When we went to the U.S. last month we rode the train from Los Angeles to San Diego, and this was actually the first time I’d ridden a train in my own home country. (The “car culture” in California is so strong it’s easy to go for years without riding a train, a very different situation from Japan.) This amused my Japanese wife, who’s a big fan of traveling on Amtrack when she has to travel inside the U.S., and she took great joy in explaining how to buy tickets to me. The train ride was great, with comfortable seats and electric plugs that allow you to charge your laptop or cell phone while you ride. There were some, ah, differences in the manners displayed by a few of my fellow passengers, however. In Japan, shoes are considered very dirty, and you’d never, say, rest your shoes on or stand on a seat that someone else was going to use. (“It’s rude to the next person who will sit there, even if you don’t know who it will be,” I’ve been told.) A lady was doing just that, though, resting her (muddy) shoes on the seat I was about to sit on — ugh. Also, it’s quite impolite to have a telephone conversation on a crowded train in Japan (if you need to talk on the phone you can use the deck area between the cars), but one man managed to talk loudly all the way to our destination. In Japan people are more sensitive to hito no me (hee-to no meh), lit. “the eyes of others,” and would realize the annoyed glares of the people around them meant they were causing annoyance.(My wife may have riden more trains in the U.S. than me, but I know trains much better here in Japan, and whenever we go somewhere she has to trust that I know which train to ride to get where we’re going in Tokyo. We’re quite an interesting couple.)
Trains in the U.S. are somewhat different from Japan.