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On the Train: An Anthropology of the Technosocial in Contemporary Japan Michael Fisch

Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY 2009

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On the Train: An Anthropology of the Technosocial in Contemporary Japan Michael Fisch

This dissertation is concerned with the relations, precepts, practices and conditions that characterize the everyday of the technosocial. In adopting the term technosocial, it approaches the production of the social as a process inseparable from technological conditions. The technosocial marks the convergence of the human and the technological, where the boundaries and structures of causal relations between the two cannot be clearly drawn or determined. While technosocial is a term conventionally applied to practices, environments and phenomena produced through the interface between human and computer technology (cell phones, Internet and so on), in this thesis it encompasses as well the relation between human and architectures and infrastructures of urban space. This dissertation explores the technosocial through the commuter train network in urban Japan. It focuses on Tokyo and the JR East train system, but also considers Osaka, specifically in relation to an accident on a JR West line in 2005. The discussion is not confined to a specific space within the train system or the city. My argument builds on literature that examines the commuter train as a vehicle mediated by relations of capital. It draws on an understanding of the train instrumental in the production of a modern urban subject disciplined to the mechanized tempo of salaried labor and a visual regime commensurate with mass

media and consumer practices. I develop these themes for contemporary Japan, where the trains run punctually to the minute and carry a commuter population far beyond the railroad's structural capacity, resulting in a train network that is perpetually on the verge of imminent collapse. It is a system that should not work but ultimately does, and only by virtue of a complicated interaction between human and machine. This condition embodies the technosocial, I argue, and it is articulated in the train system operation pattern, called the daiya. The daiya, I show, emerges from the interaction between society and the commuter train

technological apparatus, both of which are always in state of flux. It is differentiated from the train schedule by the manner in which it bespeaks tempo rather than temporality, and it is what allows the train network to operate beyond its structural capacity by harnessing divergence as a productive force. In this context, I suggest that the daiya informs a condition that is analogous to the system of debt and reimbursement in capitalist economy. The economy of the daiya propels a persistent struggle to maintain equilibrium between the tempo of the train apparatus and society. The train accident occurs when this equilibrium collapses. Japan's contemporary commuter train system develops in this dissertation under the sociopolitical and economic conditions of the post-World War Two era. Science and technology are called upon in this era to resolve unprecedented levels of urban crowding resulting from Japan's postwar economic boom, as an ideology of sacrifice in the name of national recovery renders the unendurable endurable. When postwar recovery gives way to privatization of the railroad under a neoliberal shift in the 1980s, and advances in the computerization of train traffic control allow for maximizing transport capacity and profit, science and technology

intersect in my discussion with questions of labor and the contemporary nature of mass-mediated culture and society. At stake, I argue, are not only questions of labor and disenfranchisement but also structures of representation and corollary epistemes that have dominated culture and science in modernity. The connection in contemporary Japan between the commuter train and Internet presents another dimension of the technosocial in this dissertation. The intersection between these two networks is instantiated in various computer and cellular phone (keitai) Web-based train information websites, and in Internet cellular phone practices that occupy commuters during the commute. I argue that these practices exemplify a convergence between networks of the twentieth and the twenty-first centuries. I also posit that they transform the train car from a space and time informed by the spectacle logic of cinema into a site dominated by communication and the algorithmic principles of the Internet Of particular interest are practices that exploit the overlapping connectivity of the train network and the Internet to produce divergent webs of relations. Such practices figure in my discussion as instances of excess and are important for the manner in which they are irreducible to technological determinism. The historical parameters of this dissertation are from the end of World War Two until the present, 2007. There is a considerable amount of scholarship in Japanese and English, mostly in history and economics, concerning the advent of the railroad in Japan around the turn of the century and its development in the first half of the twentieth century. These texts provided invaluable background for my discussion. By contrast, there is very little work in English regarding Japan's train systems following the Second World War, and there are no anthropologies in English of the urban commuter network for this period. There is, however, more

research in Japanese, and even a few popular ethnographies, but still nothing comparable to the number of texts dealing with the period prior to World War Two.




















To work toward a Ph.D, through courses in the university, fieldwork and the writing of the dissertation, is to be constantly receiving the knowledge, advice and help of others and to want to reciprocate in some way to show one's profound gratitude. Inevitably, reciprocation is deferred in space and time to the acknowledgment before the dissertation, which can never suffice to account for all that has been received. The fieldwork and research necessary for this thesis would not have been possible without an incredibly generous grant from the Shincho Foundation for the Promotion of Japanese Literature, which I received through Columbia University's Donald Keene Center. With this grant, I was able to live and engage in research in Japan for two years between 2004 and 2006, and for an additional year from 2007-2008. Ito Kiwako, the Shincho Foundation representative in Tokyo, was especially helpful with the bureaucratic processes necessary to receive the funds and also took an encouraging interest in my work. I am especially grateful to Professor Marilyn Ivy, my advisor in the Department of Anthropology at Columbia University throughout my studies and for this dissertation. I would also like to thank Professor John Pemberton, Professor Rosalind C. Morris, Professor Tom Looser and Professor Thomas LaMarre for serving on my dissertation committee and for seminars that sparked the conceptual foundation for this project. To Professor David Slater at Sophia University for his support during my fieldwork and during the writing of the dissertation. And to Mito Yuko and Tomii


Norio whose own work on the train system in Japan was inspirational. Both also took the time to sit with me and answer my questions. To Professor Watanabe Takehiro and his wife Akari for their assistance during my fieldwork and while writing, and to Nakamura Yutaka, who read the drafts of each chapter and provided invaluable critique. I do not know what I would have done without Yanagita Masaki and his wife Yukiko, who are family for me in Tokyo and whose humor and undaunted pursuit of all that matters in life has taught me to say what needs to be said. I am very grateful as well to Mizukawa Hajime, his wife Michiyo and their daughter Yuki for taking deep interest in my research and work and providing indispensable support, from stacks of newspapers and introductions to victims of the Amagasaki accident. To my brother Danny for reading each chapter and responding with humor and valuable critique. To Sam I Am, Amelia Bedelia and Frederick for forcing me to turn away from the computer at times and think about a more simple existence. And most of all, to my wife, Jun, for everything.



For my parents, James and Rochelle Fisch, of course. My father was also my number one editor. He read through every chapter, marking sentences that were too long, typos and commas that were missing. And my mother provided constant encouragement while reminding me to eat and sleep.


On a typical weekday morning during rush hours in Tokyo, commuter trains on main lines are packed to over two hundred percent above capacity. This means that a train car meant for no more than 162 people will actually carry over 324 commuters. Although a ten-car train every two minutes, all the trains are all equally crowded. Day after day commuters ride the same packed train car at the same time, surrounded by familiar faces, sharing an acquaintance born of the mundane coincidence of overlapping routes and routines. Bound to solitary orbits, no one speaks. If the train is filled, they stand crushed together, body pressed against body, muscles straining as the mass sways with the motions of the train. When there is room enough to read, they immerse themselves in a newspaper, magazine, foreign language manual, manga or pocket novel. The ones who are lucky enough to have found a seat often succumb to the soporific motions of the train and cadence of the motor, their heads coming to rest on the shoulder of their neighbor as they nod off to sleep. Many are simultaneously plugged into iPods, Sony PlayStations, or some form of audiovisual device, with earphone buds nestled in their ears. Everyone, carries a cell phone, or keitai. In Japan the keitai is by default a third generation phone with an Internet connection. With it commuters surf the web, check the status of trains in the city, download the latest installment of their favorite cell

2 phone novel, log on and participate in a discussion on their virtual social network, or send an email to a friend, family member and lover. For someone living in Tokyo or Osaka, the above scene is so familiar that it is perfectly unremarkable. Insofar as commuters in large cities throughout the world gather on platforms each morning to ride crowded trains to work, it is also it also not altogether unfamiliar as a general global paradigm of urban life. What sets it apart and lends it a specificity that warrants anthropological inquiry is the subject of this thesis. Part of what makes the commuter train network in Tokyo and Osaka remarkable is the sheer scale and centrality of the system. Comprising trains, subways and even a few trolley lines, the commuter train networks of these cities dominate the topography, branching into every corner of the Kanto plain of Tokyo, and the Kansai plain of Osaka. Extensive and frequent, the commuter train network takes one in approximately one hour from one edge to the other of the vast urban sprawls that fill these areas, consisting of multiple city centers, satellite semi-suburban areas and less affluent bedroom towns. Represented in multicolor lines, the maps of these networks lend some idea of their impressive, if not their overwhelming vastness.

Kansai Train Map

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Tokyo Train and Subway Map It is impossible to think of these cities separate from their commuter train networks. The trains provide the primary means of transportation, making the tempo of the commuter network the pulse of the city. Train stations, with their adjoining department stores, orbiting street vendors, and nearby arcades, pubs (izakaya), karaoke lounges and red-light establishments, form the hubs of activity and the main coordinates in the composition of the urban culture. The relation between train network and city is the definitive construct in the production of the conditions of urban life. It is a relation of reciprocity structured in practices of time, production, consumption and entertainment. Capacity As suggested by the description of the packed train in the opening paragraph, a defining characteristic of the commuter train networks of Tokyo and Osaka is the daily struggle with the problem of insufficient capacity. Put

4 simply, the commuting population of workers and students far exceeds the infrastructural capacity of the commuter train network. Yet workers and students manage to arrive punctually and safely nearly every day at their respective institutions. Framing the matter in different terms, it could be said that the commuter train network is a system that should not work but ultimately does. It does so only by virtue of a combination of factors. The first of these factors is the delicate coordination between the technological and the social, exemplifying a form of "technosocial" environment. 1 What this means is that for the commuter network to operate smoothly, not only do the trains have to run at the highest level of precision to ensure the maximum number of trains per track per hour, but the masses of commuters must also move in rhythm with the apparatus, conforming to the pattern choreographed in the train station architecture and prompted by an array of melodies, buzzers and announcements: They must traverse the crowded stations in fluid manner, using for example, the appropriate side of the hallway or the staircase to descend or ascend from the platform; they must form orderly queues on the platforms at the designated lines; they must move to the

1 borrow the term "technosocial" from Mizuko Ito, and Daisuke Okabe, "Technosocial Situations: Emergent Structuring of Mobile E-mail Use/' in Personal, Portable, Pedestrian: Mobile Phones in Japanese Life, ed. Mizuko Ito, Daisuke Okabe, and Misa Matsuda (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2005). Ito and Okabe use the term in their discussion of the manner in which the keitai engender new social practices in Tokyo, producing "technosocial situations that alter definitions of co-presence and the experience of urban space," Ibid., 257. Later in the argument, they explain "technosocial" as "a way of incorporating the insights of theories of practice and social interaction into a framework that takes into account technology-mediated social orders" Ibid., 259. The notion that the railroad is an exemplary technology mediated space is central to this thesis and an argument that is well developed, see for example Lynne Kirby, Parallel Tracks: The Railroad and Silent Cinema (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1997); Wolfgang Schivelbusch, The Railway journey: The Industrialization of Time and Space in the 19th Century (Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1986). My discussion of the use of keitai within the commuter train and train station takes as an initial assumptions Ito and Okabe's conclusions that keitai allow for an unprecedented flexible use of urban space as well as simultaneously construct and destabilize a social order.

side when train doors open so as not to impede the detraining commuters; finally, they must then move quickly to reform a queue and board the train, pushing and being pushed so as to fill the train beyond capacity. The second factor at work in the daily operation of the commuter train network is what I argue appears as a structure of indefinite limits. Because of the fundamental technosocial nature of the overall environment, the structure of indefinite limits is manifest within both the technological and social components of the network. On the technological side, the structure of indefinite limits involves the manipulation of the daiya. Daiya, which is short for daiyagramu, or "diagram" in English, is written in Katakana (the alphabet used for transliterating foreign words into Japanese) and refers to a complex schematic of train traffic operation. When there is an irregularity in train service, the news and train station information boards report it as "disorder in the daiya" {daiya no midare). Although the term is never elaborated upon, daiya is comprised of two parts: the "principal daiya" (kihon daiya), and the "actual daiya" (jisshi daiya). The train system, like the city, exists in the gap between them. The principal daiya is an ideal schema for train traffic operation that is never attained. The actual daiya is the product of actual train operation and it is a state of perpetual flux. The intense effort to maintain a delicate equilibrium between these two components of the daiya is what distinguishes the train system in urban Japan from transportation networks in cities throughout the world. Continuously in a state of revision, the daiya must be re-disseminated constantly, not only to railroad personnel and devices throughout the system but to the urban population as well.

6 The daiya is not a train schedule, which in Japanese is called jikokuhyo composed from the characters for "time" (toki), "to engrave" (kizamu), and "chart" (hyo). A train schedule is a plan for which the primary coordinate is the progression of clock time. The clock is the principal referent and behaves as the signified of the temporal order. By contrast, the daiya is informed by clock time but is not bound to it, as is a schedule. It has no primary coordinate but rather emerges from the interaction between society as a living, breathing organism and the condition of the technological apparatus. The daiya bespeaks tempo, rather than temporal order; whereas a schedule treats time as an absolute limit, the daiya treats time as pliable guideline. Although most major commuter train networks and railroads use some form of train traffic diagram, only the daiya is designed and deployed specifically to allow the system to operate beyond its structural capacity by integrating leeway (yoyu) for divergence from the plan into its overall scheme. Naturally, divergence that is part of the plan cannot really be called divergence. It is no longer an anticipated but inevitable abnormality that must be dealt with but rather a premise of normal operation. The daiya is a means to harness divergence as a productive force. To use an analogy that will be elaborated upon in Chapter Three, the overall scheme conforms to an arrangement similar to the system of debt and reimbursement necessary for an economy to function. Like an economy, not only does the daiya presume a certain level of risk as part of overall regular operation, but it also assumes the perpetual possibility of imminent collapse. As in an economy, moreover, every component of the train system is linked and mutually dependent such that trouble in one station, like trouble with one bank, sends

7 adverse ripples throughout the whole network and threatens to bring the whole structure down in a chain effect. The structure of indefinite limits as it pertains to the social dimension of the network is of a different nature, albeit the end result is the same. It has to do with a human capacity to accept as inevitable the necessity to endure an unendurable condition. As mentioned above, the smooth operation of the commuter train network in Tokyo and Osaka is contingent not only on the number of trains that can be operated but also on the dutiful cooperation of the commuters. That is, the problem of capacity is as much a technological problem as it is a social one. It requires considerable effort and determination for one to force a mass of bodies forward enough for one to find a place to stand on a train packed at two hundred percent above capacity. Once inside the train with the doors shut, the strain on the body to remain standing against the weight of the mass of shifting and swaying bodies is severe. On a cold day when the heaters inside the train are on and the windows closed, or especially on a rainy day when the air inside the train becomes thick and humid, the lack of oxygen exacerbates the already difficult conditions, causing commuters to become ill and faint. Even without these added affects, with passengers packed so tightly against one another the atmosphere inside the train is volatile. The slightest provocation between commuters, real or perceived, is liable to degenerate into a total breakdown of the social order, which would naturally disrupt the flow of traffic in the network. That the social order inside the train car does not regularly breakdown testifies to processes of socialization that while extending far beyond the particular space and time of the commuter train network are part

8 of the training, as it were, that begins when individuals first ride the trains in the accompaniment of adults. The problem of insufficient transport capacity is the result of myriad of factors that are impossible to identify as exclusively of a technological or social, domestic or international origin. It has informed, nevertheless, the emergence of a certain technological and social order and it is a primary condition behind the majority of stories, events and phenomena in this thesis. With the exception of Chapter One, which goes into greater detail regarding the development of current train technology, each of the chapters is concerned, however, not with how the capacity problem is managed but rather, what happens when it is not. The motive behind this method derives in part from the conventional logic that the processes, activities, beliefs and routines comprising the everyday become more apparent when they fail than when life is humming along smoothly. Thus to explore the limits of a structure of indefinite limits, I look at what happens when the tempo of the commuter train network is derailed in an accident, and when commuters decide they can no longer endure the conditions of the packed train. Of equal importance are practices or events that emerge from technological and social conditions of the commuter train network, but which ultimately exceed the functional imperatives of the system. Such practices figure as instances of excess, irreducible to technological determinism. As alluded to in the opening paragraph of this introduction, many of these practices are born of what is experienced as a seamless connection between the train and the Internet in Japan.

