Car commuters and train commuters move in different subcultures.
I’ve commuted to Kyoto from my home in Shiga Prefecture for more than 30 years. Until October I’d gone mostly by car—through Moriyama, across Lake Biwa, and over the mountains via Tochuu Pass and Ohara. In the morning it’s a scenic drive of about an hour and ten minutes.
Now my university is building a new student dormitory that takes up most of our old parking lot. The new parking lot is a long walk from the campus, so in October I quit driving to work.
Now I commute by bicycle from my home in Ritto to Moriyama Station, and then by train to Kyoto, subway to Kitayama, and on foot to the university. It takes about an hour and a half, and it’s really different from driving to work.
Car commuters and train commuters move in very different subcultures. Car drivers appear comfortable, but they have to stay alert and cooperate as they make decisions quickly. When drivers fail to coordinate their actions, car commuting becomes frustrating and dangerous.
Train commuters may appear uncomfortable, especially when they’re packed together. But it’s not bad when people relax and move smoothly with other passengers. When train passengers fail to coordinate their actions, movement becomes more awkward, but it’s rarely dangerous.
I gave up driving with some reluctance, but I’ve discovered some advantages of commuting by train. Public transportation is better for the environment, of course, but it’s also far more relaxing than driving on crowded roads. I don’t have to watch where I’m going, so I can read, look around, or just close my eyes and rest.
It’s more interesting, too. I like the scenery and the variety of people. Sometimes I meet students or colleagues on the way. Sometimes I even get a chance to talk with strangers. Every train ride is different, and that beats the boredom of driving the same car over the same road twice a day.