Sometimes Things Move Slowly in Japan

Apr 22nd, 2009 | By | Category: Lifestyle

With the records breaking speeds attained by the Shinkansen (bullet train), the ever on-time performance of the train system in Japan and the hoards of people moving around the country’s major cities at a seemingly breakneck pace you would think that everything in Japan is done efficiently and speedily but that’s not always the case.

Japan Train Station Crowds

Waiting is a national pastime and there are long lines & crowds everywhere in Japan which tend to impede ones ability to get things done in a brisk manner.

Japan Train PlatformTake the efficient train system, it may be on-time but you will have to spend some time waiting to catch the train and if you have to make more than one connection, well, you will have to wait more than once!  Now don’t get me wrong, I love the rail system in Japan but oftentimes a commute can be frustratingly slowed down by all of the time spent waiting patiently in line for the next train.

Shopping is another one of those things which despite it’s seeming simplicity can take a little longer than expected.  Retail shops in Japan are usually well staffed and while finding what you are looking for is not always that easy, there are often many people available to help you.  After carefully selecting your merchandise you may feel as if the hard part is over but be sure to leave yourself some time.

Japan Gift Wrap Paying for your purchase is often the start of another round of waiting.  That’s right, you will receive your change and then be asked to move to the side while your package is being wrapped.  The result is usually a quite and elegant package that is wrapped, bagged and then bagged again so as to not damages the first bag….but did you know that in some stores they even give you a claim ticket so that you can continue to browse while they wrap your purchases?

Many people waited 40 minutes in line to get a doughnut at Krispy Creme in Japan when it first opened and even when heading out for a fun evening at a local matsuri (festival) you will find crowds impeding your every move at times.

The people in the crowds and lines in Japan are rarely unruly but their sheer mass can really slow you down!

Japan Matsuri Festival Crowd

This is my entry into the Slow Times in Japan April Japan Blog Matsuri hosted by What Japan Thinks.

Image Credit:  Flickr, Shibuya Toyoko Line, Platform, 03-21-08, Crowded

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  1. Exactly why I stopped attending stupid festivals like Gion Matsuri - the sheer mass of people visiting Kyoto for that one - not so impressive- event is just overwhelming and frankly quite gross. I felt quite sick having to be moved along with the masses.

    Then again, we dont get much queuing here in kyoto, for trains or otherwise.

    I queued up on the launch day of the Wii when I was living in Yokkaichi. For about 15 minutes. Everyone is so poor there anyway that only a few of the inhabitants could afford a Wii… I sold it a month later as I found out I cant stand puzzle solving games like Zelda, which was pretty much the only in depth gamne available for the Wii at that time. ….

  2. I saw recently a Monsters Inc. attraction opened at Tokyo Disneyland and the waiting time was… wait for it… 320 minutes! ?

  3. Well, you may often need to wait, but at least the wait is very efficiently organized :)

    The Krispy Kreme queue and similar ones (there’s a takoyaki stand at Doutonbori in Osaka that _always_ has a long line, despite tasting no better than the other ones) is really about the line itself. It’s a way, I think, for a guy on a date to show how much he will do for her by enduring a long, long line for something she wants. If there wasn’t a line, nobody would go there, pretty much.

    By the way, cool that you found use for my subway platform shot above! That’s why I like Creative Commons-licensing; the pictures pop up in all kinds of places they never would have otherwise. Could you add my name or (better) have the image link back to its Flickr page, like the license asks?

  4. Janne - Thanks for stopping by to comment. The lines are well organized here, that is one thing that can be said with certainty. Personally, a line is a bit of a turn off for me but I will make the odd exception.

    FYI, there is a link back to your photo in the image credits at the bottom of the article. It’s linked to the name of the image, “platform”, and goes straight to the shot on Flickr so others can enjoy it and the others in your collection as I did. I make it a practice to do this in all my posts where I use creative commons licensed images.

  5. Blind as a bat, that’s what I am - completely missed the links at the bottom. Never mind my ps. Me, I don’t mind standing in line, as long as there’s enough interesting people in the line to watch while I wait. And more often than not there is, here.

  6. Ah, nothing screams “success” in Japan like a long line reaching halfway around the block. I remember a colleague of mine buying a book called “Dai-gyoretsu ga dekiru ramen-ya 100 ten” (100 ramen stores with enormous lines), the premise being that they were so good that people would queue for hours to get in. I used it to work out which ones to absolutely avoid…

  7. I heard that there is a cupcake shop in New York where you wait in line for 45 minutes for a very mediocre cupcake. What the human race will do for our sweets!

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