9 Connecting Networks To ride the commuter train in urban Japan is not only to be on track with mainstream institutional precepts, but also to be online. The connection between train and Internet is another preeminent characteristic of the contemporary commuter train network in Tokyo and Osaka and a phenomenon that drives the events and stories in the following chapters. The connection between train and Internet is instantiated in various computer and keitai Web-based train information websites that provide real time details regarding system status, departure times for the last trains of the day, and itinerary planning - an indispensible service within the vast of the system and interlacing lines run by different train companies. It is also exemplified by Internet related practices that occupy commuters during the commute. What used to be the transitory and disconnected space and time of the commute, in which one was cut off from communication with the rest of the world in the time between home and work, is transformed by the keitai into an ideal interval of electronic communication. The commute provides the time to catch u p on unanswered email, check and perhaps respond to the latest conversation thread on a social network, or engage in the fantasy of romance with an email friend (meeru tomo). As with the structure of indefinite limits surrounding the problem of capacity, commuter train related keitai and Internet phenomenon are clearer when they begin to take on an aberrant nature; when, for example, they spawn divergent webs of relations by exploiting subculture websites, or lead to lead to criminal activities. Moreover, in many instances these divergent practices often end up being integrated into the mainstream, fueling new forms of commuter culture.

10 The connection between the train and Internet in Japan embodies the convergence of two foundational modern networks, informed, nonetheless by dissimilar principles. While the railroad correlates with industrial society and routinized labor, the Internet corresponds to the transnational dissemination of information and the uncoupling of the bonds among space, time, labor and value. The connection between train and Internet exemplifies a convergence between the twentieth and the twenty-first centuries, and a dilemma that defines our present era: We are simultaneously bound by our industrial legacy and compelled by the emerging possibilities of an information network and society. We are pulled by the disparate tempos of each network, forced to negotiate the rhythm of daily labor with the unceasing activity of perpetual connection. The acceleration of the pace of life is exhausting and exhilarating. The Hypertext Paradigm In exploring the connection between the train and Internet, this dissertation is inspired by an experimental hypertext novel written by the Japanese author, Inoue Yumehito, entitled, 99 Persons' Last Train (kyujukyu nin no saishu densha).2 Inoue began writing in April 1996, uploading sections of the work to the Web in piecemeal fashion, and completed the novel in October 2006. The novel exists only on the Internet in Web format. The setting is the Ginza Subway Line in Tokyo, starting at 11:56

Yumehito Inoue, "Kyujukyu nin no saishu densha (99 persons' last train) (Tokyo: Shinchosha, 1996), (accessed October 25, 2008).

11 p.m., as the last trains of the day prepare to depart from their respective terminus stations in Shibuya and Asakusa. The final event of the story occurs at 12:13 a.m., when the trains meet across the platform at Ginza Station near the center of the line. As the title indicates, the novel comprises the stories of each of the ninety-nine passengers on the last trains. The format and organization of the novel combines the dynamic structure of the database and the Web with the conventions of the book. The initial (web)page displays at the top a map of the subway line, labeled "Index," with six of the eighteen stations on the train line initially clickable, or active hyperlinks. Underneath the "Index" is a rough outline of a single rail car with small square icons inside, and on the platform. Red icons indicate women, blue icons indicate men, and light green icons indicate children. A display to the left of the train car shows the current time and station. In the preface, hyperlinked to the top page as "request to the reader," Inoue defines the hypertext novel as a story without a first and last page. The starting point at 23:56 is simply a matter of convenience, he adds in the text of an interview, also linked to the top page, and he encourages the reader to traverse the narrative by space or time, or according to his or her own perspective. To move temporally, minute-by-minute, the reader clicks on the time display. Each click advances the trains toward their meeting at Ginza Station on the "Index," and more stations become active hyperlinks. At stations, new characters join those waiting on the platforms, or board and alight when the train arrives. The reader can also move from station to station within the same minute frame, separate from the movement of the trains, by clicking on the station display under the time, or choosing a station from the Index. In addition, the reader can

12 click on the "Character Index" in the top menu bar of the webpage and choose a character among the ninety-nine character icons with names in Kanji and Hiragana displayed in a menu on the left side of the page. Clicking on a character icon within any of the trajectories opens a page with the character's

story, in first-person narrative. When other characters are referenced either in dialogue, events or the thoughts of a particular character, the reference appears as an active hyperlink, which the reader can use to instantly shift to the referenced character's story and point of view. At the bottom and top of each page is a link to that character's thoughts in the preceding or subsequent minute, and at the end of the text, icons of referenced characters provide hyperlinks to their stories. Despite its Internet format, for the most part 99 Persons' Last Train reads like a chapter out of twentieth century literature and film, drawing on the common trope of the commuter train as an archetypical urban scene. Similar to other quintessential urban chronotopes, like the hotel lobby or airport, the narrative currency of the commuter train network stems from its potential as a space and time of encounter. It is a stage on which thousands of different lives, itineraries, and stories converge for the brief period of a shared journey,

13 producing the circumstances for romance, crime, or mystery. That lives that converge do not necessarily engage, makes the train equally a site of solitude, exacerbated by the proximity to strangers the environment precipitates. Marc Auge, writing on the Parisian Metro, communicates perfectly this paradox of the simultaneous collective and solitary experience of a commuter train network by using the plural, "solitudes" to describe the sense isolation of the urban commuter. 3 99 Persons' Last Train is polyphony of main characters and solitudes; and it could be any city in the world, circa 1900-2000, where commuters return home exhausted from a grueling and tedious nine-to-five shift. In it, Tokyo's subway becomes a dreary urban scene of unhappy lives and unfulfilled dreams. Most of the characters are immersed in bitter contemplation, mulling over the events of the day - the caustic remarks suffered from coworkers or general injustices endured. Even couples seated together, or raucous salarymen returning home from a night of drinking only dissemble friendship. Through its inherent relation to the mundane routine of labor, the commuter train instantiates as well the alienation that attends capitalist production, both in the Marxist sense of a separation from the means of production, and also in terms of the severing of traditional familial and communal bonds concomitant with the move to the city from the country in search of work.

Marc Auge, In the Metro, trans. Tom Conley (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002). Auge also sums up the contradictory collective and individual, social and solitary experience of an urban commuter network in the definition of the metro as "solitude without isolation and collectivity without festival," Ibid., 30. But there is something about this contradictory character, Auge continues, that spurs the imagination toward stories. The train brings people together. Nevertheless, in most cases people remain strangers, with each person invested in maintaining the presumption of immutable difference between themselves and the other as means of reassuring themselves of the significance of their own lives. Inoue seems to gesture to such an interpretation of the compulsion to imagine, explaining in the preface, "Many people ride the train together, each for their own particular circumstances. Of course, each thinks of themselves as the main character."

14 Inoue's objective in using the Internet based hypertext format is to incorporate the subjectivity of the reader into the story through an interactive reading process. He explains in an interview that prior to beginning 99 Persons' Last Train he tried to develop something similar in print, creating what he calls a "game book," which prompted the reader to choose at the end of each paragraph whether to go right or left, each choice leading to a different section or even page. 4 The project failed, according to Inoue, as a result of the spatiotemporal limitations of print media, and the weak content. It became too difficult to navigate the narratives, he explains, and the plot became too much like a game and less of a captivating as a story. For Inoue, the arrival of more powerful computers, along with the Internet and hypertext Web link offered liberation from the constraints of conventional print media, or even film, which he sees as inevitably bound to a preset linear structure. Through its hypertext rendering of the subway scene, 99 Persons' Last Train brings a fundamental network and chronotope of urban modernity - the train - together with the exemplary network and site of late capitalist information society - the Internet. The result is a work that exemplifies a relation and dynamic that runs throughout this dissertation. On one hand the commuter train networks in Tokyo and Osaka offer a scene and experience that is much the same as it has been since the early years of the twentieth century: Throngs of commuters converge en masse on train stations across the city in the morning and evening. They ride unimaginably packed trains to jobs that often pay enough to get by, but not enough to take a long vacation or cover the costs of

Inoue Yumehito Interview, "Kono shosetu ha hon ni narimasen" (This novel will never be a book), Special Contents Part I, http: / / /specialOl.html (accessed October 21, 2008).

15 purchasing a home or car; and commuters pass their time on the train as best they can, enduring the crush of bodies while scanning advertisements, trying to read pocketsize books, magazines, newspapers, manga, or glancing at their fellow travelers. On the other hand, the Internet connectivity of the keitai transforms the train car into a preeminent site for new forms of labor, entertainment, crime and intimacy. Inoue does not explain what drew him to the subway scene. He says only that the subway offers a plethora of stories and perspectives. In his words, "passengers share the same train car and thus the same moment in time and space and yet their language, nuance, psychology and expectations are different such that if we were to read from each one of their perspectives we would end up with an entirely different story." 5 Inoue imagines that as the author he establishes a totalizing god-like vision (fukan suru kami sama no shiten ni tatte) to constantly reign over the minds and actions of all the characters. The hypertext structure organizes this multitude of perspectives and stories that otherwise pile up on one another. It flattens the information, linking the solitudes into a coherent and collective network that nevertheless maintains each character in an isolated and manageable orbit. That the hypertext structure lends itself so well to the narrative, temporal and spatial complexities of the subway suggests an inherent relation between the train and the Internet. 6 A similar sense of seamlessness in the alliance
5 6


1 am reminded of Lisa Gitelman's suggestion in Scripts, Grooves, and Writing Machines: Representing Technology in the Edison Era (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1999) of an analog between the hypertext and "the integrated structure and semiotics of Grand Central station...(1913), with its routes and signals for trains, its routes and signals for passengers, and the tine spiral staircase that connects an information booth on one level (suburban transit) with

16 between these two networks emerges repeatedly in the following chapters. It surfaces in the simultaneous desire for connection and distance precipitated by the proximity forced upon strangers in the commuter train car, and in the wake of accidents and events that interrupt the recursive routine of commuting. It appears, as well, in the computer technology developed to manage the mass of information generated by the system and transform the commuter train from a vehicle of mass transportation into a network of individuals recognizable as data. As in Inoue's story, rendering the commuter train network through the architecture and principles of the Internet allows for managing an amount of data that would otherwise precipitate an information overload for any human or single machine. What makes Inoue's story a captivating representation of a subway scene is not, however, the number of stories it succeeds in presenting. That is to say, it is not that the more data there is the better or more thrilling the representation. More important is the manner in which the hypertext structure emulates, to a great degree, the forces of attention and distraction that pervade the commuting experience. Each hyperlink is a diversion down another train of thought, another life to follow that eventually flows back into the central story. The nature of this dynamic is, in part, what separates the commute from the railway journey as described by Wolfgang Schivelbusch in his seminal monograph on

an information booth on the other (interurban transit)." The analogy is offered in the context of a critique of arguments celebrating the Internet as an inevitable catalyst of social democratic society, which tend to link the pre-history of hyptertext with the Guttenberg press. She points out that such narratives overdetermine the effect of literacy in the evolution of a democratic social order while identifying the Internet as the penultimate stage of democratization that began with the advent of mass printing in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. She suggests that in terms of its structure and modality, hypertext has much more in common with the railroad model mentioned above or systems of double-entry bookkeeping, "which work by forging and perpetuating links between texts, media and representations," see Ibid., 221-22.

17 the development of the railroad in Europe and American. 7 Schivelbusch depicts early railroad travel as a type of journey both in space and time and in experience involving new paradigms of perception psychological effects. To negotiate an unbearable awareness of the always imminent disaster of the railway accident, the early traveler took to pulling their attention away from the panoramic scene flying by their window and absorbing themselves in the distraction of reading. 8 Even after such fears abated with the improvement of railroad safety, the notion that travel by railroad constitutes a journey has remained, carrying with it the sense of a significant duration and opportunity for contemplation. Commuting, by contrast, is never a journey. The repetition that defines it precludes the sense of discovery, and challenge, that permeates the journey. With commuter trains typically crowded, if not packed to intolerable limits, there is also rarely an opportunity to gaze out the window. If the opportunity does arise, the effect of the passing cityscape is incommensurable with the streaming landscape of the railroad journey. The proximity of urban structures, buildings, homes, signs and so on, undermine the depth necessary for a panoramic view, turning the passing scene into a blur. The commute is also always a struggle with a constant deluge of distractions and sensory overload emanating from the seductive invitations and images on signs on passing buildings, or from advertisements that tend to occupy every surface

Wolfgang Schivelbusch, The Railway Journey: The Industrialization of Time and Space in the 19th Century.

Ibid., 130. Schivelbusch observes that the fear of imminent disaster that characterized early rail travel vanished from the European railroad by the mid-nineteenth century. Rail technology had become by that time "culturally and physically assimilated" such that the once novel and unnerving experience of compressed space and time inaugurated with the advent of rail travel had "become second nature." The point of Schivelbusch's argument is not that train accidents suddenly ceased or became less catastrophic. Rather, realization of the always present danger of rail travel had to be successfully repressed as railroad became a central apparatus in society.

