Two dozen years

17 Oct

Today is October 17th, 2014. I came to Japan on October 17th, 1990. Twenty-four years ago.

I was born and grew up in America. But I only lived there for twenty years. I’ve lived most of my life in Japan now.

I’m sure you can imagine, Japan was pretty different 24 years ago.
Even Japanese people in their twenties or younger can’t imagine if I tell them what Japan was like when I first came here!

One big change is that there was no internet or cell-phones when I came here.
Everyone, including me, had phone cards for pay-phones in their wallet. If it was announced that a train was running late, suddenly everyone on the platform would line up to use the payphones (that used to be on every train platform) to call their office to tell that they might be late.
Nowadays, people take out their cell-phone to either call or e-mail their employer if the train is late.

Also, train stations didn’t have escalators or elevators like they all do now.
If someone was in a wheelchair, the train station staff would carry his wheelchair up or down the stairs!
When my kids were babies, my wife and I had to carry their strollers up and down the train station stairs when we used the train.

Now, all train stations in Japan have automatic ticket gates and IC cards (I wrote a post here about them).
But when I first came to Japan, every train station…even the big major ones…had staff with hole punchers at the ticket gates.

To enter the train station, commuters would hand their ticket to one of these guys and get the ticket punched and handed back to them.
Then when they exited, these guys collected the tickets…and they’d tell you if you owed more money on your fare.
They were really fast! Especially at busy stations like Tokyo Station or Shinjuku Station!

Punching a ticket

As I said, there were no cell-phones or email in 1990. Nowadays, if the person you’re meeting is running late, you can just call or email their cell-phone. Life wasn’t always like that.
When I first came to Japan, there were chalkboards at every train station that anyone could use to write a message to the person they were waiting for.
There were always messages on them such as “To ____, I went ahead. I’ll wait for you at the restaurant.” or “To_____, you were late so I went home.

These were commonly used in Japan before cell-phones.

I’ve seen a lot of changes in Japan since 1990. I wonder what changes the next decades will bring!

20 Responses to “Two dozen years”

  1. Girish September 22, 2016 at 6:52 am #

    Came across your blog and interesting experiences about Japan. I too stayed in Tokyo for 3 years (Gyotoku – 2 yrs and Kawasaki – 1 yr) from 2007 to 2010. Have lovely memories of it and will cherish it forever. My work has taken me there and would love to go back there given a chance.

    Like

    • tokyo5 September 22, 2016 at 10:01 am #

      Gyotoku and Kawasaki are near Tokyo, but not actually part of it. Gyotoku is in Chiba Prefecture (east of Tokyo’s border) and Kawasaki is in Kanagawa Prefecture (to the south of Tokyo).
      But that’s just a technicality…they’re both part of the “Tokyo area”.

      Did you visit other parts of Japan while you were here?

      Like

      • Girish September 23, 2016 at 12:51 am #

        Due to hectic work schedule couldn’t go around much. But from limited time in hand got to go around Hiroshima, Himeji, Izu, Mt Fuji (twice), Sado Island, Hakone, Atami and some places in and around Tokyo.

        Liked by 1 person

      • tokyo5 September 23, 2016 at 8:11 am #

        Oh! You have seen a lot! That’s good! What part of Japan did you like the most?

        Like

      • Girish September 23, 2016 at 11:24 pm #

        No specific place to like. Each place was unique and beautiful in its own way.

        Like

      • tokyo5 September 24, 2016 at 11:36 am #

        Not only each area, but each season of the year in Japan is very unique and beautiful.

        Like

  2. wearetheandersons13 August 18, 2016 at 5:17 pm #

    This is so interesting – especially the chalkboards. It’s crazy how dependent we are on cell phones nowadays. I know you’re no longer writing blog posts, but I can’t wait to read more about your experiences here in Japan. Why did you end up moving to Japan? Were you a businessman, or teacher? I suppose if I look back far enough I’ll find the answers to my questions. Haha🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • tokyo5 August 18, 2016 at 6:56 pm #

      Thank you. Feel free to comment on my blog often.
      I came to Japan originally because the place I was working for at the time in America offered me the chance to work at the Japan branch for two years … after which I quit that job and got a job with a Japanese company and I’ve been here since.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Mio | Third Culture Family July 22, 2015 at 8:38 pm #

    Like the others, I find the whole chalkboard thing incredibly interesting. I wonder if any train/bus stations in “inaka” have them still. I’ll be on the look out when we go in September!

    I think I actually do remember using tickets that got punched by manually. I wish I had kept those to show my kids now.😦

    Liked by 1 person

    • tokyo5 July 23, 2015 at 9:18 am #

      >Like the others, I find the whole chalkboard thing incredibly interesting. I wonder if any train/bus stations in “inaka” have them still.

