Alone on the Shibuyo Line

Alone on the Shibuyo Line

  • As I stood and rode the Tokyo Subway Shibuyo Line five teenagers were seated shoulder to shoulder. The second from the right was a girl. The others sat in positions of teenager slouching, crossed legs, leaning on each other.
  • However, the girl sat up straight head slightly inclined, eyes gently closed, shoulders rounded to avoid contact with those around her. Her face was impassive. We rode for miles and miles. Minutes upon minutes. No change in posture. No change in expression. A serene picture amid the clamor around her.
  • The thought comes unbidden. I can be alone in a crowd. This girl did it. She has closed out the world  while in the magic realm of her mind. She looked so serene.
  • Then another trip on the Tokyo Subway.  We were crammed in as close as sardines. I was touching people all around me.  So was everyone in the subway car.  I looked around and saw each of them had developed a way to handle the closeness.  
  •  They had found a way to keep themselves separate in an overcrowded subway car.  They had found a way to be separate from their surroundings.  Within their bodies that were trapped.  Within their minds they were free. 

Originally written: May 16, 1996

  • I learned a lot that day. I had seen someone separate from the chaos that surrounded them. It was a noticeable difference between the teenagers that surrounded the girl on the train. They did not harass her. The just were doing their own thing. She was not one of them. It became very obvious as time went on. Eventually, the teenagers got off the subway. The teenage girl stayed and got off 2 stops later.

One response to “Alone on the Shibuyo Line

  1. I love this. I’ve always had an unusual thing about Japan……since I was a very small girl. I’ve never known why.
    I have heard that the Japanese have developed this to survive in a small area with so many people. I wish I understood it better. Do you know any details as to what their inner attitude is?

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