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The Crazy Rush Hour in Japan

Updated: Jun 18

August 6, 2019

Karin Nakagawa


Have you ever gotten on the Manin-densya, an over-crowded train cart, in rush hours in Japan? Everyone in Manin-densya hates it because they cannot do anything. You would never able to read a book and play online game through smartphones. Tokyo has one of the most extensive and efficient transport networks in the world but still all lines are crowded in rush hours. Many people live in cities in suburb of Tokyo and commute to Tokyo everyday. For example, from Chiba to downtown Tokyo, it takes more than two hours. Are there any solutions for this?


How Crowded Are the Trains in Rush Hour?

Ministry of Land, Infrastructure Transport and Tourism conducted a survey of the peak-side congestion rate for each hour to promote off-peak commuting for major sections of the three major metropolitan areas (see Figure 1). According to the survey, there are 11 routes out of the major 31 routes in the Tokyo area with a congestion rate of over 180%. Also, in rush hour, some trains have even over 220%.


Figure 1: The Guideline of Congestion Rates

Source: Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, 2019


Why Is Man'in-densya Happened?

The root cause of crowded trains is that the metropolitan area has too many people. In fact, the population of Greater Tokyo area including Tochigi and Ibaraki prefectures is about 30 million. This is about a quarter of the total population in Japan. According to a survey published by the United Nations, the population of Tokyo is extraordinary even in the world.

Why did companies and organizations gather only in Tokyo and the population explodes only in the Tokyo metropolitan area?Major cause was the long pursuit of rapid economic growth. After the Meiji Restoration in 1968, Japan re-named its capital from Edo to Tokyo to become a modern nation. A shift was made from an agricultural country to an industrial country and many factories were created. The more people migrated from provinces to Tokyo to get a job, the more the infrastructure such as housing and railway was improved. Edo had already world-class population and over 100 years, population of Tokyo gradually exploded.


The Policy for Tokyo 2020

In such a situation, people might be worried about whether the railway and subway system would work well during the Tokyo Olympic Games. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government is pursuing a policy of ensuring the railway to run properly, which is called “Smooth Biz”. There are three sections, traffic demand management (TDM), teleworking, and time stagger biz. TDM is an effort to reduce road traffic congestion. Teleworking, the way to work flexible by using ICT, and time stagger biz solve confusion in rush hour. There are currently 2215 companies and 113 organizations participating in the 2020 TDM project.

In fact, as part of this policy, a social experiment called “Smooth Biz” was conducted from July 22 to August 2. Participating companies and organizations did "teleworking" and "time shift work", and the Tokyo metropolitan government is reviewing measurements and effectiveness if traffic volume was reduced. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government will verify whether it has been effective and decide on measures for 2020. It seems that this social experiment will be conducted in this summer.


What Do You Think About That?

Are you ready to get on the Manin-densya? Sometimes it is unique part of Japan but it is very stressful. Crowded train is actually a serious problem.

At the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, it is expected that 4 million foreign people will visit Japan. We should improve the transport system and shift to the new way of working style.


Reference: http://www.mlit.go.jp/tetudo/toshitetu/03_04.html

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