      – Some small stations in the boonies still do…but they’re becoming more and more scarce.
      The widespread use of cell-phones has made them obsolete.

      >I’ll be on the look out when we go in September!

      – Are you going to visit Japan in September? In the countryside?

      >I think I actually do remember using tickets that got punched by manually.

      – Did you live in Japan years ago?

      > I wish I had kept those to show my kids now

      – Many stations still keep a punch in the desk in the station office. If you tell them that you want to keep the ticket as a souvenir and you’d like it punched manually, they may be able to (most people who want to keep a ticket from a specific station (ie: Tokyo Stn or Kyoto Stn) don’t want it to have a hole in it…so the station staff will use an ink stamp for them if they ask, so they will probably assume that’s what you want unless you specify you want it punched by hand.)

      Like

  4. David A. LaSpina April 15, 2015 at 9:28 am #

    I’m late on seeing this post, I see. Anyways, nice memories. Many stations around Okazaki still had the ticket punchers and chalkboards (and lack of elevators/escalators) when I came to Japan in 2006. Actually at many smaller stations, all employees left at 6pm so there was no one to take or punch tickets, leading to a lot of people cheating. Nowadays I can’t think of any stations that still have either—though a great many are still lacking elevators/escalators/handicap help.

    Like

    • tokyo5 April 15, 2015 at 9:40 am #

      >Many stations around Okazaki still had the ticket punchers and chalkboards

      Yeah, the countryside isn’t as quick to modernize as big cities.

      >though a great many are still lacking elevators/escalators/handicap help

      Some small stations in rural areas still don’t have elevators…but they have a call button if there are stairs, so that people who need assistance (handicapped, elderly, etc) can call the station staff.

      Like

  5. Sophelia October 17, 2014 at 7:17 pm #

    Heh, we still have many of those things in the inaka… including the chalk boards, ticket punchers and lack of wheel-chair access😉

    Like

    • tokyo5 October 17, 2014 at 7:46 pm #

      I visit countryside areas sometimes and have seen them there still in small remote stations. I guess I should’ve mentioned that I’m mostly talking about Tokyo in this post.

      What part of Japan do you live in?

      Like

  6. Hilary no tabi October 17, 2014 at 1:53 pm #

    How interesting! I enjoy reading about what has changed, especially with transportation. My new employer mailed me a phone card for my arrival in 2006. At the time, I remember smoking on shinks was allowed and the Suica was only in Tokyo. Hubby and I noticed a huge drop in gates in Tokyo accepting paper tickets in the 1.5 years between our 2012 and 2014 visits. That was a surprise!

    Like

    • tokyo5 October 17, 2014 at 2:01 pm #

      Yeah, the IC (SUICA, etc) cards started out with limited areas of use…and they originally couldn’t be used on other train lines (ie: SUICA was “JR only”)…now they be used even for most buses and many convenience stores and vending machines.

      >a huge drop in gates in Tokyo accepting paper tickets in the 1.5 years between our 2012 and 2014 visits

      Even in two years, you’ve noticed changes in Japan. Imagine how much has changed in 24 years !😉

      Liked by 1 person

  7. ddupre315 October 17, 2014 at 7:55 am #

    Interesting changes. How odd to leave messages on a chalk board. Yet again a show of respect for others in this country. In America, chalk board messages would be erased or played with/altered.

    Like

    • tokyo5 October 17, 2014 at 8:26 am #

      >In America, chalk board messages would be erased or played with/altered.

      You’re probably right, unfortunately. Doing something like that wouldn’t even cross most Japanese people’s mind…that’s one of the reasons I like living here—respectfulness.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. CrazyChineseFamily October 17, 2014 at 3:12 am #

    The chalkboard thing is really interesting!
    In Germany I remember that the tickets were also punched by the staff either at the railway station or in the train by soem service personel. However I dont know when they changed it (if they actually changed it yet) as I havent used the train for over 15 years here :=)

    Every now and then you can still encounter here few payphones but not like it used to be before. Until at least 12 years ago every street had several payphones and of course everyone had the phonecards, nowadays no one younger seems to know how to use these old payphones.

    Like

    • tokyo5 October 17, 2014 at 8:23 am #

      >The chalkboard thing is really interesting!

      Yeah, they haven’t been used in so long that I had almost forgotten about them.

      >Every now and then you can still encounter here few payphones but not like it used to be before.

      Yes, that’s right!

      >nowadays no one younger seems to know how to use these old payphones.

      Yeah…if they forget their cellphone at home, it doesn’t even cross their mind to find a payphone if they have to call someone!

      Liked by 1 person

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