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Ding Dong: Japanese Transit

By: Suzanne Schefcik

            Culture defines a group of people by similar beliefs, actions and customs. The way in which Japanese people live is far different than my everyday life. Clothing styles, language, food types and even transportation separate Japanese culture from my own. Being an American, I am not quite accustomed to the Japanese lifestyle. One of my favorite things about Japan, although a little cheesy, is their mass transit. I admire the fact that you can get to nearly anywhere in the country rather quickly and efficiently, the interaction on the trains, and most of all, the sounds. Like Gerry Tierny in the article titled “Becoming a Participant Observer,” I also hope to understand the lives of my subjects more fully in order to know how to conduct social change through public policy.

      Japan offers a wide variety of mass transit. Buses, bullet trains, subways and ferries are only a few ways in which one can move about from city to city. I purchased a rail pass which made it effortless to travel about in Japan. It took only a couple hours to get from one end of the country to the other. I was also amazed at the cheap and affordable price for all forms of transit. The buses offered a quick tour of the city at a reasonable price and some even had English translations.

      People-watching while transporting around the city is a hobby of mine. The interaction between people in Japan is very interesting. People seem to be very timid and quiet. Many are actively text messaging on their cell phones. It was different to see people talking in soft tones or not at all in comparison with the U.S.  In the U.S., usually the subways and buses are pretty noisy from cell phones and loud conversation. I really enjoyed seeing how others live. The silence of the passengers opened my ears to the other sounds going on around me.

            The sounds made by the crosswalks, trains and buses were my favorite part of Japan. I felt as if I was in a video game trying to cross the street or hopping on a train. I like the fact that they warn you when it is time for you to get on the train. Not only does it help make your day a little brighter, but it is also efficient to the blind that may not be able to see when the light has changed.                                           
            Public transportation in Japan proved to be both efficient and fun. I thoroughly enjoyed its easiness, interaction and the sounds. I definitely would never have had the opportunity to see as much as I did in Japan without the help of bullet trains and buses. Nor would I have had the spring in my step that the lovely tunes brought. I envision that social change occurred after the establishment of mass public transport through public policy because people gained access to multiple destinations that previously were unreachable.

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