18 where the eye might rest inside the train or station. One is also constantly being cautioned and advised by announcements, or jostled other commuters. As when multi-tasking, one's attention is constantly fanning out, responding to cues from these various stimuli. Attention surrenders at times to these summonses, to perhaps read a line or two of an advertisement, listen for a moment to an announcement, or look at a fellow commuter. Insofar as the commute follows a principle circuit from home to work, it is also interrupted by the many short excursions down another track that these diversions present. This structure of this thesis borrows, to some degree, from Inoue's hypertext format. The objective is to capture, as Inoue does, the play of attention and distraction that marks the commute as a way of conveying the atmosphere behind the central themes. In addition, the format is also a way of incorporating and organizing more information. Each chapter thus follows a main trunk line, a central event or story, but is interwoven at points with various sidetracks. The sidetracks comprise a different range of material, from additional stories and events, to snippets from newspapers, manga or conversation. Some of this material is supplemental to the central discussion, and some of it is less directly related but still with bearing on the main story or event. Importantly, 99 Persons' Last Train alludes not only to an affinity but also to disjuncrure between the commuter train network and Internet. 99 Persons' Last Train ends with an enormous explosion just as the trains from Shibuya and Asakusa meet across the platform at Ginza Station. The cause of the explosion is a malfunctioning robot, more specifically, an "autonomously mobile humanoid model assassination machine" with the designation "P13AX." P13AX has been programmed to target the twenty-five year-old grand daughter of an important

19 politician, who is accompanied by a bodyguard whose presence she deems an intrusion on her independence. P13AX, we are told, is unrivaled, state-of-the-art computer technology with the capacity to perform its own system calibrations in the field and develop and execute its own plan toward the fulfillment of its mission - which as we will see in Chapter One, sounds very much like recently developed computerized train technology. Things begin to go badly, however, when it follows its target into the subway. Immediately, its primary communication system malfunctions, which PI 3AX surmises might be the result of electromagnetic waves emitted by the subway power lines. The malfunction is accompanied by "noise" (noizu) on its internal screen within its cognitive center. P13AX can specify that the noise is at 1654300 cycles but cannot fix. It can only wait for a compensatory circuit to respond and override the amplifier, but because the entire primary communication system has gone into compulsory shut down as a result of the initial malfunction, the compensatory circuit has been rendered inert and meaningless. P13AX is doomed, in other words, by its own superlative logic - done in by an efficiency that is so efficient so as to have become inefficient. As a result of the impasse, the robot's head begins to oscillate, which to onlookers appears as if its head is trembling slightly. Abruptly, it begins to pound its head with its right arm in a steady, mechanized motion. The target, whom P13AX is locked onto in a dead stare, notices these strange motions and becomes increasingly frightened, thinking that the man (robot) is some kind of grotesque stalker. His /Its uncanny behavior transforms his otherwise attractive figure into an object that stirs deep revulsion (serf teki na ken'okan wo okosaseru). In the meantime, increasingly cryptic and illogical

systems status messages scroll across P13AX's internal screen as it goes into a state of shock: Shock, Shock, Shock (shogeki, shogeki, shogeki) "Please desist from striking this machine" "Shock to a precision machine is liable to cause damage. Please do not strike or drop it." "I visited him that day in his room." "Do you vow to cherish and respect each other, through sickness and through health?" "It's your wisdom tooth and it must be pulled. The root is rotted. You must have really neglected your jaw for it to become like this! Didn't it hurt? It's good that you came in today, you know." "Shut up, asshole. Don't you know what time it is!" P13AX is at a loss to comprehend the meaning of the error messages and is eventually overwhelmed by their illogic. As a last resort to carry out its mission, it moves close to its target and self-destructs with its nuclear power cell, causing an enormous explosion that leaves a gaping whole in the ground in the middle of Ginza Avenue. That P13AX's system status messages and commands appear on an internal screen begs the question of why a computerized robot would need to read internal system information from a screen? The setup implies the existence of a sentient, conscious core encased in technology. It is as if there is a coherent and autonomous human subject inside the robot - the proverbial man behind the curtain or midget inside the machine. Naturally, P13AX's internal screen is simply a narrative device, a way for the reader to participate in the robot's story. The idea that technology, like the human characters, has a story is highly relevant to this dissertation. But equally significant is the notion that as a result of representational paradigms (which we might also call constraints), stories recuperate a division between human and machine that is not only ultimately

21 artificial and unsustainable but also re-establish the premise of an autonomous human subject. The screen brings me to other questions of representation that run throughout this dissertation. Inoue's use of the term, "screen" (sukuriiri), rather than monitor alludes to a filmic structure of representation at the story's most digital/computer moment. The shift between these technologies of representation is significant. An important theoretical point that I try to show in this thesis is that the relation between train and Internet in contemporary Japan begins to supersede a correlation between cinema and train that figured prominently in twentieth industrial societies. This is seen in the manner in which the keitai transforms the train car from a paradigmatic site of cinema and spectacle into a site of perpetual connectivity. It can also be seen in transformations in train traffic control technology, which I discuss in Chapter One. Despite this impulse away from cinema, toward the Internet, what emerges repeatedly is a return to cinema precisely at the apex of the relation between train and Internet. In some instances this return is literal, instantiated by the cinematization of events or phenomena deriving from the interface between train and Internet. In other instances the return to cinema is more figurative, taking the form of a broad reference to the correlation between train and film. That the technological conflict between the train and P13AX's central computer produces noise, which becomes manifest in the robot's irregular movements, and that the conflict ends with an explosion, bespeaks a relation between tempo, meaning and accident that is pertinent to my discussion in this dissertation of accidents. The robot's function as a lethal machine is contingent on it being able to pass as human among the other passengers on the subway.

22 To do so, it must assimilate itself not to the rhythm of human beings but rather to the rhythm of the subway, to which the urban population has long been assimilated. The malfunction that interrupts its cadence is also the source of expressions that exceed its analytical logic. Not surprisingly, the obscure nature of these expressions derives not from their syntax but their association with scenes of emotion and pain. P13AX can perhaps understand the logic of a command such as "Please desist from striking this machine," but the emotional anticipation inherent to the line, "I visited him that day in his room" is beyond its cognitive parameters. In other words, P13AX is disabled by a humanity that derives from its technological matrix but at the same time exceeds it.9 It is also precisely this event of being disabled that becomes P13AX's story. The explosion that ends 99 Persons' Last Train is the final outcome of P13AX's asynchronicity. When tempos become disjointed is when many of the stories in this dissertation emerge. It is also when accidents occur. P13AX's malfunction begins with its incompatibility with the subway system and develops into an irregular movement that becomes increasingly incongruent with the rhythm of its surroundings until it finally explodes. As Eric Cazdyn explains, "Disaster is that moment when the sustainable configuration of relations fails, when the relation between one thing and another breaks down." 10 The accident in the commuter train network is the disaster that occurs when the tempo of the system generated in its actual performance of people and technology (actual daiya) separates from order of the traffic pattern (principal daiya). In this dissertation, when the relation

The situation is reminiscent of the scene in Stanely Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey when the ultra rational and sinister computer HAL 1900 recites a nursery rhyme, displaying an uncanny humanity as its final memory banks are pulled and it is shut down.

Eric Cazdyn, "Disaster, Crisis, Revolution," The South Atlantic Quarterly, 106, no. 4 (2007): 64762.

between these two components breaks down is when the commuter train derails. When commuters throw themselves in front of the train, in this dissertation it is a crisis in which tempo is suspended, not ruptured. The difference between disaster and crisis, according to Cazdyn, begins with the contingent nature of the former. While a disaster is marked by chance, it is typically predictable and logical. People generally anticipate disaster and have a good sense of what will happen when it occurs. They simply hope that it does not occur. Unlike disaster, Cazdyn posits, "there is something necessary about a crisis, something true to the larger systemic form. Crises occur when things go right, not when they go wrong. In other words, crises are built into many systems themselves; systems are structured so that crisis will occur, strengthening and reproducing the systems themselves." 11 The crises of train suicides, in my argument, are inevitably linked to the ebbs and tides of capitalism and unlike the train accident disaster, they have become part of the day-to-day functioning of the commuter train system. Just as the messages generated by P13AX's malfunction exceed the its technological logic, the accident spawns expressions that cannot be apprehended within the logic of the commuter train network. Much of what ensues following an accident thus constitutes a struggle that is often played out between an institution and the victims to contain those expressions by rendering them meaningful within the given structure of relations. Naturally, the more that the excess is confined to such parameters, the more it loses of its potentially transformative power.

Ibid., 648-649.

24 Chapters Chapter One of the this thesis looks in depth at the daiya by first visiting the central command room (shireishitsu) from which all the train lines in Tokyo's JR East urban network are managed. The chapter goes on to explore the development of a computerized railroad traffic management system through papers presented at computer science workshops and symposia, and in railroad journals. It examines the manner in which the advent of the new technology is situated within discussions concerning the privatization of the railroad, the nature of labor in contemporary Japan and metaphors conflating the technological and the social. Although technical at points, the explanation of the train system that emerges from this chapter provides the grammar for the stories and events of following chapters. Chapter Two looks at the response to a major train crash in Japan in April of 2005 that took the lives of one hundred and seven passengers. Through interviews with individuals involved in the accident, community members and an observation of ceremonies and events commemorating the tragedy, the chapter considers the argument attributing the accident to the effects of privatization. It posits that privatization severed a significant symbolic tie between nation and railroad, leaving the figure of nation unavailable as an organizing signifier through which to comprehend the loss inflicted by the accident. The accident, it is suggested, has demanded that the railroad and the community formulate a new paradigm for a relation of trust in absence of the role previously supplied by nation as an ultimate guarantor of safety and meaning. The third chapter examines the phenomenon of manin densha, the crowded urban commuter train. Focusing on train lines in Tokyo and Osaka, the chapter seeks to understand how the technological infrastructure


together with the social environment produced by the packed train operates constantly on the verge of collapse. The underlying question is not only how the system operates beyond its given means and under perpetual threat of crisis, but also how a society accepts this condition as inevitable and part of its everyday. These questions, I believe, are extremely relevant to our current global condition, as well as contemporary Japanese society. Within the context of the overall thesis, the packed commuter train marks the persistent centrality of early twentieth century paradigms of capitalism and labor amidst claims of a growing shift - spearheaded by such advanced capitalist societies as urban Japan toward what is often defined as "immaterial labor." In its examination of the contemporary packed commuter train, the chapter also travels back to the year 1957 via history and a film, entitled Manin densha, to consider how postwar technological and economic developments contributed to the emergence of current conditions. Chapter Four discusses Densha otoko (The Train Man), which concerns a supposedly true story of romance that ensued from an encounter on a train and was aided by a virtual Internet community. Emerging from a chat on an Internet forum in 2004, Densha otoko became a bestselling book and national sensation throughout 2005. Over the course of the year, it was serialized in manga, anime and a television drama and made into a film. Densha otoko brings the train together with the Internet and in so doing suggests another dimension of the contemporary urban commuter experience in Japan that exists alongside conditions described in chapter three. Themes of transportation are displaced in Densha otoko by stories of communication as mass society and the logic of the railroad appears to give way to discrete networks and the economy of the Internet. In Chapter Five, I address the common occurrence of suicides on train

lines. Since the early 1990s, the number of such incidents has risen drastically, reaching a peak in 1998 of one every 8.5 days on Tokyo's central train line. The chapter considers the phenomenon in terms of its impact on the railroad apparatus and the response among Tokyo's commuter population. Taking as its point of departure the notion that suicide is often an expression of economic, social, and psychological crisis, the chapter attempts to understand suicides on the train line vis-a-vis the centrality of the train system in urban Japan as an institution of time and order, and fixture in everyday life. The main historical parameters of my argument are from post World War Two to the present, 2007. There is a considerable amount of scholarship in Japanese and English, mostly in history and economics, concerning the advent of the railroad in Japan around the turn of the century and its development in the first half of the twentieth century. These texts provided invaluable background for my research and are cited throughout. By contrast, there is very little work in English regarding Japan's railroads following the Second World War. There are no anthropologies in English of the urban train system for this period. 12 There is, however, more research in Japanese, and even a few popular ethnographies, but still nothing comparable to the number of texts dealing with the period prior to World War Two.13 Among these texts, Mito Yuko's work,


Worth mentioning is Paul Noguchi's work, Delayed Departures, Overdue Arrivals: Industrial Familialism and the Japanese National Railways (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1990) concerning the notion of the familial ethos of Japanese National Railways, and Christopher Hood's research in Shinkansen: From the Bullet Train to Symbol of Modern Japan (New York: Routledge, 2006), concerning the development of the Shinkansen. There are also a number of texts by Japanese authors concerning the privatization of JNR that were translated into English, which I cite in my work.
13 One example of a popular ethnography is Risako Miyoshi, Chud sen na hito: ensen bunka jinruigaku, (People of the Chtio Line: An Ethnography of the Train Line) (Tokyo: Shogakukan, 2003). Miyoshi researches the types of people one encounters on the Chuo Line. Intended for a

Teikoku hassha (The Punctual Departure), and Tomii Norio's Resshya daiya no himitsu (Secret of the Timetable), were inspirational and informative. 14 Both these authors, moreover, became important informants during my fieldwork in Tokyo between June of 2004, and May of 2006. TNR - TR Within the historical parameters of this thesis, the privatization of the Japanese National Railways in 1987, and subsequent formation of seven separate Japan Railway companies, is a significant event. Following the Railway Nationalization Act in 1906, seventeen of Japan's private railways were brought under centralized government control under the name, Japanese Government Railways, which was changed to Japanese National Railways, following World War Two. Although the nationalization act did not encompass all of the railways, it created an entity with considerable economic and social force that played a central part in the history of the nation for most of the twentieth century. As Ishikawa Tatsujiro and Matsuhide Imashiro explain in their book concerning the privatization process, JNR became such a fundamental fixture of everyday life that despite evidence of grievous mismanagement that had generated over a twenty-five trillion yen debt (about 200 billion dollars), many believed that the institution could never be broken up. 15 The combination of a

wide commuting audience, the work has no theoretical approach other than offering illustrations and descriptions of certain commuter types. Yuko Mito, Teikoku hashha: nihon no tetsudowa naze sekai de mottomo seikaku nanoka, (Punctual Departure: Why Are Japanese Railways the Most Punctual in the World?) (Tokyo: Shinchosha, 2005); Norio Tomii, Resshya daiya no himitsu: teiji unkou no shikumi (Secret of the Timetable: The Structure of Punctual Railroad Operations) (Tokyo: Seizando, 2005).
15 14

Tatsujiro Ishikawa and Mitsuhide Imashiro, The Privatisation of Japanese National Railways (London; New Brunswick, N.J. and Somerset, N.J.: Athlone Press, 1998).


huge number of employees under JNR along with several extremely powerful railroad unions presented the most significant obstacle to privatization. The privatization of JNR is a topic that comes up in a number of instances in this thesis. In particular, it is an important part of the narrative concerning the development of new railroad technology in the late 1980s that I examine in Chapter One. In Chapter Two it is the subject of many of the discussions and criticisms heard following the Amagasaki derailment. Privatization of JNR ushered into existence JR Hokkaido, JR Central, JR East, JR West, JR Shikoku, JR Kyushu, and JR Freight. Among these, JR East operates the most extensive network of tracks in the Kanto plain around Tokyo. JR West, in the Kansai plain around Osaka, is second in terms of its passenger transport numbers, although it is not the dominant railway in its region. With the exception of Chapter Two, which looks at the accident on a JR West line, JR East is the focus of the discussion in this thesis. Moreover, within the JR East network, the majority of examples are drawn from the Chuo Line, which runs from Tokyo Station to Tachikawa in Tokyo, and the Yamanote Line, which runs in a loop around the center of Tokyo. The reason for limiting the discussion to Tokyo and Osaka is not only that these are Japan's largest cities, but also that these are unequivocal train cities in terms of the centrality of the train system to everyday life. In other cities in Japan, although the train systems may be as technologically advanced, a significant portion of the population commutes by car. The decision to focus mostly on the Chuo Line and Yamanote Line stems as much from concerns for research feasibility as it does from the fact that these are two of the busiest lines in the city. There are a total of one-hundred and nineteen train lines in the greater Tokyo area, fifty-five of which are operated by one of

29 twelve non-JR East companies. In addition, there is an extensive subway system run by two companies. It would simply have been unrealistic to attempt a comprehensive study of all of these train lines and companies during my two years of fieldwork in Tokyo. Moreover, the point of my research was not to generate exhaustive data but rather to capture something of the nature of life in Tokyo, and to a lesser extent Osaka. The Chtio Line and the Yamanote Line are paradigmatic, partly since the technologies and operational principles developed for these lines have been applied to other train lines throughout the city and country. Also, as main transportation arteries in the city, they are key in establishing the pace and condition of life. Finally, it is important to mention that throughout the thesis I use the term "train system," rather than "railroad." This practice draws on the distinction in Japanese between tetsudo, for railroad, and densha, for train, and the sense that the former bespeaks more of a journey while the later is used more often in the context of urban commuting. The Shinkansen, Japan's super high-speed intercity trains, which I do not deal with, presents something of an ambiguous form in relation to these terms. Although it is associated with travel that is typically longer than the average commute, its speed and link with the business trip lends its journeys the character of a commute by train. For this reason, perhaps, advertisements for the Shinkansen often pair high-speed travel with a second slow journey on a local rural railway, framing it as an ideal and nostalgic journey.16

For more on the relation between train travel campaigns and constructions of nostalgic journey's, see the chapter "Itineraries of Knowledge: Trans-figuring Japan" in Marilyn Ivy, Discourses of the Vanishing: Modernity, Phantasm, Japan (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995).




