If you go to Nezu station on the Chiyoda subway line of the Tokyo Metro you will find these unusual bookcases in the shape of metro trains. The books on the shelves can be read whilst sitting in the driver’s compartment of the fist carriage, or you take them with you to read on an actual subway train. It’s things like this that I like most about this city, and that’s the communal nature of the way things work here and how everyone looks out for one another and they aren’t always trying to get one over on someone else, etc. People in Tokyo also don’t feel so desperate that it’s necessary to steal books, and have a great enough sense of civic duty to make sure they return any book they borrow after they’ve finished with it. That’s also why there is no litter on the streets here, I suppose.
Like most underground railway systems in the world, on the Tokyo Metro you can often use your phone at the stations along the way, but you can’t use them in the tunnels in between stations. Well all this is slowly set to change by the looks of things as the 3 main mobile phone providers, Docomo, KDDI and SoftBank have announced they are going to gradually introduce service to the tunnels. It’s still a no-no to talk on the phone while on the train but it’s going to make it a lot nicer for browsing the web and using apps that require connection to the internet. It’s certainly good news to me.
As part of their Metro Smile initiative, Tokyo Metro are introducing iPads for station staff to use in order to help people navigate the complicated subway system. They can plan routes, zoom and pan an interactive network map, and also access station plans that show the exits and platforms, etc. I think this is aimed at people from out of town, tourists and the elderly. I could never see myself ever needing to use this service. If you’ve got an iPhone, this service is completely redundant, and even if you haven’t, I would say the map above the ticket machine is enough for people who’ve been living in Tokyo for any period of time. The fact that they are using iPads though, shows how the Japanese have really embraced Apple products, since the iPhone and iPad came out especially. In that sense, I’m all for it – regardless of how useless it is to me.
You can see it in action in this follwing clip:
(Sorry, Nihon Television don’t allow embedding.)
I saw an advertisement on the train for a new iPhone app developed by Tokyo Metro, so I decided to download it. You won’t be able to ditch your Jorudan (Norikae Annai) app just yet, but it’s a worthy addition to your tool set for navigating around Tokyo. You can search for your nearest station (Metro only), explore the map of the Tokyo Metro network, find information about in-station facilities and exits, see a map of the inside of each station, and of course plan your journey from one place to another by Metro.
When you fire up the app, you are presented with a screen showing the symbol for each metro line. From here, clicking on the appropriate icon will give you information on service disruptions. This page is therefore totally useless unless in the event of some huge natural disaster as I’ve never experienced any service disruptions during my journey in the 3+ years I’ve been here. Another word of warning is that you will probably need to read some Japanese to use this app properly. Most of the functions are pretty self-explanatory, but the route planner is somewhat hard to find, but if you tap around you should work it all out.
As I said, this won’t replace your main Tokyo train app, because you can’t get the time of the next train and you can’t get the time of the all-important last train. Also, it doesn’t cover any other lines apart from the Tokyo Metro. It’s still worth downloading though I think, and the design is not too bad (better than Jorudan for sure).
Bunpei Yorifuji has illustrated a follow up series to the Tokyo Metro ‘manner’ posters that told passengers to ‘do it at home’, ‘at the beach’, ‘on the mountain’ and so on. This new series sends a different message of ‘do it again’, and depicts situations where passengers were considerate to others. I guess there were no more ideas for the original series as they seemed to have covered everything.
In accordance with building a more harmonious and civilized society for everyone to enjoy, Tokyo Metro (the local government controlled subway train service provider) has been campaigning via this series of brilliantly illustrated posters. They are looking to reduce incidences of inebriated salarymen sprawling themselves across carriage seats, and the evil of talking on mobile phones, whilst spreading awareness of the dangers of running to make the train as the doors are about to close. That’s hardly important to me; I’m already pretty compliant with the rules of Japanese train ettiquette. Mostly I like the style of these posters and some of them are quite funny.
The awe-inspiring web/info design agency, Information Architects in Tokyo have released the 4th version of their popular Web Trend Map. It’s such a great idea, and it’s so well executed – why not check it out for yourselves Google Maps style. This was no small feat of production either. I saw the pics of them examining the enormous A0 sheet at the Japanese printing company (that also happens to produce Apple Japan’s printed material), and the end result shows that an enormous amount of care and attention has gone into this one, and that’s without even thinking about the research component.
Looking from the window of the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line subway train on my daily commute to work I noticed this gloriously dated mural in Suehirochou station (which will spit you out in Akihabara, electric town should you take the main exit onto the street). I had to step off the train and get a picture of this retro masterpiece (above).
This is what it looks like as you exit Inaricho Sta. at around 5.30am after staying up all night in Shibuya. I’d forgotten I’d taken this picture. I just found it in my camera. The wind is pretty strong in Tokyo at the moment, and it blows into the entrances and exits of the metro stations. As your walking out feeling delicate after not sleeping, or having just woken up after half-an-hour’s sleep on the train, it chills you to the bone. I’ve done a lot of not-sleeping recently, and I’ve also got into the habit of sleeping on trains in the early hours of the morning and riding past my station, out into the suburbs and beyond.
This shot was taken as we pulled out of Shinjuku station at 12.39 on Saturday night. As you can see, it’s sea of suits, and as the train lurches they slosh up against the sides of the train and you get caught in the current. Suprisingly, it’s not annoying at all. It’s pretty hilarious, actually. The train is so ridiculously full that you can’t help but laugh (and take pictures).