nods from time to time or gives a sound of agreement. An occasional chuckle travels through the rattling, now almost empty, train and quietly echoes in the deserted rows of seats, even as the men get off, continuing their conversation into the fresh October night.

Spring station 3

Sounds
The New Year’s holidays are only days away; the night is cold and dark. A familiar sound of a deep slumber tries to make its way through the jam-packed train. It does not get very far but to the ears it reaches it tells tales of hard work, excess responsibilities and a general exhaustion. Fortunately, the mobile bedroom allows for some time to relax, catch up on that much-needed sleep and recount this story that is all too familiar to those commuters who are close enough to hear and compassionate enough to listen.

Spring station 5

Ladies’ day out
The long, chilly winter has taken its toll on the worn out population: grey faces match a grey sky. As the train doors open, in swooshes a cloud of grey hair hovering above colorful clothes with lovely patterns and bright faces that emit cheerful little bursts of laughter; a group of elderly ladies has made this cart their own; their lively conversations lighten up the dullness of the train ride. They only sit and chat for a couple of stations but their loving familiarity and animated discussions leave a lingering breeze of happiness that infuses color into the formerly dull faces, long after the ladies have gotten off. Here I sit, wondering how long their friendship has already lasted and hoping to have seen my future in them. The bleak winter continues but the world suddenly feels much brighter.

Spring station 2

Unlikely friends
It’s graduation day. Students in suits and kimono crowded the station in the morning and afternoon. But now that the evening has begun, most of the festivities have moved to local Izakaya and the trains see their usual evening rush hour crowds. Among the mix of tired businessmen, office ladies and a high school student here and there, is a small group of seniors who have already ended their drinking party and are now entertaining some of the train cart with their adorable animated old-man-chats. One of the men, particularly happy and chatty, strikes up a conversation with a high school student on her way home from club practice. Instead of being annoyed or wary, the girl is immediately aware of his harmlessness and boldly engages in his chitchat, cheers and chuckles. As the train approaches his station, the man, carefree yet woozy from the previous drinks, turns to his drinking companions who reassure him that he, indeed, has to get off and, after saying good-bye to his friends, new and old, he steps out into the crisp evening air, surprisingly steady on his feet. The remaining friends exchange a look and then a little chat with the girl before they all go their own ways, forever connected by a shared moment of surprise, laughter and understanding.

Maybe the man reminded the student of her own grandfather after he’s been drinking with his friends? For me, the admirable relationship between Koichi and his grandfather in Kore-Eda Hirokazu’s I Wish instantly comes to mind.

Spring station 6

That shall be all for today.
Congratulations on gnawing your way through the mountains of cheese!
We’ll see you next time, hopefully with weather that’s more appropriate for spring!

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