The Semi-Adventures of a Nomadic Mathematician Rotating Header Image

The Tokyo Metro Is Crumbling Apart and Japan Is on the Way to Hell

You notice a correspondence between the train services in a country and the standard of living.

Germany used to have trains that ran on time. Connections used to be possible. You could plan appointments. You could even use the toilets because they used to be reasonably clean. The situation changed, and even the glorious Intercity Express runs half an hour late every time I take it. You also wouldn’t venture into the station toilets anymore. The reasons to the decline are numerous, although personally I conjecture that the influx of my fellow Eastern Europeans had a major role. To make ourselves feel at home, we love to corrupt everything around us. The German train system and the country are victims of this habit.

Then let us take a peek at the capital of imperialism, the jolly spy country that rejoices in annihilating human rights, especially of those who are not of their own pure blood. It is hard to tell whether the Tube in London or the city itself is more dysfunctional. The line I want to take is always under reconstruction, or it is temporarily closed because of ‘signal failures’, which is just a way of saying they have no clue what went wrong. The trains in the rest of the country are so chaotic that if you were not born with an umbrella in one hand and a pint of ale in the other, then you cannot possibly figure out how to get from A to B in a finite amount of time on a finite budget.

At least my current base, Barcelona, makes it cheap to have a terrible service. Time tables have no correspondence with reality, trains are infrequent, they break down, and the air conditioner is not there to make the temperature tolerable. But you can cover forty kilometres for 0.95 euros. The fledgling communists imposed 55 % tax on the highest income bracket, which also happens to have a comparably low threshold. High government income attracts corruption, hence trains are bound to be unreliable.

Malaysia is a showcase of inefficiency and so are its trains. Once a cow walking by the tracks overtook the night train I took from Singapore to KL. On an unreserved class train in India, I learned to appreciate every square millimetre I was given on the floor, but at least the timetable was not pretentious: it promised the train would cover four hundred kilometres in fifteen hours, and it did. AmTrak? It is a sick joke like the rest of the country. Then Cambodia does not even have trains to begin with.

The last bastion of trains that run on time was Japan. The total delay per year of all shinkansen trains across the whole of Japan is in the range of minutes. That is more than a thousand journeys a day. While the shinkansen is a pinnacle of human civilization, the rest of the trains have a less than stellar track record.

Most notably, the Tokyo Metro is a disgrace. In a month, I experienced two major delays when a twenty minute ride expanded to forty minutes. On the second occasion, the train did not even make it to my destination: we forced to disembark before. The impromptu terminus was so crowded it took me ten minutes to get out.

From here, it is downhill. The malignant tumour of broken railways will spread from the capital. In a few years, the shinkansen will run half a day late. It is the apocalypse. Japan has no hope. It is a nuclear bomb delivered by no external party that will wipe off everything that Japanese people have created from the surface of this planet.


  1. Kathleen says:

    You do always make me laugh! When is the novella due out?



    1. Peter Peter says:

      I was so mad! The Tokyo Metro! Among all things. I had to take the shinkansen to calm down a bit. Novella? That is not happening, unfortunately.