Opening Ceremony and Train Delays

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Opening Ceremony marks the final day of a week and a half orientation and the beginning of our college education in Japan.

Our guest speaker had also been a student at the college in the 80’s. And, after being talked into studying abroad in Asia rather than to Europe where he originally planned to go, he described his thoughts while landing in Japan as: “What am I doing here?” Without knowing a word of Japanese he attended his classes and explored Japan.

Fast forward to 2016 where he is the President of CEO of a Japanese company centered in Tokyo and has three kids each born in a different country of Asia.

Turned out his choice to study abroad in Japan led to a successful and seemingly happy future.

And as a new student still adjusting to Japan and often wondering what I’m doing here, I was given a little hope that what I’m doing will possibly be one of the most fruitful experiences I can place myself in.

Opportunities I couldn’t get elsewhere, perhaps.

With the ceremony ended, a friend and I hopped on a train to get to a large park by the river a station down.

I should’ve realized something was wrong when I boarded the train either from people’s annoyed faces or from the incessant beeping in the background.

We waited. And waited. And waited some more.

The announcements are vague, apologizing for the delay without giving any details. The people are annoyed. The lady across from me is making angry phone calls cursing the train system. More and more young people are offering their seats to the elderly just boarding the train. People are keeping themselves busy with books or their phones.

Public transportation in Japan is famously known for being on time. From what I’ve seen of the public transportation in Japan so far, this stands true.

Until now, when we depart at 3:30 after a delay of 45 minutes.

An elderly lady walks in front of my friend and I. My friend offers the lady her seat where the lady originally refuses, saying that she’s getting off at the next station and doesn’t need a seat. I responded for my friend, who just started learning Japanese a few weeks ago, that we were also getting off at the next station and that we’d be happy for her to take the seat.

We start talking a little bit, and she says she thinks the trains are delayed because of a suicide.

Suicide rates in Japan are notoriously known to be the highest in the world. From what I’ve heard talking to the elderly lady sitting next to me, this stands true.

Out the train window we saw police on the side of the rail tracks, where they were investigating personal belongings surrounded by a drawn chalk circle.

We get to next station five minutes later on a route that usually takes only two.

We thought we were free off the train delays having arrived at our destination, but we were wrong.

We waited another 20 minutes waiting for the gates at the train crossing to lift to let us pass to the other side where the park and river were waiting.

Cars are backed up. People are walking towards the next closest train crossing in hopes that one’s not closed as well. People are pushing their way to the front to see how many trains are backed up. People are going to the bakery immediately to the right to pass the time and get some quick food.

The gates lift and people rush across the crossing and cars hoping they can make it through before the next train forces the gates down again.

The park was beautiful though; it brought me back to earlier that morning where I had felt so hopeful about all the opportunities I would be granted through my experiences here.

But, at the same time, Japan is suffocating to some people, driving them to their demise.

It’s quite sad to think about, but at the same time, nothing can get done while dwelling on tragedies. Of course, it doesn’t mean that it should be forgotten either. Disasters have the ability to bring on change, but dwelling on the event or completely ignoring it doesn’t improve anything.

I will keep this incident in my mind, whether it had been a suicide or not*, as I spend the rest of my time here studying and exploring. Dwelling on hardships while I’m here or ignoring opportunities won’t bring about the change I wish to see grow in me as I saw had grown in the guest speaker at our Opening Ceremony this morning.


*I since searched for a news report of this online to see if they reported the situation as “train delay” or “suicide.” The answer was neither. The article simply said that the train driver saw the lady, a nurse 39 years of age, hit the brakes hard, but wasn’t able to stop in time and thus the lady was hit and killed. It didn’t mention anything about her motivations or about it being a possible suicide, however. The article can be found here, although it is written in Japanese:

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