It's seven in the morning and Tokyo has been awake for some time.
Just like Kazuya Takeda, who hosts us for a few days and had left home more than half an hour ago, determined not to be late at the main Japanese branch of the multinational DHL.
We got off at Nishifunabashi subway station. We join the human flow that moves in coordination and at great speed towards the center of the city.
Like so many other railway lines, Tozai departs from the far outskirts of the city and transports many thousands of other faithful and punctual workers like Kazuya.
The Sleep Sanctuary of Metros and Nippon Trains
The compositions follow each other with intervals that don't reach half a minute. We got into one of the crowded carriages.
On board, the black of the suits of a small army of salarymen and women in matching business attire. Without quite knowing how, shortly thereafter, we detected two vacant seats in opposite seats. Although we are aware of its tightness, we remember that we are going to have another long day of exploration, mostly pedestrian, and we decided to take advantage of the benefit.
We installed ourselves almost face to face. We get to analyze the grim atmosphere in the cabin and the action at each of the stations we stop.
There are 40 minutes to go to Ginza, our final destination but not the metro. Some passengers take even longer trips. We are approaching the middle of the week.
Most of them already feel the fatigue caused by the successive early morning awakenings, by the endless commute to and from property and, in so many cases, by the late hours of leaving jobs that they do not want or simply cannot resist.
Labor and Existential Torture of Japanese Salarymen
In the years of rebuilding the Japanese nation following World War II, a Japanese executive maintained a stable life, social status and enviable perks. But with the passing of decades and the strengthening of capitalist competitiveness, these advantages ceased to exist.
Many salarymen they have practically no prestige in the corporate hierarchy of companies. They are now working on endless journeys that prevent them from doing anything more in life than serving the departments they are part of.
There is even the famous notion about Japan that wage earners should follow their bosses even outside the professional sphere, in particular when Friday night comes and their superiors need company to go out, drink till they drop and decompress.
The Friendly Shoulders of Passengers on the Side
It is understandable, therefore, that, exhausted by the hardships of their working life, these servants simply let themselves rest on their way to jobs or property and during the trip, two of them end up landing their heads on our shoulders.
Without expecting it, we took in a little of the fatigue of the Japanese nation, a task that amuses us and leaves other Japanese passengers entertained with their latest generation phones.
And yet the inemuri not only does it happen again and again among the Japanese, it is seen as a sign of social and labor diligence. On certain social occasions, even revered by agreed participants.
Despite all the technology employed, subway or train journeys from big niponic cities they can prove, in addition to being long, very uncomfortable.
Even more so when they are on board trains overflowing with people such as those passing through Shinjuku station, known for having the largest human traffic in the world and where dedicated employees have the mission of pushing people inside who get stuck and impede the doors. of closing carriages.
The Rest of Absolute Japanese Security
But Japanese transport, in the image of Japan in general, strives for absolute safety.
While all over the urbanized planet, sleepy passengers would have to worry, at the very least, about pickpockets, for the emperor's land, any forgotten possessions are left where they were left or, better yet, handed over to the authorities of the station.
This guarantee is, in itself, a rest. Combined with the more than apparent propensity of Asians to fall asleep when rocked by movement, fatigue and routine, the surprising amount of simultaneous naps we were witnessing is thus fully justified.
As expected, Japan is aware of this reality and is concerned about its incorrigible sleepers.
For some time now, certain inventors have been fighting for the best solution to make their lives easier. They created helmets similar to those of the works that can be attached to the glass of the windows of carriages with suction cups.
In addition to fixing the head, the author of this device also remembered to resolve the issue of early awakening and added a plate to the helmet to insert messages that alert passengers awake to wake the user at the station where they must leave.
Another competing inventor has developed a kind of folding tripod that, when opened, raises a padded chin support, eccentric but allegedly of great use for all passengers who want to fall asleep standing up.
However, both inventions lack the subtlety necessary for the Japanese to use them without embarrassment. For this reason, conventional forms of unsupported falling asleep on trains and the metro continue to prevail.
This is not the case in Ginza, but we also found countless people sleeping in terminal stations, in empty carriages, even as employees of the JR (Japan Railways) or the metro clean it.
Drivers themselves are used to the additional exercise of examining the trains through security cameras and having to wake up exhausted passengers.
As we approach the station where we had planned to stay, the metro goes back to the pine cone and demands that we prepare the exit. We are forced to shake the sleepers who used us as pillows for their obvious physical and emotional discomfort.
At the end of yet another day of discovering Tokyo, we return to Kazuya's home and, after all, we remember to comment on that morning's comic event. Always pragmatic and easygoing, the host confesses without any embarrassment: “I know very well what they are talking about.
As you may have noticed, my schedules are also terrible. And, yes… I have to admit that I'm one of those. Fortunately, it's rare to miss the job season, but it's happened to me more than once that I end up at the terminal on the other side of town.
The worst thing in these cases is the delay with which I get to the office.”