The daily cycle in Japan is kind of strange, at least compared to Americans. There is a morning rush hour before 9 AM as all the businessmen cram in the train in their black business suits carrying black business briefcases. And somewhere around that time the students pack in there too, headed off to school or colleges.
But then the rest of the day kind of runs off-kilter. There are plenty of older and unemployed/underemployed folks in Tokyo, and they tend to keep the trains running around half-capacity or better for the rest of the morning as they head off to shop. And they, along with the stay-at-home moms, keep a general state of activity through the early afternoon, when, in an instant, you become surrounded by school children.
Depending on the day, the high schoolers could be out as early as noon (usually later). Elementary and middle school kids get out around 3-4pm, and there are little spurts of activity as each group of kids from each elementary school reach the station, all on the way to cram schools, language schools, or some other form of structured activity.
The college students seem to have a pretty standard day as well. The local university students pass by my house on the way to and from the station, and they come in massive groups like clockwork. It's a swarm of young adults that you couldn't understand until you saw it.
Things then die down until about 5 pm in Tokyo (which means about 6 in my area). That's when the droves of business men and office ladies start filing into the train for the evening rush hour. But this is Japan, and not everybody goes home at 5.
Sure, the trains are pretty crowded from 5-7. But I've never seen packers for the evening rush - only for the morning. That's because there are plenty of folks who stay out late and get drunk. So from 7-9 or so, things can be somewhat easy. Sure, the trains are still kind of crowded, but not jam-packed. After 9pm, they can start getting busy yet again, this time with lots of drunk men. Tonight, on the platform waiting for my train, a man slowly stumbled along burping audibly as he made his way past me. I'm thankful he didn't puke on or next to me as I'm sure he felt like doing.
When I got home tonight, about 10, I was amazed at how quiet it actually was. Usually, college and high school kids hang out in front of the station, chatting about whatever's coming up. Tonight, it was dead silent. I wondered where all those social kids were.
Last train brings home the rest of the drunks and by now things are usually quiet as men scurry home or try to catch taxis. But I think the earlier silence was just because the college kids and businessmen were spending a little longer getting drunk. A large group gathered just down the street and was quite loud for a long time and I've heard a good bit more street conversation from others than usual.
Granted I could shut the window and shut out most of the noise. But I'm just wondering if these folks missed their last train. And why they've decided to stay out so late.
Anyway it's late, after all. So good night!