Tokyo's Trains: Background information when reading The Thief

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The Thief

by Fuminori Nakamura

The Thief by Fuminori Nakamura X
The Thief by Fuminori Nakamura
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2012, 304 pages
    Jan 2013, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Karen Rigby

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About this Book

Beyond the Book:
Tokyo's Trains

Print Review

Once known as Edo and renamed in the late 1860s, Tokyo - the capital of Japan - is a densely populated metropolis that has over 12 million inhabitants in the city proper and approximately 36 million people in the larger metropolitan prefecture. Located in the Kant? region, it is comprised of 23 wards, as well as 62 municipalities, which are served by over 500 train stations. Tokyo's electric trains, employed by locals and commuters alike, are known for their efficiency as well as their aesthetics.

Tokyo Metro logo Mentioned in The Thief are the Marunouchi line, which travels to the heart of Tokyo, a commercial and tourist center and also home of the Imperial Palace; Shinjuku Station (pictured), a major hub and, according to Guinness World Records, the world's busiest, boasting over 3.6 million visitors per day; Shinjuku, often portrayed in neon-lit, Hollywood scenes of Japan such as those in Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation; Shibuya, known for its fashionable teen culture; Gotanda and Ebisu, both of which are stops along the Yamanote line that loops through Tokyo's city centers.

Shinjuku Station Tokyo subway courtesy poster As a part of the Tokyo Bureau of Transportation's campaign to end rudeness on subway cars, the Tokyo Metro requests that riders silence their cell phones while on the trains. Promotional posters also remind passengers of proper train-riding etiquette: no drunken behavior, no loud music, and no littering, among other courtesies. They ask you to "please, do it at home."

Tokyo subway Women Only sign Interestingly, Tokyo Metro has also introduced "women-only" cars during the morning rush hour "so that women, elementary school students and younger children can ride with a sense of security." Boarding platforms have pink "Women Only" signs posted indicating the designated trains.

Did you know?

  • Approximately one third of the world's train passengers are Japanese.

  • The use of computerized melodies (sometimes specific to their locales) on Japanese trains is common; some of them are theme songs from animated cartoons.

  • One train, the Seibu 30000 series (pictured below), was designed with children in mind. Known as the "egg train" or the "smile train," it features a repetition of curved shapes, uses orange and white in the interior, and received the Kids Design Award in 2009.

Article by Karen Rigby

This article was originally published in April 2012, and has been updated for the January 2013 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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