I Used to Commute for Four Hours to Get to Work Before I Moved to Japan

Now, I love commuting to work!

As someone who has been living and working in Japan for five years, one of the best things about moving to Japan was the commute. Coming from the nightmares of commuting in my home country, experiencing Japan’s superb transportation system—which is arguably the best in the world—was like a dream. 

What early mornings in business districts in Japan look like. 

I used to sit in traffic for three or four hours to get to work.

In my country (the Philippines), I had to wake up at
4 a.m. to make it to work at 9 a.m. Here’s the drill: Wake up at 4 a.m., prepare for work, leave the house at 5 a.m., and pray that I can somehow manage to squeeze into a seat on the bus! Once the hurdle of getting on the bus is over at 6 or 6:30, I would find myself stuck in traffic for an hour or two. And if I’m lucky, I get to work on time by 9 a.m. 

Riding the bus for three hours to get to work would normally translate as commuting long distances between work and home. But, after calculating the distance between work and home, I was left aghast knowing that it is just a measly 20 kilometers, which takes a full three hours to travel! It meant that I wasted 6 hours every day just for commuting.

In Japan, I am living my best life commuting. But of course, everything would have its ups and downs—that’s another story altogether.

Here in Japan, I spend an hour and a half commuting double the distance of what I traveled back home.

I work in central Tokyo, but I live in Chiba Prefecture. The distance between my office and my home is double the distance from home, 40 kilometers! Despite this, I am able to commute half the time with just 1.5 hours to get to work—and that includes the walk from my house to the train station!

Here, I generally get up at 6:30 in the morning, get ready for work and leave the house at 7:30. Since the trains in Japan arrive and leave on the dot, with the exception of the occasional accidents and mishaps, I know what time I will arrive at my destination.

Although the rush hour can be a cause for concern, in the end, the benefits outweigh the costs, and it’s all worth it. 


But the commute in Japan isn’t perfect.

The commuting system, even in advanced societies like Japan, would still have occasional hiccups. Train delays happen due to many factors—human error, weather, and natural disasters, to name a few. 

Fortunately, Japan has got your back! In such cases, there is a way for you to keep your clean attendance record by submitting what is called a
chien-shomeisho (?????) to your company. You can get this from the train station staff at the ticket windows whenever the train is late. Take note though that using the chien-shomeisho is not a valid reason for you to be late to the office.

Japanese people take punctuality very seriously, and everyone is expected to come to work with enough time to prepare (usually 15 minutes before the shift). The
chien-shomeisho is generally accepted only when the train delay would cause you to be late for more than 15 minutes. So make sure to leave the house early enough so even in the case of delays, you would still be able to come in on time!

Of course, working in Japan would require you to deal with many
cross-cultural challenges, but in the daily grind, the commute system is a major upgrade compared to my past experiences. This is just one of the many things that I am grateful for when I came to Japan! 

 (22 August 2019)

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