Chapter 2: Public Transportation in Tokyo

As we foreshadowed in class we see Gen’s character develop further within this chapter. Gen is a very crucial part for the conversation between the terrorists and the hostages. We get more insight into the brains of the hostages that helps us relate and sympathize with them. Cesar, the young boy who is told to escort Roxane to the bathroom, has a soft side for her and is as mesmerized by her as everyone else seems to be. To quote, “The boy who came for Roxane Coss took her hand rather than her arm and held it in the manner of sweethearts looking for a deserted stretch of beach.” It is at this moment where I really believe these boys are victims under the generals’ power.

My interest was sparked in a very small thought Mr. Hosokawa had. “On every side of him was a person, some not six centimeters away. He felt like he was taking the Yamanote line into Tokyo station at eight in the morning.” Although just a subtle part in this chapter, I was really interested to research the public transportation used within Tokyo. The comment tells me that the transportation is vital to the economy of Tokyo but is seen as a stress in everyone’s daily routine. I have been to New York City and used their public transportation, such as subways. Therefore, learning about a city with a population of over 13 million (New York having about 8.5 million) seems not only impossible, but also chaotic (1, 2).

Saikyo, Chuo, Chuo/Sobu, Keihin-Tohoku and Yamanote are the five more relevant train lines used by those traveling around central Tokyo. The Yamanote line is the most important train line in Tokyo. It is a circular line, which connects all of Tokyo’s major city centers. Once boarding the train it takes about an hour to complete the circle. The Yamanote line goes through Shinjuku Stations, which is known as Japan’s busiest train station. Shinjuku Station can be found in the middle of a large business, entertainment and shopping district (3). Along with train lines, subways densly cover central Tokyo especially the interior of the Yamanote line that Mr. Hosokawa speaks of.

The Tokyo Metro is one of the cities two subway operators. The Metro owns niner of the 13 subway lines that are found within the metropolis. While these subway lines are crucial to getting around this buslting city the subway cannot act alone for transportation around Tokyo. They are best when used in combination with train lines, especially the Yamanote line. (4)

At first I needed to undertand the importance and size of the public transportation of Tokyo before digging into the known problems. “Some lines with the largest capacities carry 100,000 passengers on 30 trains per hour in one direction alone. It is actually painful to ride trains during rush hours because each car is crowded with more than twice as many passengers as the cars are designed for.” (5) I also found some videos of the train lines during rush around like Mr. Hosokawa was referring to. While I couldn’t find one on the Yamanote line these videos show the Seibu Line and the Saikyou line. These videos show how many people they really fit onto one train. You are able to see the people who work at the stations help push people in so the doors will shut. You can watch the videos here.

This really brings to light how different their society is then ours. The United States is huge on safety, if our trains are only made for a certain amount that is all they are taking. We make sure our citizens are kept safe on the resources given to them. It seems as if the mass at which Tokyo is growing has made it difficult for officials to try to figure out a way that works better for their society.

After learning about Tokyo’s public transportation the comparison made between Mr. Hosokawa’s situation and the reality of the Tokyo train system gives me a better understanding of how uncomfortable he really was. It also allows me to imagine the scene of all the bodies laying flat on the floor of the Vice President’s home. After seeing the videos of the transportation at rush hour it really made me worry for the safety of the people. How many people have gotten hurt when they were just simply trying to get to work. I would like to research further on the differences between America’s safety precautions and those of Japan, not just within transportation but within the work environment, medical facilities and other parts of everyone’s daily lives.


  1. Five Facts From Japan’s Population Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved September 7, 2015, from
  1. Population – New York City Department of City Planning. (n.d.). Retrieved September 7, 2015, from
  1. JR Yamanote Line. (n.d.). Retrieved September 7, 2015, from
  1. Tokyo Metro. (n.d.). Retrieved September 7, 2015, from
  1. Nakamura, H. (n.d.). Japan Railway & Transport Review. Retrieved September 7, 2015, from



3 thoughts on “Chapter 2: Public Transportation in Tokyo

  1. bsejdiu942 says:

    Hey Katelyn,

    I like how you gleamed a significant research point from such a small detail. I actually grew up in New York City and had used subways as an adequate mode of transportation. I find it crazy how the citizens of Japan would subject themselves to unsafe transporting condition. One of the major issues of the 21st century is going to be population and resource usage. The population is currently at 7.3 billion and will reach 9.6 billion by 2050. That’s an added 2.3 billion human beings that will congest already heavily congested transports. More specifically, America will add 150 million, with Japan actually decreasing about 10 million. Now keep in mind, growth is severely truncated for post-developed nations. I think your research lead is very sound, because I wonder how these two developed nations will cope in the future. The added stress of a higher population on already consumed public services could end up being disastrous. In terms of city layout, all American cities are designed around cars as a result of their convenience. The Japanese have followed in mass, being influenced by western ideas and technologies. Looking more into the way Japanese view urban planning was quite interesting. Unlike American transportation and city layouts, the Japanese don’t have a clear cut ‘urban’ versus ‘rural’ mindset. In fact, to them, ‘City planning’ doesn’t mean the planning of ‘cities’, but the “physical planning in urbanizing or urbanized areas”. One area of research you could expand to is how these cities will cope and make certain changes to their society to do so? I came across a Chinese city that is currently being built that wants to put public transportation first, before private transportation in order to limit greenhouse gas emissions. You can also easily relate this to an issue of a grander scope of human safety, which would be society’s safety in the face of global warming (which is intertwined with population and resource usage).



  2. slaudeman says:

    I love how you pulled something so small and seemingly inconsequential out of the chapter, but turned it into a very insightful look at the way the characters work. It shows exactly how important and well thought out every sentence of Patchett’s writing is. It is frightening to realize how many people must commute in a city as large as Tokyo, but it gives a scope for the situation depicted in the book that I had not thought about before. It also demonstrates yet another cultural difference that causes some sort of emotion in the chapter.
    The connection, I think, for Hosokawa, fits into his thoughts about his wife. The comparison of their situation to the situation in his native country continues when he watches the parting couples and wonders how he and his wife might react if they were to be placed in such a situation. He ends up realizing that he is very grateful his wife is not there, if only to spare her the pain and stress of such a hostage situation, but I found it interesting that through all of the comparisons, he seems to do so with minimal emotion. The thoughts that Patchett presents us with, whether they are of the crowded and unsafe public transit systems of personal memories of his family, are surprisingly lacking in personal importance. He seems to view the events dispassionately and analytically, in much the same way as he analyzes Roxane’s appearance. It is an interesting character trait that I think adds both depth and a little bit of conflict to our perception of him.


  3. annawallace003 says:

    Like you said the quote, “On every side of him was a person, some not six centimeters away. He felt like he was taking the Yamanote line into Tokyo station at eight in the morning” is a very small detail of the chapter but the information you were able to find is so interesting and I’m glad you decided to do your research on this topic. It is always a good idea to zero in on something that catches your attention in order to fully relate to the reading. I have experienced a wide variety of different transportation systems in my lifetime but I have never had the opportunity or even thought about how transportation services are in japan. The fact that workers are pushing people in until there isn’t any empty space left is so concerning. In other countries that I have been able to travel to, I go the impression that safety is a crucial part of anyone’s standards so your research came as a shock! I now feel like I have a better understanding of how Mr. Hosokawa was feeling and a better idea of how crowded the room really was. I one hundred percent agree with your comparison of American safety standards and what the Japanese consider to be safe. I also had the same train of thought and wondered about other types of situations like the environment and medical standards. It is interesting to compare these types of situations especially since we are so use to the “American” way of doing things


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s