While I’m trying to find the time this week to write a game report… a brief comparison of London and Tokyo subways, that I thought of while I was riding on the Marunouchi Line (Tokyo) this morning, reading a sign that said the train had air-conditioning and an air-cleaning system installed. Reading it reminded me of being crammed into the London subway (“the Tube”) and the inevitable comparisons.

The London tube is a filthy, grim affair, with narrow, claustrophobic trains travelling through tunnels barely wider than the carriages themselves, like bullets in a chamber. The interior of the tube is so low that tall men have to bow their heads unless they can push to the middle; the seats are so filthy that they are literally ringed with grime at their edges – the centre of the seat is blue cloth but the edge is brown or black with grime. The trains have no airconditioning, and the city famously refuses to find a solution to the problem of the intense heat in the carriages and passageways – in summer in the UK the outside temperature may not go above 23, but down below in the multiple tubular layers of hell, it is well above 35. And of course, in that special London way, there is the constant stink of unwashed bodies packed together. The stations themselves are tiny, cramped affairs with dark, often unfinished tunnels that are already fraying at the edges. Everyone is in the same 3 brands (Zara, TopShop, H&M) and stands sluggishly on the long escalators, staring at the sluggish people passing the other way. Like British houses, the Tube is dark and grey and stuffy.

All this is in contrast to Tokyo, whose metro stations are wide, large and brightly lit with many exits, shopping centres connected to them, and throngs of bustling, active people who walk briskly up the escalators, and are dressed in the myriad contrasting fashions that only Tokyo can support. The trains are bright and clean, wider and taller than the Tube, even though the people here are smaller and shorter. The trains are air-conditioned and they travel through wider tunnels. In contrast to the intense noise of the Tube as the carriages rattle through the claustrophobic tunnels, passengers and announcers yelling over the din, all is quiet and ordered. Screens over every door broadcast the day’s Korean lesson, or some notes on successful communication. People are packed together, but the train is not stuffy or filled with the reek of unwashed bodies.

And so this contrast struck me. In London, the workers are hurled to their destination like so much unwanted snot. In Tokyo they are swished to their place of work as treasures, like the money through the automated tube systems of a Love Hotel.

Of course there’s no point in comparing to Sydney trains… in that “international city” you’re lucky if they turn up at all!

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