"The thought of every age is reflected in its technique." Norbert Wiener, 1949

In the late 1980s, following the privatization of Japan National Railway, the newly formed Japan Railway Group (JR) embarked upon a project to computerize railroad operation. The argument for change posited that the conventional traffic control system, which had been in use since the 1950s, was conceptually and technologically obsolete. It was seen as indicative of an industrial era and a postwar mentality founded on the principles of mass society and the indulgent practices of nationalized industry. Computerization of the system was consequently heralded as a move that would extract Japan's railroads from their entrenchment in the past, transforming them into a streamlined and intelligent apparatus consistent with the character of the information economy of the present, and ready for the demands of the future. Computerization of the railroad centered on automating the production of the principal daiya and the preservation and dissemination of the actual daiya. It faced, however, a number of technological impasses arising from the complex operating conditions whereby punctuality must be strictly maintained amid exceptionally frequent service in order to accommodate the enormous commuter population. Solving these problems led to the re-conceptualization of

31 fundamental assumptions concerning methods of command and control. The conventional system of hierarchical control effected through Centralized Traffic Control (CTC) was displaced by an autonomous decentralized system complying to the principle of a networked of distributed functions. The latter was actualized in technology called ATOS (Autonomous Decentralized Transport Operation Control System), which was deployed from the mid-1990s. A railroad, with its complex signaling apparatus for regulating train traffic amidst changing conditions, exemplifies what Norbert Wiener defined as a cybernetic system. Wiener's ideas, which were extrapolated by a range of thinkers into the domain of social theory and applied in science toward the development of control mechanisms for dynamic technological systems, placed an emphasis on the function of information generated in a feedback loop. Feedback, Wiener explains, allows for the "control of a machine on the basis of its actual performance rather than its expected performance." 1 In a cybernetic
Norbert Wiener, The Human use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1954). Wiener attempts to maintain a purely objective stance concerning his observation of a similarity between machine and social processes. He posits the disorder in social and technological systems as deriving from similar breakdown in communication, what he terms "entropy" of the message. This is not to say that his theory is free of qualitative judgments. Better communication, for Wiener, is the key to better social order. At the same time, he accepts that entropy and its corollary phenomenon of chaos is ultimately inevitable at some point. Reinhold Martin argues that it was Wiener who popularized theories of commensurate modalities of communication and control in the social and technological systems, see Reinhold Martin, "The Organizational Complex: Cybernetics, Space, Discourse," Assemblage 37 (1998): 10227. Martin demonstrates the significance of this notion in the work of Gilles Delezue and Michel Foucault. He suggests that for Deleuze and Foucault, however, "observable parallels between technological and social processes are based not on the instrumental application of scientific techniques or social theory, but on their mutual imbrication in relations of 'power and knowledge.'" In a manner that is relevant to my discussion of the train system technology, Martin's argument draws attention to the way in which assumptions of a correspondence between the social, organic and machine become dominated from the 1950s by the cybernetic principle of the definitive role of organization and communication. As a result, the difference between the social, biological organism and machine collapses, becoming flattened, such that "a logic of connection begins to replace a logic of compartmentalization, and the decisive organizational factor is no longer the vertical subordination of parts to whole, but rather, the degree to which the connections permit, regulate, and respond to informational flows in all directions." Although Martin does not mention him, Niklas Luhmann's work Social Systems (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1995) is also informed by Wiener's cybernetic theory

32 system, sensors monitor performance. They relay information back to a command module where it is realized as a "message" that then effects the execution of commands in order to maintain the system's overall equilibrium and allow for adaptation to changing circumstances in the environment. As a simple example of a working cybernetic system, Wiener refers to the control center at the Panama Canal, which acts as a two-way message center in connection with the canal gates. The control room operator sends commands to a motor at a particular sluice, instructing it to open or close a gate and receives information in return via electronic sensors on the progress of the action, which is presented graphically on some form of real-time display. 2 The model is analogous to the function of the train system under the CTC, in which a dispatcher located in the shireishitsu (central command room) monitors train traffic via a display board and remotely manipulates signals and switches. With ATOS, instead of the dispatcher sending commands, the components of the system determine on their own when to function based on the actual daiya information received from the shireishitsu. Importantly, the role of the real-time display is superseded by the display of the "message" - the pattern of the actual daiya. Furthermore, ATOS effects the integration of train passengers into the information feedback loop as it disseminates the actual daiya data to station platform information boards throughout the system, as well as Internet train information websites, at the same time that it sends data to system components.
and the premise of a similarity between social and technological systems. The train system in urban Japan might be read as what Luhmann defines as a complex autopoietic system. Luhmann's theories amount to an exhaustive analysis of system operations. While thought provoking, an attempt to read the train system in terms of these theories would ultimately reduce its technology to a functional schema.

Norbert Wiener, The Human use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society, 49.

33 While this chapter is concerned with explaining the technology of the train system as a preface to the events and stories of the subsequent chapters, the main focus is on the manner in which the transition from CTC to ATOS and to computerized train systems is narrated in parallel with shifting perceptions of the nature of the society and the individual. Through an examination of papers presented to International Symposiums, and Workshops on Autonomous Decentralized Systems (the former held every two years since 1993 and the latter held twice, in 2000 and 2002), as well as articles from railroad technology journals, the chapter situates the technological change vis-a-vis discussions of the nature of labor, nation and the social in the twenty-first century. 3 It demonstrates how the emergence of an autonomous decentralized system is narrated as not only consistent with the ethos of an emerging neo-liberal order but also as more closely aligned with an authentic organic structure. In addition, by examining actual technological processes, the chapter considers the implications of computerized traffic control systems on structures of representation and knowledge. 4 The chapter begins with a visit to the JR East's Tokyo shireishitsu to witness the technology in practice.

In the choice of material, the method taken in this chapter corresponds to a certain degree with an area of ethnography that takes as its object of analysis technocratic administrations and its corresponding literature. In an argument concerning technologies of bank administration in Japan, Annelise Riles suggests, a "critical anthropological vision of technocracy as a particular knowledge practice that inherently faces its own limits" can clarify the nature of a technocracy, see "Real Time: Unwinding Technocratic And Anthropological Knowledge," in Frontiers of Capital: Ethnographic Reflections on the New Economy (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2006). To justify her position, Riles provides a succinct and thorough review of work that could be considered ethnographies of technocratic practices, which there is no reason to reproduce here.

There is a conceptual evolution of the principles aligned with techne at work in this shift that moves from a Heideggerian notion of technology as a means for bringing forth, or revealing the world as an object of knowledge and use for humankind, to the production of algorithmic syntax for machine control. This will be discussed briefly at a later point.

34 Somewhere in Tokyo The JR East shireishitsu oversees more than twelve thousand trains on eighteen different train lines, or 7,526.8 km of track, for sixteen million passengers daily, making it the core of the busiest train network not only in Japan but in the world. 5 The location of the shireishitsu is a secret and it required nearly a year and a half of inquiries via various channels to finally obtain permission to visit the facility. Tomii Norio, the director of the Transport Information Technology Division at the Railway Technical Research Institute (RTRI) and author of numerous books and articles concerning the development of computer programs for the production of the daiya, arranged for me to tour the facility with a group of eleven new JR East employees. 6 The location of the shireishitsu amidst multi-level highways and at the intersection of countless train tracks is an accurate reflection of its function as the junction of a vast communication and transport network. At the entrance to the building housing the facility, we all received a small pin bearing the official JR insignia to clip onto our shirts before being led through a pair of smoked glass doors to an elevator to the third floor. From there, we passed through several non-descript heavy metal grey doors, arriving finally at yet another nondescript heavy metal grey door distinguished from the others only by a modest

5 6

These figures do not include the high-speed Shinkansen train system.

1 was introduced to Tomii through employees at the RTRI Cerajet Division, to whom I was teaching English in preparation for their participation in the World Conference on Railroad Research in Montreal in June of 2006.1 was able to attend the three-day conference as well, in the capacity of translator. The event provided the opportunity to speak with railroad technology researchers and to compare the fundamental concerns driving the research and development of rail technology throughout the world. While punctuality is important for every rail system, Japan is outstanding in its focus on developing sophisticated computer technology for maintaining the train schedule.

varnished wood sign above it with blackened engraved characters that read: la, (Tokyo Central Command Room). After exchanging our shoes with simple vinyl black slippers, as is customary when entering offices or institutions, and which works to evoke a sense of boundary between spaces, we filed in through the doors. Displays just inside the entrance to the shireishitsu seem to announce a longing for totalizing representation. On the wall to the left, an enormous schematic organized by workstations and with interchangeable nameplates indicates which technicians are present. A few meters further in, a diorama of the room under a glass case, complete with tiny figurines seated at, or moving around, various miniature computer terminals, provides a second perspective of the setting. Combined, the displays implement an organization, representation and management of space in time that would seem commensurate with the function of a central command room. The shireishitsu is a giant oval shaped room. At the center are administrative workstations on a slightly raised platform. The ATOS terminals are arranged in separate stations for each train line around the raised center section and the circumference of the room. A large oval wood table situated at the center of the room serves as a meeting point during emergencies and is the only prominent non-digital, non-electric communication medium in the facility. Toward the front of the administrative area there is a small room containing television cameras with a live-feed to the Japanese Broadcasting Company (NHK) for special broadcasts. The tiny room is a junction between the media and the railroad and is as far as most people in Japan will ever see into the

36 shireishitsu. An oversize clock hangs on the background wall and animal figurines, chosen no doubt for their conformity to standards of cuteness, adorn a small table in front of the television cameras, lending the room a cozy feeling that is radically incongruent with the functional atmosphere that pervades other areas of the shireishitsu. Among the technicians in the shireishitsu, there are only few female employees, but only a woman is allowed to sit at the desk before the cameras, as according to JR East conventions, the public face of the apparatus must always be female.7 With the blinds on the windows along both sides of the facility tightly drawn, no light seeps in or out, making it impossible to distinguish between day and night without referring to one of the facility's ATOS terminals. The terminals are connected via one-hundred megabyte fiber optical cables to every station, platform information board, signal and switch on the eighteen different train lines comprising the bulk of JR East's immense urban network. When JR East began deploying ATOS in 1996, the Chuo Line between Tokyo and Kofu Station was the first to receive the upgrade because of its extremely high-density operation. In addition, the Chuo Line had the highest number of disruptions in service as a result of a sudden increase in train suicides (jinshinjiko) beginning in the early 1990s. Following the installation of ATOS, the time required to recover from such an incident was greatly reduced, typically from over one hour to less than forty minutes. 8

This is according to the technician assigned as our guide. Although he was not willing to venture a reason for this rule, one can assume based on the similar tendency for banks, loan services and even automatic machines to insist on representing services through a female figure, that it is believed that a female face will seem more gentle to the public. The subject of train suicides will be addressed in the final chapter of this thesis.

By November of 2004, when I visited the shireishitsu, all but one of the eighteen train lines managed from the shireishitsu, the Nanbu Line, had been fitted with ATOS. The Nanbu Line, which runs from Tachikawa Station to Kawasaki Station, was still operating with pre-CTC technology, using a set-up in which a dispatcher sat at a table wearing a headset plugged into one of several transmitters stacked next to a phone and fax machine. A few schedule corrections appeared hastily written in white chalk beneath a row of station names on a large blackboard standing beside the table. The dispatcher was confined to his position and attentive in his task of monitoring traffic status reports, issuing commands and dispensing schedule amendments. Had the line been upgraded to a CTC system, the only difference would have been that the dispatcher would have had a real-time display of the train progress and the option of remotely controlling switches on tracks. Although the work to upgrade the train line directly to ATOS had already begun and the new shireishitsu computer terminals installed, the final work would not be completed until March of 2006. In the meantime, the terminals remained silent and pristine, waiting for the proper command to come to life. The scene around the ATOS terminals was very different. At the Saikyo Line, a group of young technicians had pushed their tall-back executive style office chairs away from the array of consoles and into a circle, where they sat passing the time in relaxed conversation. Among them, two technicians competed to see who could sink a ball of crumpled paper into a wastebasket the most number of times. Although less dramatic, the atmosphere around ATOS terminals for other train lines was similar. In most cases, only one technician was present at a console array designed for three or four, studying a printout of

38 the daiya, or seated before one of the computer monitors clicking randomly through various displays of the system status. ATOS provides real-time information on station platform traffic, signals, and railroad crossings as well as the progress of each train, with delays specified for anything over thirty seconds. All this information is processed in the production of the actual (jisshi) daiya, which is displayed on a separate screen. With ATOS monitoring train operation, close human supervision is unnecessary. An irregularity, however, reasserts a former order. Twice during our two-hour visit to the shireishitsu an alarm bell sounded, bringing the technicians quickly back to their posts. In both cases the alarms involved minor incidents and demanded only slight revisions to the daiya, which were made on a computer via a click of a mouse after brief consultation with the relevant station by phone. ATOS can tell the technicians where the trains are at any moment but it cannot ascertain the state of the passengers and the condition and whereabouts of operational personnel. 9 In addition, it cannot estimate how much time will be required before service can resume, which is crucial for recalibrating the schedule. What ATOS can do is disseminate the new schedule instantly to every relevant component in the system simultaneously, allowing the resumption of service to begin all at once.

