This is one of a series of blogs which describe my trip to Japan in April 2012. To see further blogs in the series, click on “Japan Odyssey” in the Tag Cloud.
Greeted in the hotel’s 16th floor lobby by our guide for the day, Miwako — call me “Meewa”; nice lady, very good English. How did she spot us? Maybe we were the most casually dressed —- or just taller than most around us —– or the most obviously bewildered ?
After a brief introduction, we headed off to the underground station. All 5′ 2″ of Meewa leading the way at a fast pace, with her two black clad minders strolling along behind her like obedient camp followers. When we get to the subway station, our obedience becomes ever more attentive as Meewa weaves in and out of the crowds of morning commuters. Getting lost down here is not an option. The Japanese signs are all indecipherable and the English translations are unpronounceable. Meewa’s suggestion to follow the green symbols would be ok if we could spot them, but in this melee there is no chance. So we hang on to the sight of Meewa’s fast disappearing white coat.
When we get to the platform, its narrow and full; every inch of the side wall has a body pressed against it like wallpaper. We find an alcove where there is a little room to form a queue behind our leader. As the train arrives the doors open on an already full train. No-one gets out, and with a big slurp the train sucks the wallpapered bodies off the tunnel walls and into the even fuller train. We squeeze in behind. Sardines couldn’t do any better!
Once inside, its standing room only, with handles drooping from the ceiling for people to steady themselves, although there is no chance of falling over. The handles are just at the right height for Tom and I to bang our heads on them as we pass each one. Maybe now we can see a reason for masks — one sneeze and hundreds of people will catch a cold !
After several stops and a change of train to a slightly fuller one. We reach our destination and the escape from the underground burrow begins as Tom and I chase the rabbit in the white coat.