What Riding Trains Was Like in My Home Country After Living in Japan
"It made me see things differently."
Change is inevitable. When you move to Japan, you’re bound to encounter a lot of changes. Foreigners living there even find themselves slowly and unconsciously adopting the Japanese culture—to the extent that they’re “turning Japanese.” Because of this, their experience of going back home translates to a whole new process of adapting to change. This phenomenon is called counter-culture shock or reverse culture shock. It involves having to re-adjust after living for some time away from home.
In this series, we share the experiences of our writers, who found themselves questioning their national identities. Here is the story of our writer after experiencing counter-culture shock while riding the train.
Riding the train
Before I start my story, let me give you a short background of myself. I’ve been using the MRT and LRT when I was still in college back in 2007. I fairly knew the ins and outs of using the train system and had no problems navigating around the metro.
The same goes for commuting in Japan. Using the train system in getting around was pretty normal for me. Everybody uses the train to get to their destination, unless perhaps you’re an executive of a company or a celebrity. But even then, a lot of the upper echelons still use the train systems. You usually buy a pass, like a Suica or Pasmo, fill it up with load, and tap to enter or exit the stations. The system is so efficient that traveling around Japan is almost effortless.
Now, fast-forward to coming home to the Philippines after living in Japan for two years. I rode the train seemingly with a new pair of eyes. I almost forgot that the lines going into the stations would typically go on from the two-story-high train platform all the way down to the streets.
When I went to the ticket gate, I bought myself a train ticket. I didn’t have a commuter’s pass so I had to get one from the window. The prices of the tickets might have doubled since the last time I rode a train, but it was still way cheaper than the train rides in Japan. Unfortunately, I had to sacrifice time and comfort. Nevertheless, I was pleasantly surprised by how much money I saved.
Upon arriving at the platform, there were no lines. There were people on the platform, but it was chaotic. All the passengers were impatiently waiting in a disorderly fashion. I understood that they’ve come a long way to get to where they were. Knowing how disciplined people were in Japan, it made me see things differently. Back in college, I would have just brushed this off and gone with the flow. Instead, I patiently waited behind someone who was in a semblance of a line.
When the train arrived, people who were waiting to enter were right in front of the doors, making it hard for the people who want to go out to do so. I was so surprised at how chaotic things were, in spite of the fact that it was not my first time experiencing riding the trains in the Philippines.
Having a first-hand experience of one of the best train systems in the world, I couldn’t help but compare. I’m sure there was a time when the train system in Japan was not at its best state. It must have taken years before discipline and orderliness were achieved.
As for the train systems in my home country, I know that a bigger issue is at hand. Something far much deeper than just operational inefficiencies, lack of organization, and the lack of trains. But despite all this, I remain hopeful. I want to believe that the best is yet to come to the Philippines as it once did for Japan.
(2 December 2019)