The World's Busiest: Train Station

Channel 5 may not be the home of significant amounts of quality viewing and in fact the rest of the World’s Busiest series isn’t much to write home about. However on 9th August the World’s Busiest Train Station was aired and gave us a fascinating insight into another culture.

The World’s Busiest Train Station is Shinjuku in Japan and throughout the episode we’re taken on a journey which looks at the minute details which genuinely demonstrate how the place can even operate and why it’s essential that it does.

Method behind the Madness

Tokyo is up there with the world’s busiest cities and Shinjuku is the world’s largest and busiest train station. Three million people pass through Shinjuku every day of the week, it boasts five rush hours and the show tells us it’s 15 times busier than Waterloo, the UK’s busiest station.

It may sound pretty boring, a show about a train station, but far from being a train spotter’s delight this programme gives viewers a chance to understand how Japanese culture works. There are trains at every one of Shinjuku’s platforms every two minutes yet the idea of being late for work is so unthinkable guards have to physically force people into the carriages.

Some staff are forced to sleep on site as the station doors open at 4am and every staff bunk is fitted with an inflatable mattress alarm clock which is automatically set to ensure you can’t be late – these are insane levels of efficiency.

Darker Side of the Coin

The darker side of the episode looks at how the busy nature and sheer volume of the people of the station can be fatal. The 1995 sarin gas attack on the whole subway was expertly planned with the perpetrators knowing that nothing would stop the guards stuffing more people onto the trains and as infected people got off, uninfected people got on and the killer chemical spread. Thirteen people died, fifty were injured and over a thousand suffered temporary visual problems and pain.

Another horrible aspect of the station, and any, is jinshin jiku, which is the polite idiomatic way the Japanese choose to say someone has jumped in front of the train. It translates roughly as human incident. The programme talks to guards at the station who have witnessed human incidents first hand and how, despite everything, their main role is to ensure the station can run smoothly once more.

Everything that could possibly be covered is included, from how the station copes during an earthquake to the need for women-only carriages due to molestation and assault in the crush – could you imagine that in London.

This programme may sound like a train spotter’s dream but it’s much more than that. It’s a small but telling look at Japanese culture and it’ll also guarantee you never complain about the Tube again.

This programme is available on Five on Demand until 12th July 2014.

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