When I’m not cycling, I take the Marunouchi line to work and it’s perfect because the Tokyo station exit is also the basement of my building. One day I was on the train standing near the doors as they opened at a passover station. An older man hobbled down the platform and as he took his last steps to alight, he gasped and fell backwards in slow motion. Several hands reached out to pull him onto the train, but they were just out of reach, and at the last moment a metro employee appeared behind the man and wordlessly caught him as he was about to crumple to the floor. The metro man cradled the older gentleman in his arms as he labored his every breath. People on the train watched in startled silence as the train doors closed and we sped away (shimarimasu – to close). There was a collective tension for the next few stops before each person who had witnessed the tumble got off the train and went about their work day.
I was reminded of this when discussing the experience of riding trains in Tokyo with out of town friends last night. It was so quietly dramatic and uniquely haunting that it struck me, in a tiny way, as being representative of a Japanese sense of community. Distant and yet intimate. Involved but detached.
I have a tendency to wonder about the lives of strangers. I hope he is okay.
xo your friend alice
Location: Tokyo, Japan