New technology is currently being developed that would allow ATOS to track the location of railroad employees and maintenance crews through GPS enabled Personal Digital Assistant devices, see Keita Hara, Hisashi Kojima, Fumihiko Henda, and Takashi Watanabe, "Development of a Total Operation Management System," JR East Technical Review 3 (2007): 6372. At a research and development convention organized by JR East at its research center in Nisshin (Saitama) in July of 2005, another new technology used lasers installed in the corners of rooms to measure crowd density. The idea is for such devices to be installed in stations and on trains so as to provide ATOS with the same kind of detailed information on the passengers' status as it currently provides concerning the condition of railroad infrastructure.

39 At the Chuo Line ATOS, two young technicians sat before a screen displaying the daiya in real-time and inputting changes. Earlier in the day there has been a railroad suicide, they explained, but since it happened before the heaviest part of the morning rush and at Hachioji, on the far Western end of the line .. .west of Tachikawa... its disruptive impact had not been severe. Nevertheless, the event was enough to require the technicians perform recalibrations into the afternoon, and most likely through the evening, until train service stopped and the system would be able to reset for a fresh start the next morning. Just before leaving the shireishitsu, our group gathered near the entrance so that the technician who had been our guide could answer final questions. Behind where we stood was a small work area comprising three or four desks at which several older men sat carefully drawing various daiya on large sheets of graph paper. Another younger technician, who appeared to be around the same age as the new employees in our tour group, and who was also probably an employee in training, stood bent over a large table working on a daiya. He was obviously struggling, drawing a line only to erase it moments later and recheck his calculations on another paper. At some point he gave up, gathered the graph paper in his arms and sheepishly approached one of the older employees sitting at the desks to ask for help. The older technician seemed annoyed, looking up from his work only long enough to rebuke the younger employ in a loud voice, "Don't ask. Think for yourself!" (oshiete jyanakute, jibun de kangaero). The brief exchange was a reminder that the technology of the shireishitsu is inseparable from a specific corporate culture and that it does not afford the complete automation of train system operations. One can imagine that the older

40 technician working on the daiya was once in the position of the younger technician who asked for help. The sight, moreover, of them drawing the daiya by hand recalled both an argument concerning the need for rationalizing the labor of railway management that had been instrumental in spurring the development of ATOS, and the limitations of the technology. Labor In papers presented at international workshops and symposia on autonomous decentralized systems held nearly every two years since 1993, and in articles published in railroad journals, the development of ATOS is inherently linked with the problem of labor in the twenty-first century.
There is a great n e e d for railways to b r e a k free of labor intensive m a n a g e m e n t . Moreover, reform of train m a n a g e m e n t systems is an i m p o r t a n t task. A n e w a u t o n o m o u s decentralized train traffic m a n a g e m e n t system h a s b e e n d e v e l o p e d to p a v e the w a y for a 21 s t century railway m a n a g e m e n t system b y u s i n g a d v a n c e d information technology. 1 0

Thus begins a paper presented in 2000, by three researchers from JR East and Hitachi Ltd., (a major developer of railroad technology in Japan) at the International Workshop on Autonomous Decentralized Systems (IWADS). The

Fumio Kitahara et al., "Autonomous Decentralized Traffic Management System" (Paper presented at the Proceedings from the International Workshop on Autonomous Decentralized Systems, 2000). Papers, like the one cited here, presented at the International Workshop on Autonomous Decentralized Systems, or at the International Symposium on Autonomous Decentralized Systems, were delivered and published in English. Comprehension of the arguments is impeded by both the highly technical nature of the subject as well as the fact that English is not the first language for the majority of the authors and some papers seem to have undergone only limited editing. It is also important to mention that there have been two International Workshops on Autonomous Decentralized Systems, one in the year 2000, and another in 2002. Both were held in China but attended by researchers from around the world. Also, nearly every two years, beginning from 1993, there has been an International Symposium on Autonomous Decentralized Systems held around the world, for a total of seven symposia to date. Naturally, the papers presented at these workshops and symposia discussed and proposed diverse applications of the technology, from factory to monetary management systems, as well as railroad traffic operations.


41 discussion goes o n to outline the circumstances contributing to the labor d e m a n d e d b y a conventional centralized railroad traffic m a n a g e m e n t system. 1. The train operation system of large-scale stations remains unchanged. The signals of large-scale stations cannot be automatically controlled and are mainly controlled by station staff without any labor saving. A diagram [daiya] to help determine and solve traffic disturbances is difficult. In high-density lines, the diagram cannot be recovered quickly. Train traffic information in stations is insufficient. Information provided to the stations is a minimum or none. The information has low reliability because signals are manually operated during a traffic disturbance. The maintenance work management system remains unchanged. Maintenance work management by dispatchers or station staffs is congested and effective working time for the maintenance work is reduced. 11

2. 3.


Nearly every discussion of the a d v e n t of the ATOS presented at the w o r k s h o p s a n d s y m p o s i u m s lists similar points, the principal conclusion invariably being that the conventional train operation system requires levels of labor unacceptable for a twenty-first century Japan. The a r g u m e n t concerning labor is e m b e d d e d in a larger narrative of national transformation s u r r o u n d i n g the privatization of Japanese National Railways. Relaying a sense of confession a n d emancipation, another presenter at the w o r k s h o p in 2000, from JR East's Research and D e v e l o p m e n t Center, explains that, " A l t h o u g h seat reservations a n d operation m a n a g e m e n t w e r e systematized d u r i n g the Japanese National Railways era...the t r u t h is that m o s t w o r k r e m a i n e d d e p e n d e n t on h u m a n labor." 12 S u m m i n g u p the historical significance of this release from the b u r d e n of c u m b e r s o m e , nationalized

11 12

Ibid., 88.

Masayuki Matsumoto, "The Revolution of Railway System by Using Information Technology" (Paper presented at the International Workshop on Autonomous Decentralized Systems, 2000),

m a n a g e m e n t , the a u t h o r m a k e s the dramatic suggestion that "it is n o exaggeration to say that t h e thirteen years since the Japanese National Railways- c h a n g e d to the JR companies h a v e b e e n a history of revolution for railway systems." For t w o d e p a r t m e n t m a n a g e r s at JR West, (which installed its first c o m p u t e r traffic system in 1997), writing for the Japanese Railway Engineering Journal in 1995, the conventional traffic m a n a g e m e n t a p p a r a t u s w a s an "oldfashioned h u m a n systems" a n d a b u r d e n to train operation. 1 3

The Unaccounted Sakai Naoaki has been protesting on the streets of Tokyo for the past twenty years, since 1987, when JNR reassigned him, and others like him with union connections, to tasks of menial labor in the new JR company. Through the torrential storms of the rainy season, the sweltering humidity of the summer, and cold winter, Sakai stands with the others, demonstrating at main intersections or in front of the Ministry of Transportation. The first time I saw him was in early July of 2008 at the intersection in front of Yotsuya Station as I was on my way to teach at Sophia University. He and around fifteen other demonstrators were occupying the South West Corner opposite the station. Some standing, others sitting on portable folding chairs, they held an array of signs and banners with slogans like "JR Employment Discrimination Problem: The Government Must Take Responsibility for the Dismissals!" and "1047 JNR Union Members Unfairly Fired!" They were all older men, many with grey hair or balding heads, and faces creased by age and sun. The corner had no doubt been chosen for its->44

Expressing similar sentiment, the General Manager for JR East writes in a article for the same journal three years later that CTC technology w a s a p p r o p r i a t e in an age w h e n " n o electronic a p p a r a t u s w a s available," a n d JNR w a s to b l a m e for allowing the technology to linger far past its usefulness b y integrating only small technological changes over the course of thirty years. 14 ATOS, in these arguments, embodies not only a radical conceptual shift

Katsuro and Mochizuki Yasutaka Moricho, "Train Operation Control System of West Japan Railway Company," Japanese Railway Engineering (1995), 10. Fumio Kitahara, "Dawn of Era of New-General Autonomous Decentralized Transport Operaton Control System Departure from conventional JNR system," Japanese Railway Engineering 140 (1998), 28.

43 in railway management but also a transformation in social values. It is seen as eliminating, for the most part, the need for the kind of labor associated with the obsolete paradigm of national industry and an era of excess. Rationalization, according this rhetoric, is not the result of neo-liberal economic reform but the inevitable outcome of a social transformation accompanying technological progress. What the arguments consistently omit is mention of the severe downsizing in employees and financial restraints the JR groups faced as a result of privatization. 15 In addition, the discussions emphasize the benefits of ATOS for recovering from "traffic disturbances" without once referring an alarming rise in the number of railroad suicides in the beginning of the 1990s, which was responsible for this increase and an a significant impetus behind the development of the technology.

With a debt of over 25 trillion yen (about 200 billion dollars) at the time of the privatization of JNR, the new JR Groups were forced to layoff a significant part of their workforce. Prior to privatization, there were three main railway unions that held considerable power and had effectively blocked any discussion of denationalizing Japan's railroads because of the inevitable downsizing it would require. It was commonly believed, moreover, that the railroad unions would never allow privatization. Contention between management and railroad unions over numbers of workers to be laid off and their fate was thus at the center of the privatization process. The new JR Groups eventually agreed to try and reassign workers who were not eligible for early retirement. In his book concerning privatization, the former director for JNR and one of the proponents of privatization, Kasai Yoshiyuki, praises the socially responsible manner in which the JR Groups addressed the welfare of the reassigned and laid off employees, see Yoshiyuki Kasai, Japanese National Railways: Its Break-Up and Privatization: How Japan's Passenger Rail Services Became the Envy of the World (Kent, England: Global Oriental, 2003). Two other former managers for JNR, Ishikawa Tatsujiro and Imashiro Mitsuhide tell a similar story in their work concerning privatization Tatsujiro Ishikawa, and Mitsuhide Imashiro, The Privatisation of Japanese National Railways. With the formation of the separate JR groups, however, the railroad unions lost the power they wielded in the past while the rationalization of work crews in accordance with cost management initiatives since privatization has generally meant longer hours for train drivers and work crews. Parenthetically, it is worth mentioning that the director of the Cerajet Division where I was teaching English was one of the workers who had been reassigned as a result of privatization. He had previously worked in a pharmaceutical division for JNR's health related services and had no experience relevant for his new assignment. He confided that he would have preferred to search for new employment or retire, but had purchased a home on a bank loan during the bubble economy when real estate prices were exorbitant, and thus was left with a debt that because of the collapse of the bubble, had become several times the value of his home. His lack of enthusiasm for his new position was also a point of contention with other employees in the division.


lack of buildings and the space it provided for them to set up a row of large poster boards across which they made their case against JNR and JR, listing, for example, the lucrative positions given to retiring government officials, the generous salaries of executives and instances involving illegal practices that went unpunished. Sakai stood among them, delivering a speech through a megaphone, reiterating the injustices he and the other had suffered to the crowds of university students passing by on their way to the campus. None of the students stopped to listen or read the signs. They had grown up with JR. For them, the privatization of JNR was distant history, something that had happened before they were even born or when they were too young to remember and thus something that probably did not matter that much anymore. When Sakai took a break from his speech, I approached him. He seemed wary of me at first but when I introduced myself as part-time lecturer at Sophia and researching Japan's commuter train network, he gave me his card and we agreed to meet the next week. His card identified him as the head spokesman for the association of plaintiffs against JNR. In the meantime, I also took one of the fliers that some of the other demonstrators were handing out. It provided a summary of their claims, explaining for example, that commuters were regularly being ->47

Whether by the phrase, "labor intensive m a n a g e m e n t , " " h u m a n labor," or the labor of "old-fashioned h u m a n systems," the image of labor p u t forth in the narrative of the emergence of ATOS is not the physical labor of p r o d u c t i o n b u t rather the cognitive a n d communicative labor associated w i t h the computation, dissemination a n d preservation of the daiya.16 For Tomii Norio, this labor constitutes a h i d d e n technique that for the average c o m m u t e r is manifest only as the magic of on-time operation. The "secret" of the daiya that Tomii endeavors to reveal in his book, Ressha daiya no himitsu (The Secret of the Railroad daiya), is n o t only the t r e m e n d o u s l y complicated process

Apart from some discussion of systematizing maintenance crews, there seems to be little correspondence in the understanding of the term "labor" as used by railroad unions currently arguing for shorter work hours and by the researchers and developers of ATOS technology.


45 required for the production of the principal daiya, but the fact that ultimately this daiya is only a model for the actual daiya, which changes in the course of train operation and must be constantly revised and redistributed. 17 Tomii is unique in that he is one of the few leading information scientists associated with railroad research who publishes material for both the general public and specialized railroad research journals. The principal daiya, he explains in his work, is a highly compressed schematic of the minutia of train operation. 18 Although there are various scales, the most commonly used principal daiya within JR is a two-minute-headway grid (nifun me) with a scale of sixty millimeters per one hour. Stations on the train line are arranged on the vertical axis and each diagonally drawn line, or suji, represents a train with its speed denoted by the angle of the line.19 The more vertical the line, the faster the speed of the train and the more horizontal the line, the slower.20 In addition, the daiya indicates via a combination of symbols, color codes, and line thickness, the traffic direction, train classification (local, express, semi-express etc.), track conditions (distance, slope, curves, construction or maintenance), entry and exit

Norio Tomii, Resshya daiya no himitsu: teiji unkou no shikumi (Secret of the Timetable: The Structure of Punctual Railroad Operations). Explanations of the daiya are from Tomii Norio's publications, see Norio Tomii, Tetsudo to konpyuuta (The Railroad and the Computer) (Tokyo: Kyoritsu Shuppan, 1998); Norio Tomii, Resshya daiya no himitsu: teiji unkou no shikumi (Secret of the Timetable: The Structure of Punctual Railroad Operations). They are also drawn from numerous discussions with Tomii at his office at the RTRI center in Kunitachi that took place over the course of several months.
19 20 18


Ibid., 13-14.

In conventional English railroad terminology, the schedule is called the "transport plan," the suji is the "run curve" and the graphic representation of this is the "train operation curve diagram," see Takashi Watanabe, "The Current Status of Transport System, and Research and Development," JR East Technical Review 3, no. Winter (2004): 45-53.1 use the Japanese for these terms not only for its brevity but also to maintain a distinction between the preeminent significance of the daiya for Japan's urban railroads in comparison to train systems in other cities in the world.

