Nick’s Nippon Notebook: At Midnight Your Ride Home Becomes A Pumpkin (Part 1)

Posted by Guest Author on Sep 3, 2008 in Hobbies and Collections |

Nick's Nippon Notebook

Part I: One of the differences most visitors to Japan point out sooner or later is the reality that most public transportation in Tokyo as well as throughout Japan starts to shut down at midnight to start up again after 5 AM. With trains and subways the reasoning is to perform thorough daily maintenance. The fact of the matter is they do run on time. Apparently the stationmaster will even issue a late pass if a train is late so you don’t get reprimanded for being late at your job. I guess it’s harder to justify busses not running either. It’s often rumored that perhaps taxi drivers used political influence to make sure no alternative to taxis run at night, but that might be a popular myth.

A popular part of town might be packed at 11:30 PM with people and then find only small groups of stragglers at 12:15 AM. Concerts are definitely timed differently compared to the U.S.. It’s quite typical for a rock concert to begin at 7PM and end at 10:30 at the latest so people can get home. Then on Friday and Saturday a club will book more of a DJ oriented thing from midnight to 5 AM with a separate admission. They also might start at 6 PM for the main show with a lesser opening act. Actually something I noticed this year is many people seem to be having their work hours lengthened to end at 7PM. So I don’t know how they’ll get to a show, let alone go home first then go to the show.

Back in the 90s while visiting I was always trying hard, almost obsessively not to get “stuck” somewhere. I remember one time I left a really special party way too early because I was pretty far away and I guess I was being over cautious since I had several trains to catch.

Actually the trains and subways don’t stop dead at 12 AM. What really happens is the last train starts from the ends of the line, so one can still catch trains at middle of the line stations well after midnight. Though conversely in the morning there may not be anything at those stations until well after 5AM.

So in the several trips I took in the 2000s I wanted to see what would happen after midnight. Though I still have a bit of an obsession with finding myself in a far and remote part of town and not being able to get back until dawn. In 2004 I was visiting a friend in Osaka. I was able to book myself as part of a small all-day all night music festival called Placard.

Yoyogi Park, Japan

It was literally in the center of Yoyogi Park, which is North of Shibuya and West of Harajuku and the bottom of the park is where fashionable Omotesando starts. The south end of the park also contains still modern looking buildings from the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. The concert was on the grass in the park with headphones. I knew I’d be playing well after I could get back to Osaka, maybe 3.5 hours away. But I also knew the concert would have acts playing until dawn so I thought it would be a good chance to explore the nap in the park option.

I might be wrong in some situations, but generally one can sleep in the park without trouble. You can see the park vibe as well known bloggers Jean Snow in green with glasses and Nick Currie with eye patch in this photo:

Yoyogi Park, Japan

Yoyogi Park, Japan

They both apparently caught trains home not long after the Momus set.

There were a fair but not huge number of people in the park all night. Some small parks are full of homeless people sometimes with small shelters in niche areas made blue plastic tarp and sometimes plywood. They might have been there, but that park is very large. Actually I didn’t have anything comfy to lie down on and wearing headphones took their toll by around 3 AM, so I set off for maybe an under a mile walk to Shibuya Station to check things out at night.

A number of restaurants were open but I guess I was both restless and tired. I mostly was wandering around checking out vending machines for rare beverages. I found one with something mysterious since I couldn’t read what it was and had no illustration and that cost more than beer. So of course I had to buy it and still didn’t know after drinking some. It wasn’t anything I liked though indeed it definitely wasn’t beer. I had to buy another one from a different brand about 2 days later at a convenience store to confirm it was a whisky and water in a can.

I went to a Wendy’s maybe because I had just seen my favorite actress, Tomoe Shinohara starring in a big musical stage production of Pippi Longstockings.

The one guy working at Wendy’s had his hands full waking up and trying to hustle out patrons who wanted to sleep while he manned the counter and ignored the oversensitive automatic door that opened and closed when someone ordering moved in any way… I think I got back to Osaka around 10AM because the first few trains would have cost a lot extra.

Nick Kent is a New York based artist who works with electronic media and is an occasional pop culture pundit.

Comments are closed.


Copyright © 2024 All rights reserved. Theme by Laptop Geek.