Tag Archives: Train Stories

What the train-people carry


I do my best people watching
on the train to Tokyo.
Like The Matrix
I’m jacked into

By Minato-Mirai
the seats are all taken.
on their way
on their way home

Each one tells a story
what they wear
what they carry.
A teenager carts her tennis rackets
in a bag bigger than a four-year-old.
A young boy in knee-high socks
carries a stiff leather backpack
filled with boredom
and other burdens.
A grey suited salary man clutches
a briefcase of exhaustion.
On the other side of the train
sits a row of black shoe sorrows.

Never enough time.
Never enough.

An old man
met my gaze.

An actual old man
with actual grey hair.
as many Japanese
colour their hair
until they die.}

Not quite a smile
but a connection.
No smart phones between us.

He carried nothing
but has everything
he needs.

Typhoon Train Story


We planned to leave Ito
at noon on Sunday
but it rained
all night long
and the windows
shuddered in the wind.

We woke early
and caught
the local to Atami.
Across the aisle
sat a woman with a tight bun,
excellent posture
and a navy blue suit.
A Japanese doppelganger
of my Inner Editor.
{The one who whispers
nasty things
while I write.}

At Atami
we boarded
the green car
on the Tokyo train.
Reserved seats,
chocolate wafers,
my iPhone and
my moleskin.

At every stop
along this route
that hugs the sea,
people rushed
from the train

{umbrellas exploding}

seeking shelter
from the advancing storm.


train-people (with exceptions)

traingirlThe Japanese are train-people
well-dressed people.

These things are true-ish.
Except when they’re not.
(There are always exceptions.)

tableAt lunch
the young people
at the table beside me
are as loud as
school kids in the hall.
The man-boy snorts
when he laughs.
Our waitress smiles
at the sound.

tokyo towerBelow Tokyo Tower,
young Japanese man
on a motorbike
sings opera
at the top of his lungs.

On the train
three boys in small navy shorts
form a triangle,
two seated
one standing.
They terrorize each other

train no headDoors open.
Sun boards the train.

Three school girls
in navy uniforms
and small bowler hats
stand in the centre of the car.
Two with hands-ful
of pink and purple yarn
and small nimble fingers.
Spiders-webs of play.

train apartments2Transferring trains
I think about the Tokyo people
who live
the tracks
for whom the sound of trains
is constant
as breath.

The boy beside me sleeps
his phone in one hand
a book in the other.

An elderly man
rushes off the train
to return a purple umbrella
to a sweet-faced woman
while the empathy
of passengers
holds the doors
for his return.

A guy in headphones
and a brown puffy jacket
checks his seat twice
leaving the train.

Outside Family Mart
a woman walks on shoes
like skyscrapers.

I’m almost home
when two bulldogs
in matching
red Adidas sweatshirts
nod konichiwa
with the courtesy
(with exceptions)
learn living in Japan.

Train story: Shanghai to Beijing

12346578From Shanghai to Beijing
in five hours
and 30 minutes
in the “sight-seeing car”
at the cone-shaped end
of a bullet train.

Five hours and a half
of yellow dust-scape
near nowhere,
impenetrable highrises
dropped by
disproportionately large aliens
on their way home.

The reincarnation
of Mao himself
slept soundly
in the seat
beside us.

When Mao disappeared
into the dust-day,
a woman claimed
the window seat.
leaning into the view.

Perhaps she had
to see more
than the dust
on the trip
Shanghai and Beijing.

Tokyo Train Stories

A young woman
stands on the train
across from me.
Her short skirt is silver
like the metallic stuff
in windshields
that keeps the car cool
in summer.
Her high tops are silver
and her knapsack,
a toothy shark,
takes a bite from the pole
on which she
leans and reads.

A small girl spots the woman in silver.
Eyes widen
as she points,
whispers to her mom
who sees me watching
and shushes her.

When a seat comes free
at the next stop
the silver woman sits down
near the gawking girl –
A (replanted) Mexican jumping bean –
who cannot contain her joy.

I hope she’s thinking,
“When I grow up, I’m going to wear
a short silver skirt
and a knapsack
in the shape of a shark.”

At Yokohama Station
a small Asian woman
and her tall foreign partner
enter my car.
She wears
traditional Japanese kimono-pajamas
{I have no idea if such a thing exists
but that’s what they look like to me.}
The kimono-pajamas are purple and fuchsia
with threads of gold
that dance in the light
like kids at recess
or experienced house thieves.
At six and a half feet
her partner dwarfs her.
He may be the whitest man in Japan.
His hair is shaved close to his head
and he wears sunglasses like Robocop.
He too wears the kimono-pajamas,
black, white and grey striped
sear-sucker shorts
and kimono top.

It is a great tribute
to the generosity
of the Japanese people
that no one on the train
rolls their eyes
at the foreign man
in his pajamas.
They seem not even to notice.

On the return trip
we stop at Den-en-chōfu,
a particularly affluent neighbourhood.
I notice that guard rails
prevent “jumpers”
from ending their lives
on this section of the tracks.

An older woman sits in Courtesy seating.
Black hair with a beautiful cobweb
of grey,
perfectly pressed linen trousers
and Bladerunner blouse.
She holds a dark grey hat
with a brown band
and a book covered
in brown paper
dotted with tiny evergreen trees.
She reads for a few stops
and then falls asleep,
her head drifts back gently,
coming to rest
like snowfall
on the window.

Her shoes are mint green
Mary Janes
with a small kitten heel.
Made of the softest leather,
the toes are scuffed,
Shoes from a different time.

A school girl sits
Grey plaid skirt, starched white blouse
and a cream woolen vest
in spite of soaring temperatures.
On her feet, a pair of converse high tops.
Fuschia, turquoise, green-apple and purple
I detect a pair of lips
but the train slows
and the converse girl
is gone
taking with her
the secret language
of her shoes.

A teenage boy walks through this car
on his way to the next.
He is what our kids call “half” ~
one Japanese parent,
one foreign parent.
Tee-shirt and board shorts.
Long curly hair in a ponytail.
He smiles,
the happiest on the train.