46 tracks for each station and the station platform at which the train will stop. (The image here represents two hours of train operation on Tokaido Sanyo Line)

Daiya- Two Hours of Train Traffic The complexity of the principal daiya reinstitutes the necessity for manual labor. As Tomii explains, despite advances in computer printing technology, an electronic printer is simply unable to print clearly all the information compressed into the schematic, especially for Tokyo's high-density train lines. Numbers and lines inevitably end up blurred or overlapping. A specialist, known as a sujiya, thus draws the daiya and the resulting display of information is nothing less than a work of art.21


In an anecdote to his explanation of the labor required for the creation of the kihon daiya, Tomii tells of the story concerning a sujiya who upon completing a daiya framed it and hung it on the wall as art, see Norio Tomii, Resshya daiya no himitsu: teiji unkou no shikumi (Secret of the Timetable: The Structure of Punctual Railroad Operations).

47 A principal daiya must balance a vast array of variables while exploiting the railroad infrastructure to its absolute maximum. A block system that has been in use throughout the world since the late nineteenth century in order to prevent collisions establishes a basic condition of operation. 22 According to the conventional system, the track is divided into fixed segments demarcated by signals and the rule that only one train can occupy a section at a time. When a train enters a

exposed to mortal d a n g e r s d u e to JR's improper management, that JR was prioritizing profit over safety, that it w a s guilty of treating c o m m u t e r s as freight a n d n o t h u m a n beings, a n d that it w a s still actively discriminating against its employees, p u n i s h i n g a n y o n e w i t h u n i o n leanings. Sakai h a d asked m e to m e e t h i m o n W e d n e s d a y in front of the Ministry of Transportation where they would be continuing their demonstration. It w a s another intensely h o t a n d h u m i d s u m m e r d a y w i t h o u t a single cloud in the sky to offer a m o m e n t of reprieve from the sun. The Ministry of Transportation is in Kasumigaseki, a n area saturated with g o v e r n m e n t buildings. In contrast to other train stations in Tokyo, w h e r e one finds a mix of s a l a r y m a n a n d stylishly dressed part-time and university students, around Kasumigaseki there are mostly m e n a n d w o m e n in suits. From the train station u p the a v e n u e to the Ministry of Transportation, there w e r e also policemen positioned a b o u t every fifty meters, some s t a n d i n g alone a n d others in g r o u p s of t w o s a n d threes. They w e r e all w e a r i n g bulletproof vests a n d h a d riot e q u i p m e n t close at h a n d . Those s t a n d i n g alone held a large w o o d pole, a formidable w e a p o n n o d o u b t w i t h the m a n d a t o r y k e n d o training police in Japan receive. It s e e m e d as if they w e r e there every day a n d n o t posted especially because of Sakai and the association of plaintiffs.->49

Wolfgang Schivelbusch describes the advent of the block principle in England in the mid nineteenth century. The system was devised around the necessity for a driver to know before entering a runnel that the track ahead was clear. To this end it exploited a nascent telegraph technology to transmit signals. Schivelbusch's explanation is part of a history describing the technological and organizational development of the railroad from a chaotic and piecemeal phenomenon into a structured "machine ensemble" that "appeared as one great machine covering the land," Wolfgang Schivelbusch, The Railway Journey: The Industrialization of Time and Space in the 19th Century, 28-32. He describes the block system as instituting a technologically determined division of space in a manner that reflected the railroad's overall effect of reorganizing time and space in accordance with relations of capital. Schivelbusch emphasizes that the railways signal technology emerged as a result of the insufficiency of the human sensorial apparatus for ensuring the safe operation of trains. The speed of the machines, congestion and operational disorder on tracks, darkness, and fog, for example, posed a challenge to human observers stationed at points to signal approaching trains in order to avoid collisions. The current computer technology, as we will see, augments as well as changes a number of these paradigms.


section, its metal wheels short circuit a low voltage electric current running through the track, changing the signal at the entrance of the section to red, to inform the following train that the section is occupied. The necessity in urban Japan to maximize the number of trains operating on a single line by decreasing the minimum distance between them has propelled the development of alternative signal technologies that make the system more flexible, concerning which more will be said at a later point. The current minimum headway between trains is just under two minutes. Other factors that determine the composition of the daiya are commuter demand, acceleration and deceleration performance of different trains using the same track, and track conditions (distance between stations, slopes, curves etc.). Convenient and timely connections for commuters transferring trains at nodal stations and platform routing must also be considered, which for mega stations like Tokyo, Shinjuku, Shibuya or Osaka with tremendous traffic and limited access lines presents a significant challenge. Finally, not only must the principal daiya be resistant to delay, they it must also allow easy recovery in the inevitable event of delay.

I found Sakai and the others sitting in a row with their banners, signs and posters in front of the Ministry's main gain, not allowed into the compound, of course. They were dressed in the same casual manner as when I had met them the week before, making them appear incongruent with the general atmosphere of the area. He introduced me to two more members of the association, Kawabata Kazuo and Hiratsuka Tatsuo. Together, we walked to where we could sit and talk on some benches in a resting area back on the main avenue leading up from the Marunouchi Subway Line station. Sakai, Kawabata and Hiratsuka offered a very different perspective from that laid out in the scientific journals and conference papers concerning the formation of JR and the advent of new railroad technology, like ATOS. According to them, the claim that JR was formed to rectify years of bureaucratic ineptitude in JNR that had created trillions of yen in debt was all convenient political rhetoric, a ruse invented to justify the imperative for privatization. The author of that ruse, they explained, was Japan's former Prime Minister, Yashuhiro Nakasone. Serving as Prime Minister from 1982-1987, Nakasone was known for his right-wing nationalist sentiments and his neoliberal agenda, which included privatizing Japan's state-owned institutions. For Nakasone, Kawabata explained, privatization of JNR had nothing to do with debt or new train technology. Rather, it was solely in line with his single-minded mission to break Japan's labor unions, some of the most powerful of which were the railroad unions. In support of his argument, Kawabata handed me a copy of a ->50

Prior to the privatization of JNR, daiya w e r e r e - d r a w n once annually in order to a c c o m m o d a t e the addition of n e w railroad lines, d e v e l o p m e n t s in railroad technology, a n d changes in c o m m u t e r a n d freight transport d e m a n d s . With the railroad u n d e r a single central national administration, right-of-way for intercity passenger a n d freight trains w i t h i n u r b a n a n d prefecture n e t w o r k s w a s negotiated a m o n g over a h u n d r e d representatives from JNR branches a n d train lines t h r o u g h o u t the country. The process typically required b e t w e e n t w o h u n d r e d to t w o h u n d r e d a n d fifty consecutive meetings over the course of several weeks, d u r i n g

w h i c h the representatives r e m a i n e d at a hot-spa {onsen) retreat. 23 Privatization b r o u g h t the cessation of such extended negotiations at onsen retreats. In the context of the neo-liberal impulses s p u r r i n g privatization, the

See Tomii's description of these annual meetings Norio Tomii, Resshya daiya no himitsu: teiji unkou no shikumi (Secret of the Timetable: The Structure of Punctual Railroad Operations), 100-01.

newspaper article in which Nakasone was quoted vowing to destroy the railroad unions before he was elected Prime Minister. Before Nakasone, it was generally believed that privatization of JNR was impossible due to the overwhelming power of the three railroad unions. One of the problems with JNR, according to many of the analyses of the time, was that it had withheld the introduction of labor saving technology (which Japan's private railroads had long adopted) for the sake of maintaining positions for a large number of employees. Consequently a central point of contention in the privatization talks concerned the fate of the JNR staff in the planned creation of the private JR Groups. The unions stipulated that they would consent to privatization only if new positions were found in the company for the majority of employees. They specified their final agreement that if personnel became redundant as a result of changes in management practices or the introduction of new technology, an interim organization would be responsible for retraining and reassigning those personnel. For this, the government together with JR created what was euphemistically called "Human Resources Development Centers" (jinzai katsuyo sentaa). In reality, the centers were run like boot camps for purpose of breaking the will of employees and persuading them to quit. Employees were regularly assigned to demeaning tasks with utterly no relevance to train operation, like pulling weeds, cleaning toilets and painting fences. According to a survey presented in July of 1986, among the employees reassigned to "Human Resources Development Centers" established throughout->52

practice w a s seen as exemplary of the m a n y extravagant a n d inefficient b a d habits that h a d d r i v e n JNR into severe debt. Moreover, privatization m e a n t that the n e w JR companies h a d to achieve financial a u t o n o m y b y rationalizing operations as well as face competition w i t h long established private railway companies, especially in Kansai w h e r e JR West is not the d o m i n a n t train c o m p a n y . The p r o m i s e of shorter c o m m u t e r times, m o r e trains a n d m o r e convenient connections became the strategy for attracting passengers. To achieve this, efforts w e n t t o w a r d developing lighter a n d faster trains a n d c o m p u t e r technology to expedite the revision of the principal daiya. Technology developed to facilitate the p r o d u c t i o n of daiya is supplemental to ATOS. Its basic platform is a software p r o g r a m , aptly n a m e d "Hercules," that w a s developed in the early 1990s. The p r o g r a m

integrates data o n transport d e m a n d collected from automatic ticket gates,

51 rolling stock data (acceleration and deceleration performance), and track data (distance, slopes, curves) in order to compute the minimal running time and headway needed for each train - each suji on the daiya. The result is then input into the Integrated Railway Operation System (IROS), which plans a principal daiya and transmits the result to ATOS, which the forwards it to terminals in each station that control the platform routing switches. Through ATOS, the system also receives data from the actual daiya as feedback, which it stores in a database for reference when creating a new daiya.24 In the words an an author and researcher from JR East, work that was thus far performed "using pencils and paper" is now replaced by a system that "modernizes" train operation. 25 To emphasize the significant decrease in labor, the author adds an illustration depicting a before and after schema in which the laboring daiya planner working with pen and paper is replaced by a figure typing calmly at a keyboard. Modernization, according to the schema, is commensurate with the release of the hand from the pen through computerization. But the illustration is more of an ideal than reality, as Tomii stresses that current computer programs are not capable of automating the creation of the daiya. The system works at best only as an interactive tool to facilitate the process.

24 25

Ibid., 58-61.

Yoshinori Kon, "The Current Status of Signal Control Systems, and Research and Development," JR East Technical Review 3, no. Winter (2007): 36-44.

the country, 75% were affiliates of the National Railway Union Workers (kokuro), 11% were from the Railroad Driver's Union (doro), and another 11% were from a third major railway union (tetsuro). Sakai, Kawabata and Hiratsuka talked for over two hours under the hot sun, patiently explaining their case against the government and JR. In total, they explained, there were 1047 former employees with close union connections to unions from among the 277,020 former employees of JNR who had been singled out for dismissal without attempts for reassignment in the process of privatization. Many among the 1047 were highly skilled and experienced train operators. The Ministry of Transportation and JR anticipated, it seemed, that those 1047 former employees might take legal action. Thus they established a law stipulating that JNR and JR were two entirely separate entities without any overlap in legal responsibility. As a result, Sakai, Kawabata, Hiratsuka and the others were left no address to direct their complaints of discrimination and demands for proper compensation. They could only direct their argument at the Ministry of Transport, but that had claimed for the past twenty years that JNR had legal responsibility and since it no longer existed, the case was closed. Sakai handed me a stack of pamphlets, copies of essays, newspaper articles and other resources. He said he had a lot more to give me but had not had the time to prepare it. He asked me come again the next week. The next week I arrived at Kasumigaseki Station in the morning and walked up the avenue again to toward the Ministry of Transportation. It was another blazing hot day and my light cotton shirt was soaked through with-> 53

In instances of major schedule disruptions, the daiya software facilitates the calculation of a n e w kihon daiya a n d ATOS redistributes it for a simultaneous restart of all c o m p o n e n t s t h r o u g h o u t the system. Naturally, w h e t h e r the d i s r u p t i o n is d u e to a suicide, technical malfunction or e a r t h q u a k e m a k e s n o difference in terms of the technology involved. The challenge of calculating a n e w daiya flattens suicide, technological failure a n d natural disasters into a p u r e l y a logistic question comprising the variables of h o w m a n y trains to cancel or t u r n back, w h i c h trains to change from local to express or viceversa, a n d h o w to reconfigure the station platform r o u t i n g order. A n ability to a d d r e s s such questions m a r k s the limit of the system's

intelligence, reasserting a n obstinate, b u t s u p p o s e d l y n o t unconquerable, boundary between h u m a n and machine. 2 6 According to a daiya specialist {sujiya) at JR East's shireishitsu,

sweat by the time I reached the Ministry gate. But there was no demonstration. Phoning the association's main office, I learned from a secretary that plans changed suddenly when a government minister agreed to meet with Sakai. The group had been moved, she said, to in front of the DIET building in Nagatacho. She added that Sakai tried but had been unable to reach me the night to let me know of the change. Since I was not very familiar with the subway lines in that part of the city, I used the commuter network itinerary website through my keitai and learned that I needed to take the Marunouchi Line for five minutes to Akasakamitsuke and then walk five minutes to Nagatacho. The demonstration in front of the gates of the DIET building was marked off with big orange traffic cones, leaving just enough room on the sidewalk for passersby to move unobstructed. There was only one small tree on the sidewalk providing a tiny amount of shade while the rest of the demonstrators were under the hot sun. By the time I had arrived, a lot of the demonstrators had taken a break for lunch, leaving a row of empty portable cloth and metal chairs and Sakai, Hiratsuka and Kawabata had already gone inside the building for a meeting. But they had left all the material they wanted to give me with another member who recognized me immediately. "It's really hot!" I said, trying to start a conversation with the->54

intuition (kan de wakaru) a n d familiarity w i t h the behavior of u r b a n c o m m u t e r s , rather t h a n logic, are the necessary tools in such situations. C o m p u t e r s naturally p r o p o s e the m o s t logical b u t n o t a l w a y s the m o s t applicable scheduling solutions u n d e r the given conditions. The absolute necessity of maintaining the daiya a n d the impossibility of d o i n g so is the definitive condition of the c o m m u t e r train system in Tokyo a n d Osaka. W h e n a train line is r u n n i n g the m a x i m u m n u m b e r of trains per h o u r w i t h less t h a n a t w o m i n u t e h e a d w a y b e t w e e n trains,


Tomii explains that computer systems can assist in rescheduling after disruptions but because they "are lacking in intelligence" they do not decrease the "workload of human experts" - the sujiya. In the attempt to create a program that might address this deficiency, Tomii and a team of information scientists propose to include, in an algorithmic format, "passenger dissatisfaction," see Norio Tomii, Tashiro Yoshiaki, Noriyuki Tanabe, Chikara Hirai, and Kunimitsu Muraki, "Riyosha no fuman wo saisho ni suru ressha unten seiri arugorizumu (Train Rescheduling Algorithm which Minimizes Passengers' Dissatisfaction)," Joho shorigaku kairon bunshi: suri
moderuka to 6yd (Journal of Information Studies: Mathematical Modelization and Application) 46, no. Sig 2 (TOM 11 (2005): 26-38.

