When I came to Japan, the first Japanese language vocabulary that I easily got accustomed to is none other the one that is used in announcements in train stations, subways and trains. On some trains e.g. Yamanote line, they provide the English interpretation of the announcements which makes it easy for a foreigner (gaikokujin[外国人]) like me to know what is happening but also to learn the Japanese language. One familiar announcement goes like this: ni bansen ni doa ga shimarisu [ 二番線にドアが閉まります] which literally means doors of the train on platform no. 2 will close.When you hear this announcement, if you want to get on board, you must do so immediately otherwise you will be left behind.
But times do come when it actually goes beyond “doa ga shimarimasu”.Train stations can become overcrowded because people are either rushing for work (morning) or for their homes (evening). During these times, you have to push your way into the train otherwise you will be left behind. During my first weeks in Tokyo, I could not do the pushing because I used to think that that was impolite.I was always waiting for a less crowded train.As a result, I was usually late for my Japanese language class. A few weeks later, someone told me that the Japanese people are used to that kind of life and that there was going to be no problem if I also start pushing my way into the train as long as I do it politely.As a result, I also started pushing but trust me I do it politely.I say “Excuse me” (gomennasai [ごめんなさい] or [すみません]) as I push my way into the train. The people respond by saying “It’s Ok”(daijoubu[大丈夫]) which further confirms that they are used to this kind of life.Sometimes when there are a lot of people trying to squeeze themselves into the train, some special pushers (oshiya[押し屋]) would come to help pushing people into the train.This reminds me of my undergraduate days at the Malawi Polytechnic when we used to say “Basi ya Poly siidzadza.Ngati ukufuna kupita, upita basi anthu anangachuluke bwanji” (The Polytechnic bus is never full.If you want to go, you will go regardless of the number of people getting on board”.
For more details, about the pushing that goes on during rush hour in Japan, watch the this video: