November 21st, 2013, 11am

It was 14°C with few clouds. The breeze was light.

Typical view of my morning commute. The aggression during peak commute times, is really something else.

A neck, shoulder, head, top of a head or even hair is in my face, the side of my face, my back. People push, ram and even mow others down. I’ve seen people get hurt and hurt others. Don’t get me wrong. The Japanese are peaceful. I doubt people set out to intentionally hurt others.

I have a theory that during peak commute times, some Japanese have an ‘every man for themselves’ switch they flip. That flip of the switch, is an excuse to take aggression out onto strangers. Release the side of them they normally suppress, as the Japanese are orderly. Polite. Nice…?

We are taught to follow rules. Mind manners. Pay mind to surroundings, never drawing attention to ourselves.

I can still hear my mother and aunt’s voices when we walked the streets of Tokyo: “Do not disturb others.” “Do not disrupt society.” “Stay conscious of those around you.” “Move. You’re in the way.” “You should be embarrassed by how you are conducting yourself.”

I assumed it was only my mother who was crazy. Turns out, Japanese mothers — at least my friends’ mothers — were equally annoying. I get it. Following rules, works. It’s the reason this country is extraordinarily efficient. I am grateful we are civilized, especially in public. Traffic flows. Even foot traffic is consistently moving. Everything just… works, even in a city with 9 million people.

So we are raised to follow rules. Mind manners. Pay mind to surroundings, never drawing attention to ourselves… except during the morning commute.

Everyone I know hates their commute. Foreigners say their commutes have to be the worst part about living in Tokyo. It even makes some hate this city.

I get it. I do. But I love my commute.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not a violent person so I rarely elbow, push or shove. I also don’t love getting elbowed or pushed or shoved; or the object of a stranger’s aggression release.

My commute is a daily reminder of how I never want to be. To work every day to never, ever put myself in a situation where I build up stress. That my only outlet for my aggression is during the AM train ride — because everyone around me does it too. I do not want to be a person who uses society as an excuse to do things that are wrong. But more so, I refuse to put myself in a position where I am stuck. Where I go to a job I do not love. Or worse, live an unhappy life then take my stresses out onto the world.

So instead of dreading a miserable commute, I choose to look at others’ aggressions as the universe nudging me to think about how I can be better for myself, my loved ones and to the world. All the while following rules. Minding manners and paying mind to surroundings.

Anna, Christine, David Wade, Sean and 8 others said thanks.

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Mona Nomura

Hi is my personal and creative outlet. Happy to be here.

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