54 as is typical during rush hours, stopping time at stations must be reduced to an absolute minimum - at times less than twenty seconds. Naturally, with train cars packed over two hundred percent over capacity during rush hours, it is impossible for passengers to board and alight in that limited time, no matter how proficient they are at the practice. Digression from the schedule is thus inevitable and the following train will not be able to enter the station on time. If the delay, however, is not recovered, it will proliferate throughout the system exponentially, spreading to other lines as trains are forced to wait for connections. To illustrate the immense significance of this condition, Tomii describes the cumulative effect of even a few seconds delay on Tokyo's central Yamanote Line. For example, if a train is delayed five seconds at each of the twenty-nine stations on the line, which is a highly likely during peak hours when platforms are crowded, the cumulative effect is two and a half minutes meaning that one scheduled train carrying roughly between three and a half to four thousand people has to be cancelled. Naturally, this creates even greater crowding and puts more pressure on the system. A five second delay is thus likely to become a ten second delay at each station, for which the cumulative effect is a five-minute delay and the cancellation of two trains. And so on. To contain the inevitable delay, drivers must perform kaifuku unten (recovery-driving), which will be a key term in the following chapters and

man after thanking him for the material. "Yeah, but better heat than rain," he replied. Before the conversation could continue, however, another one of the members approached with a question and the two became involved in a discussion that seemed like it was going to go on for some time. My head was getting baked in the sun in the meantime, so I moved over to the shade of the tree, where one of the members was taking a break. He introduced himself as Umeki. Like many of the others, he was from a Hokkaido, which along with Kyushu suffered the most from privatization. After decades of depopulation as a consequence of the younger->55

55 means simply driving at, and sometimes above, maximum speeds in the short distance between stations in order to recover lost time. Kaifuku unten incorporates the principle of deviation from the daiya into regular train operation, demanding a continuous readjustment that results in the production of the actual (jisshi) daiya. The critical labor that ATOS performs to maintain the delicate temporal equilibrium throughout the system is not only to circulate the actual daiya in real-time to the stations and trains, but to the passengers as well.27 According to Tomii, an ideal train system is one that is entirely automatic, requiring only general oversight by a h u m a n operator in case of malfunction or irregular

generation leaving for Osaka and Tokyo, the new JR groups in those areas had determined that it was not cost effective to keep operating many of the train lines in the area. The highest number of lay offs were thus from those areas and with lack of industry there it had been hard for many to find other employment. Umeki was a gentle looking man, sixty-five years old and slim, with grey hair that he brushed to the left but kept falling back over his eyes and big silver rim glasses as we spoke. He was tan, with a lot of freckles and had on a dark blue button down shirt with drawings of big colorful fish on it that seemed more appropriate for a camping trip or taking it easy fishing. Originally from the biggest city in Hokkaido, Sapparo, he began working for JNR in 1961, driving steam engines at first and then switching to diesel motorcars. Steam engines reminded me of Furuhata Yasuo's 1999 film, Poppoya, a nostalgic story concerning the vanishing railroad industry in a small town, and when I mentioned this Umeki laughed but confessed that the film really moved him. Umeki had just bought a house with bank loans in 1987, when he was laid off from JNR. Since then, he has been struggling with the association of plaintiffs to get the government to admit their mistakes and take responsibility for the failures of privatization. Similar to Sakai, Hiratsuka and Kawabata, he emphasized that the notion that JR was created to resolve JNR's debt and improve safety was just a ruse since in actuality, neither those things have occurred. Umeki's wife still lived in Hokkaido, in the house they bought in 1987, while their two children had grown up and moved away. Since work->56


Two more important criterion for the daiya are for it to be a pattern that can easily be remembered by riders and for the pattern to address the needs of both the individual and the "mass" (masu), see Norio Tomii, Resshya daiya no himitsu: teiji unkou no shikumi (Secret of the Timetable: The Structure of Punctual Railroad Operations), 99-105.

56 conditions. The developmental trajectory of the i m p u l s e to eliminate labor moves in opposition to w h a t can be called the ontology of the train. As an icon a n d machine, the train lends itself easily to themes of journey and discovery, entertainment, consumerism, a n d encounter. These t h e m e s a n d modalities, however, are all subordinate to its central function as a vehicle of m a s s transportation within conditions defined b y relations of capital. Labor, in other w o r d s , is at the core of w h a t constitutes the train, especially the u r b a n train network. If computerization of the rail system indeed allows railroad companies to one d a y totally "break free" from the labor of m a n a g e m e n t a n d operations, the result will be a radical incommensurability b e t w e e n the train a n d its daily cargo of c o m m u t e r s obediently traveling to a n d from their places of labor. Representation The potential rationalization of labor enabled by the privatization of JNR is one line of discourse within the narrative of the d e v e l o p m e n t of c o m p u t e r i z e d train system. A n equally significant a r g u m e n t in the p a p e r s a n d articles p r e s e n t e d at the conferences, symposia a n d in journals concerns the p r o b l e m of a h u m a n limit encountered w i t h the conventional traffic control systems. As Wolfgang Schivelbusch describes in his w o r k o n the role of the railway in the

with the association and the demonstrations required that he be in Tokyo for the majority of the year, like most of the group, he only managed to return to Hokkaido two or three times a year, usually on the New Year and Obon holiday in late summer. In Tokyo, Umeki and the other members of the association lived in a dormitory. Since the association could afford to pay for food and lodging, he explained, everyone did part-time work around the city a few times a week through a temporary employment agency. At sixty-five, Umeki should have been enjoying the retirement promised to him when he began working in 1961. Instead, he was spending his years on the street fighting a battle that it was doubtful they could ever win. "There is no choice," he said, "someone has to do this and, if nothing else, it's something to live for."

industrialization of space and time in Europe in the nineteenth century, the demands of railroad operation have presented a challenge to the human sensorial capacity since almost as long as the technology has existed. As railroads developed, the speed of the locomotives, traffic scheduling confusion, darkness, and fog, for example, impeded the performance of human observers assigned the task of signaling track conditions to approaching trains. As a result, an electric signaling system was created that by virtue of its supplemental function not only to the railroad's mechanical apparatus, but also to the human sensorium, became perceived as the railroad's nervous system. Naturally, a similar logic has driven the invention of increasingly advanced signaling technology in parallel with the development of the train system in Japan. For example, an Automatic Train Stop system (ATS) was developed in the 1960s as a failsafe device for regulating traffic between blocks following several severe collisions that resulted from the failure of a driver to observe a red signal. The device sounds an alarm in the driver's cab as the train approaches a red signal, and then stops the train entirely if the driver fails to respond in five seconds. 28 An improved version, the ATS-P, eliminates the necessity of a response from the driver by checking the speed of a passing train and applying the breaks if needed under the direction from a series of wayside devices that monitor train locations via the electric current running through the tracks. Another system, the Automatic Train Control (ATC) was developed for the super high-speed Shinkansen lines, whose trains travels too fast for drivers


Tetsuo Takashige, "Signalling Systems for Safe Railway Transport," ]apan Railway & Transport Review September (1999): 44-50. Takashige Tetsuo provides a clear explanation in English of each of the signal technologies discussed here.


to acknowledge trackside signals. Performing a task similar to the ATS-P, a main difference is that the ATC communicates with the train from a wayside transmitter on an audio frequency, allowing for continuous communication. Finally, a digital version, the ATC-D, communicates wirelessly with trains on their respective section of track, recognizing them via their IP addresses and sending packets of digital data concerning track condition and the platform routing. Remaining aware of its position on the track, the train then processes the information on an onboard computer. It analyzes it in relation to information received in previous instances along with saved data on basic track conditions (gradients, speed limits etc.) in order to develop an optimal breaking pattern under the definitive rule of "avoid other trains." This capacity to implement a controlled breaking pattern, rather than just applying the breaks, is the key distinguishing characteristic of the digital ATC-D. It is the result of the digitalization of information, which allows the onboard computer to develop and store its own pattern solution for future reference Insofar as each of these changes in signaling technology allowed trains to operate with greater proximity to one another without colliding, it increasingly circumvented the basic block system and with it one aspect of the segmenting spatial order imposed by the railroad on the city. The change recalls Gilles Deleuze's argument concerning the evolution of systems of social control. According to Deleuze, the disciplinary order Michel Foucault observed in modern society imposed through the systematic individuation of bodies in segmented "enclosed molds," gives way to the enforcement of social order through a system of modulation that operates according to a cybernetic

59 feedback principle. 29 In the course of this technosocial shift "individuals become 'dividuals,' and the masses become samples, data, markets or banks," {italics in the original). The argument bears some relevance to the discussion of a current "demassification" of society, which I will return to at a later point in this chapter. By decreasing the requisite distance between trains, the advances in signaling technology allowed for increasing the number of trains operating at any given time on the same track. 30 If the limited threshold of human sensory perception compelled the development of supplementary electric and electronic signal apparatuses, the increase in train traffic ran up against the cognitive processing limit of the human brain, overwhelming the operator seated at the conventional Centralized Traffic Control system. ATOS, according to the papers describing its development, was the inevitable, albeit ingenious, response to the inability to centralize railroad traffic dispatching under a human operator due to the extraordinary management demands of Japan's high-density and high-speed

Deleuze's theory is laid out in summary fashion in a short but dense essay, "Postcript on the Societies of Control," October 59, no. Winter (1992): 3-7. Deleuze's reading of Foucault draws on Foucault's analogy between the panopticon prison and modern society in Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (New York: Vintage Books, 1995). For Foucault, the panopticon prison, as an institutional facility, manifests a shift away from a classic system of monarchical rule maintained through public displays of brutal punishment. In modernity, punishment is sequestered behind the high prison walls, where the rigid schedule and routine combined with a systematic arrangement of bodies in rigid spaces collective yet individuated by separate cells - is part of a disciplinary technique developed under the edifice of a science of man. The economy of discipline imposed in the prison, for Foucault, is ultimately analogous to the system of discipline demanded in all major institutions of modernity, the school, factory, army, family, hospital etc. I should add that I was led to Deleuze's essay through Reinhold Martin's article "The Organizational Complex: Cybernetics, Space, Discourse."


To offer an example of the implications of this change, writing in 2001, researchers explain that the new digital ATC allows for the reduction of headway between trains from 2 minutes and 30 seconds to 2 minutes and 10 seconds, which means increasing the number of trains per hour from 24 to 28, see Masayuki and Mizukami Yosuke Matsumoto, "New ATC System for Yamanote and Keihin-Tohoku Lines," Japanese Railway Engineering 147 (2001): 6-10.

60 railroad traffic.31 Importantly, humans and computers suffer the same processing limitation barrier in this context: Not only do Japan's congested urban train lines generate too much information for human dispatchers, but they also overwhelm even the most current computer processors. ATOS overcomes this impasse by displacing the hierarchical structure of centralized command with an autonomous decentralized system. Relieved of its directive role, the center acts only to adjudicate decisions made by the system's semi-autonomous components. This change, as we will see through a discussion of the application of the autonomous decentralized system in the science of robotics, involves a perceptual shift deriving from the manner in which the center's totalizing vision via iconic representation (the real-time schematic or map of the system) is displaced by the production of the pattern for machine reading-analysis. CTC As mentioned in the introduction, the conventional Centralized Traffic Command (CTC) system for railroads operates in an analogous fashion to Wiener's canal control room model. An urban train network is just more complicated, comprising more subsystems. For example, train stations have passenger and system communications, switch track and signal relay controls;

This line of thinking is inherently linked to the discussion in the previous section, as arguments positing the necessity to overcome labor-intensive operation methods are naturally informed by the problem of human sensory limits. Looking at early manifestations of such a discourse, Anson Rabinbach describes in The Human Motor: Energy, Fatigue, and the Origins of Modernity (Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1992) concerns over the effect of physical fatigue that emerged alongside the expansion of industrial production in the nineteenth century; see. Central to Rabinbach's argument is the idea that the emergence of the metaphor of "the human motor" announced a figurative subsumption of the body to an overwhelming ethos of production, which ultimately propelled real attempts to overcome human physical limits in order to increase production. By contrast, concern for human limits in the ATOS discourse are motivated not by the desire to increase production, but by the organizational and communicational demands required to manage the train system in real-time.

61 railroad tracks have block controls demarcated by interlocked signal system (meaning operating as a unit), points and switch tracks; and railroad cars have environmental, steering, communication, motor controls and failsafe speed control systems. In order for the train system to operate, all these subsystems have to function together, or as the authors of a paper presented at the International Symposium on Autonomous Decentralized Systems in 1993 explain, For controlling a system, a hierarchical structure is needed to supervise and regulate all parts and subsystems of the system. All information must be concentrated and analyzed in order to produce necessary commands and proper instructions needed for the subsystems working under the supervisory of the entire system.32 CTC (Centralized Traffic Command) technology provides exactly this type of structure and supervision. Developed in the United States in 1927, JNR began deploying CTC in the late 1950s. At that time, its application corresponded with the trend in the era toward the rationalization of industry spurred by the introduction of automated production technology from the United States.33 In the CTC system, a main dispatcher monitors all railroad traffic via a diagram of the system, which in its more advanced permutations uses light-emitting diodes (LED) and LCDs to indicate train movement. The scenario is the equivalent of the war room in a modern military conflict, operating according to a visual principle that Paul Virilio calls a "logistics of


Mohammad Ali Doustari and Sannomiya Nobuo, "Autonomous Decentralized Mechanism in Fish Behavior Model" (Paper presented at the [First] Proceedings from the International Symposium on Autonomous Decentralized Systems (ISADS), 1993),414.

Private rail companies used the technology long before JNR. It was first introduced on the Denki Tetsudo Company's Tenri line in Osaka in 1936, see Kon, "The Current Status of Signal Control Systems, and Research and Development," 38.

62 perception." 34 The dispatcher within the CTC, like the general commanding a battle, occupies the only position privy to the "big picture," which is translated from signal to icon on the main display.35 If in war, the faster an image can be made to traverse the distance between event and command center, the more quickly a target destroyed and the more successfully the war waged, smooth train operation is contingent upon decreasing the time it takes for a signal to travel from an event on the train track to CTC, and for the dispatcher to respond. As a result, in both the railroad and war there is an inherent impulse


Paul Virilio, War and Cinema: The Logistics of Perception (London; New York: Verso, 1989). Virilio argues that modern mechanized war complies to a "logistics of perception." His argument builds on the commanding role of technologies of vision in modern war and the corollary that to see is to be able to destroy. The equation compels a desire for instantaneity between event, representation and response, for which the fleshy medium of the human sensorium and cognition becomes a barrier. Virilio ultimately posits that relative to the visual, analytical and temporal thresholds of a machine capable of sight, human vision is bound to be found wanting and doomed to be superseded by the "vision machine." That train operation, like modern mechanized warfare complies to a similar "logistics of perception" is announced further in the co-relation of the railroad and modern war to cinema. Virilio posits an inherent relation of reciprocity between modern war as a conflict fought in fields of perception and the regime of vision instituted in cinema. In Virilio's words, war and cinema converge in the "deadly harmony that establishes itself between the functions of the eye and weapon." The argument points to the role cinema has played in the mobilization of populations, training of soldiers and actual battles. Moreover, it examines the commensurability of basic technologies of war and cinema - their principle of repetition - and the inherent primacy afforded by both to a perception established on the technologically mediated eye. The notion of a relation between the railroad and cinema is well-traveled theory. Schivelbusch puts the experience imposed on the motionless but moving passenger of the railroad looking out across the passing countryside at the center of a depthless, and initially disorientating experience of mediated vision that came to define perception in modernity, see Wolfgang Schivelbusch, The Railway Journey: The Industrialization of Time and Space in the 19th Century. Building on Schivelbusch's thesis, Lynne Kirby observes that cinema's correspondence with the mode of perception implemented by the train was announced in the commensurate experiences of the railroad passenger and spectator of cinema. Both cinema and trains immobilize bodies while mobilizing vision as they effect an "annihilation of time and space." Similarly, shock, a radically new time consciousness and formation of a modern subject, were characteristics that accompanied the advent of both technologies. Concomitant with its function as an apparatus for mass transportation, the train as a "seeing machine" is thematically, technologically and economically bound not only to cinema but to all mass media spectacle culture, see Lynne Kirby, Parallel Tracks: The Railroad and Silent Cinema.

