I see them at the weekend, camped out by the train tracks near my apartment. Their cameras are at the ready, perched jauntily on their tripods. These hobbyists are here for one thing only – trains. Yes, they are trainspotters, and passionate ones at that. I have seen boys as young as eight and men in their forties lie in wait, as a lioness would stalk her prey, for that chance that comes perhaps only twice an hour.
Now, I am by no means an aficionado who is utterly enthralled by trains, but I do admit to liking them a great deal, especially in Japan. They are punctual, convenient, and great for people-watching (especially the Friday and Saturday night last trains). My favourite line happens to be the pea green Yamanote line. Why? It’s quite simple, really. It comes at regular 4 minute intervals on weekdays, it is one of the most reliable lines out there, it has mini train TV screens (ok, usually it’s adverts for Nintendo DS or Panasonic Beauty, but still, it’s train TV!), it connects all of the most important sightseeing stations in Tokyo, and it takes about 60 minutes to travel all the way around the loop. How much more awesome can you get?
But perhaps the most exciting part is that you never know when the train you’re going to get will be special. For example, the Keisuke Honda train we’ve been seeing recently. I (not-so-secretly) think he’s pretty cool, and it makes me happy when I get to take the train with his massive face plastered all over it (even though he is advertising Mintia breath mints, I can forgive him that). The Disney train is pretty fabulous, as is the all-Japan Suica train, and the one which is pea green in all its entirety (I’m not sure what that one is for… celebrating 50 years of something, I think… maybe).
There are so many that it really mixes up the dreary, daily grind a bit. As Forrest Gump (well, his mother originally) so wisely said, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.” So it is with the Yamanote line trains.
I may not be rushing out to buy the Yamanote line alarm clock that is available at Bic Camera any time soon (though I have considered it), but I am rather excited to see what tomorrow’s train is going to look like!