The description of the CTC dispatcher as seeing the "big picture" comes from Kon, "The Current Status of Signal Control Systems, and Research and Development," 38. In contrast to Tomii, Kon cites the advent of the CTC system in Japan as 1936 on the Tenri Line of Osaka Denki Tetsudo Co., Ltd. (currently Kinki Nippon Railway Co., Ltd.).

63 for acceleration, a speed-up that must ultimately encounter the limits of a corporeally bound vision.
C c n t i a l iratfic c o n w o l cenlF*

Station A

Staii-sri a

StaJiOfi C

Station D

CTC Diagram One of the main duties of the CTC dispatcher is to follow the progress of the trains, routing them to station platforms by remotely operating switch tracks at the entrance and exit to stations. Naturally, the dispatcher must remain alert and in communication with train stations via telephone or facsimile to relay current information and schedule changes. 36 In most instances, train stations are then responsible for relaying schedule changes to drivers as well as passengers, but the dispatcher can also communicate directly with train drivers via wireless radio if necessary. In order to relieve pressure from the central dispatcher, on most urban train systems in the world the task of station routing is transferred to the stations. Nevertheless, the structure remains hierarchical and


The tendency is to avoid voice communication that cannot be supplemented with text, as voice communication alone is considered prone to miscommunication.

64 representational, w i t h only the central dispatcher privy to information such as the location of trains a n d condition t h r o u g h o u t the system. The m o t i v e to d e v e l o p a u t o m a t e d traffic control in J a p a n first e m e r g e d as a result of the complicated traffic p a t t e r n in u r b a n mega-stations w i t h extremely h i g h traffic v o l u m e a n d multiple platforms like Shinjuku, Tokyo a n d Osaka. As central h u b s w i t h i n the train n e t w o r k , rather t h a n terminal stations, there is never a m o m e n t w i t h o u t several trains entering a n d exiting the station simultaneously, m a k i n g the safety a n d laborsaving benefit of a u t o m a t i n g the routing process clear. H o w e v e r , a u t o m a t i o n w a s not possible until advances in c o m p u t e r technology in the 1960s. 37 In 1964, P r o g r a m m e d Route Control (PRC) u s i n g low capacity computers p r o g r a m m e d w i t h the schedule w a s developed for the high-speed

Melodies of the Commute Every commuter in Tokyo and Osaka knows their station and their platform by a musical chime as every platform in every station in Tokyo and Osaka plays a different musical chime for the departure of trains. An article from the music magazine Pipers, tells the story behind the advent the musical chime, beginning with an interview with a former stationmaster, Itakura Yoshikazu whose initiative led to its emergence. The following is a summary. Itakura was assigned to the JR East Chiba Station in January of 1988. One of the first things he did was to talk with the station employees and discuss what would be the minimum level of sound needed in the station. They started by eliminating the bird chirping and background music. Then they considered the shrill departure bell. Although there were clear instructions in the driver's manuals concerning departure signals among drivers and station personnel, there seemed to be no regulations regarding the use of a departure bell. From research, Itakura discovered that the departure bell might have begun with the use of drums at Shinbashi Station in Meiji 5, or a bell at Osaka Station in Meiji 7. But it was unclear. He learned as well that there had never been an accident blamed on the lack of a departure bell. The use of a departure bell, he realized, had developed simply by the momentum of precedent. Itakura began slowly to decrease the use of the departure bell at Chiba Station, eventually doing away with it entirely. The result was-^65


Kon Yoshinori writes that in 1964, with the advancement of computer technology, train dispatchers started using computers to control CTC route settings on the Tokaido Shinkansen with a system called Programmed Route Control (PRC), which was later introduced to other existing lines" Ibid.. Miyajima Hiroshi, however, writes that the PRC was first used on the Sanyo

o v e r w h e l m i n g favorable, with percent of the station users saying they h a d n o t even noticed its absence. Itakura explains that h e k n e w that if h e h a d tried to discuss his initiative first w i t h m a n a g e m e n t at JR central h e a d q u a r t e r s , they w o u l d h a v e n o t a p p r o v e d . The m a s s m e d i a m a d e a big deal about the elimination of the d e p a r t u r e bell at Chiba Station a n d the ripples from Itakura's decision s p r e a d . Four m o n t h s later in October, apart from d u r i n g the evening rush, a few m a i n stations o n the JR Sobu Line also decided to eliminate the d e p a r t u r e bell. Then, t h r o u g h o u t - } 66

Tokaido Shinkansen, and later applied to regular train lines.38 While drastically improving train operation, PRC still required that schedule changes be updated manually. As a general manager for JR East writing in 1998 concerning the novelty of ATOS emphasizes, PRC technology

amounted to a continuation of the CTC paradigm, "since the primary objective is to automatically control signals by the PRC computers on the basis of the information collected by the CTC."39 He goes on to specify that one of the major drawbacks was that the system still did not supply information to the passengers in the event of daiya changes. It is worth noting that he points out that JNR was slow to respond to these inadequacies while private train companies were attempting to develop alternative technologies. Although the CTC/PRC combination systematized Japan's train operation, it was never adequate for the high-density, high-speed urban train

Shinkansen (connecting Shin-Osaka with Fukuoka, Kyushu) in 1972. Tomii also writes that "genuine" (honkaku teki na mono) PRC was first used on the Shinkansen in 1972, although Hanshin Dentetsu began using it on certain sections in 1971. In addition, Tomii explains that what delayed the introduction of the PRC on conventional lines was the practice during the JNR era of using stations for changing freight trains, which made the station schedules exceedingly complicated. The practice eventually decreased on the majority of lines especially with the establishment of JR, see Norio Tomii, Resshya daiya no himitsu: teiji unkou no shikumi (Secret of the Timetable: The Structure of Punctual Railroad Operations), 126-27. The PRC was first used on conventional (non-Shinkansen) JNR lines beginning with the Musashino Line in 1978.

It was developed for a line in Osaka in 1971 and for the Sanyo Shinkansen in 1972, Kitahara, "Dawn of Era of New-General Autonomous Decentralized Transport Operaton Control System - Departure from conventional JNR system," 28. Ibid.


66 lines. 40 As a result, m a n y train lines, especially in Tokyo, w e r e never able to exploit the technology fully. At best, only sections of these railway lines w e r e p u t u n d e r a centralized control, w i t h the dispatchers from those sections t h e n responsible for communicating w i t h the shireishitsu. If the d e m a n d s of m a n a g i n g a central train line in u r b a n Japan d e m o n s t r a t e d a h u m a n limit, that the attempts to a u t o m a t e the system w e r e frustrated b y insufficient c o m p u t i n g p o w e r pointed to equally significant technological limits. 41 The n a t u r e of the p r o b l e m s faced in a u t o m a t i n g the train system in u r b a n Japan w e r e not unlike the d i l e m m a confronting scientists attempting to develop a u t o n o m o u s mobile robots based on hierarchical

the country, although not eliminating the bell entirely, stations began decreasing the time the bell sounded. On December 1,1990, two years after the departure bell had been silenced at Chiba Station, all except for four stations within JR Hokkaido stopped sounding the departure bell. Those four stations, however, decided that instead of a departure bell, they would use some type of pleasant music. The influence from the JR Chiba Station spread even to the subway. On September 1, 1989, the four most crowded stations on Tokyo's Eidan Subway Line, Kasumigaseki, Ginza, Kayabacho and Nagatacho, stopped using a departure bell and conductor's whistle. The results were positive, with over 70 percent of the commuters welcoming the silence. Although recognizing that the departure bell had been to shrill, many stations began to wonder if eliminating it entirely was not in fact too dangerous. Among those stations, some began to follow the lead of the stations in Hokkaido and use music, which at lease eliminated the shrill noise of the bell. But the national forerunners in introducing the musical departure chime where JR East Shinjuku and Shibuya Stations. In March of 1989, both stations introduced a harp and piano musical departure chime. The reaction in the mass media to the musical departure chime was unexpectedly limited, which JR East interpreted as a positive reaction. Thus soon after, other stations in the Kanto network, on the Chuo Line and on the Yamanote Line, also introduced a musical departure chime. The head of JR East Transportation Service attributes the introduction of different-^ 67

c o m m a n d schemes, representational m o d e l s a n d a visual interface. Rodney

40 41

Kitahara et al., "Autonomous Decentralized Traffic Management System".

In contrast to JNR, private rail companies in Japan had modernized the information service for passengers. Still, none had developed anything close to the level of information sharing afforded by ATOS.

67 Brooks, one of the lead researchers in the field of robotics, explains that initial attempts to build robots were dominated by the assumption that a successful machine would have to emulate what was believed to be the human mode of interaction with the world through a combination of ocular and cognitive processes. Efforts thus went toward developing better computer vision interfaced with a central cognition box that held an exhaustive threedimensional map of the territory. The idea, Brooks explains, was that "good representation is the key to AI."42 According to this system, a robot captured an image through its video-eye and converted it into information that could be analyzed and compared with its map of the surroundings, thus updating its representational model of the world and generating appropriate commands such as move forward, backward, etc.43 But autonomous mobile robots designed along these lines never went very far nor were capable of much. Like the condition faced by a central dispatcher in the CTC trying to manage a busy train line, their central processors became weighed down by a flood of information. Forward progression occurred, at best, a few meters at a time and in sporadic intervals, as their cognition boxes labored long periods to dissect and analyze information in order
42 43

musical chimes at each station to the effects of privatization, which gave each stationmaster m o r e i n d e p e n d e n c e in d e t e r m i n i n g the d a y to day operations of the station. Akira Takanashi, "Nippon no oto, nihonjin no mimi: Kakuseiki soon wo kangaeru" (Sounds of Japan, The Japanese Ear: Thinking About Sound Amplifiers), Pipers vol. 115, March 3,1991, Tokyo: Sugihara Shoten, http:/ / .html (accessed November 2, 2008).

Rodney A Brooks, "Intelligence without Representations," Artificial Intelligence 47 (1991), 142.

Brooks explains his initial theories in his article from 1991, Ibid. In a recent book written for general audiences, he returns to these theories and describes the remarkable advances to which they have since led, see Rodney Allen Brooks, Flesh and Machines: How Robots will Change Us (New York: Pantheon Books, 2002).

68 to update their maps and produce a single motion response. Such robots could move around in the world but they could not respond and adapt to it in a timely manner. Brooks' revolutionary solution was to dispense with the cognitive center and hierarchical schema, for a system of distributed autonomous functions that he calls "subsumption architecture." In practical terms, this involves a machine comprised of autonomous layers, each with a specified function in the world. The layers perform asynchronously, without a central control. Rather, they are driven by a message they receive from the other layers within specific temporal restrictions. The message from another layer causes a layer to change its state as long as the message is not in conflict with a task being carried out at the time of its receipt. If it is, the message is suppressed or inhibited until the task is completed - hence the temporal constraint. As an example, Brooks describes a robot with three layers designed to carry out the following: avoid objects, wander and explore. The first is the base layer and causes the creature to move away from any approaching object, the second directs it to move based on the conditions of the first layer, and the third directs to it explore new territory, suppressing the wander layer but observing how the base layer diverts the creature from objects.44 Importantly, there is no map of the world. Designating the
Brooks, "Intelligence without Representations," 153-55. Although Brooks flatly rejects the impulse to philosophize on the nature of his creatures, claiming instead a purely pragmatic impulse behind his research. In "Machinic Vision," Critical inquiry 26, no. Autumn (1999): 27-48, John Johnston points to a correspondence between Deleuze's notion of distributed perception in Cinema 1 and Cinema 2, and Brooks' precept of intelligence without perception. As Johnston suggests, similar to the process outlined by Brooks, vision for Deleuze occurs via a perception that cannot be "located at any single place and moment in time, and the act by which this perception occurs is not the result of a single or isolated agency but of several working in concert or parallel." Johnston's argument, moreover, contrasts this mode of vision with the understanding of vision that Virilio proposes in The Vision Machine. Johnston argues that Virilio obstinately clings to a notion of unified and corporeally bound vision, against which allocating the responsibility of seeing to machines figures as a loss leading eventually to an inevitable

69 paradigm, "intelligence without representation/' Brooks explains that instead of the map of the world, the world is the map; a device in the creature scans its environment with a specified frequency, converting the information into a message, not a map that can be understood by the relevant layers. Brooks might as well have been describing ATOS. The similarity between ATOS and Brooks' robots rests on their commensurate designs and operation. Under ATOS, the constituent components of the train system function as autonomous layers with the actual daiya circulating as the message organized around temporal constraints. ATOS brings the principle of autonomous decision-making and pattern generation implemented for the trains with the ATC-D technology to the next step, by allowing train stations to be selfgoverning. The actual daiya is the product of continuous information exchange between train stations, maintenance crews and a daiya database. The shireishitsu processes the information into the daiya format, feeding it back to station computers which then develop their own traffic routing patterns, signal commands and departure times for each train, which is displayed for the driver on a small clock at the end of the platform. Human traffic is modulated via a similar means as the station computer updates the passenger information boards accordingly, routing passengers to the correct platforms in a language and level of complexity appropriate to the human threshold. The system also generates

dystopia. For Virilio, once vision is turned over to machines, it will become the terrain of "vision machines" and "forever beyond us," see The Vision Machine (Bloomington, London: Indiana University Press ; British Film Institute, 1994), 73. Another way of reading this is to suggest that the move from a CTC/PRC representational model of vision to ATOS non-representational perception enacts exactly the kind of shift that Virilio discusses, from human vision to the vision machine. Or, by contrast, drawing from Johnston's thesis, the shift from CTC/PRC to ATOS implements a mode of vision that more closely resembles the process through which humans perceive the world.

70 automatic announcements on a public address systems warning of the arrival of trains. When not occupied with this task, it cycles through advertisements of JR East travel campaigns and products, between warnings that "the Japanese Police are in a state of high terror alert. Passengers' cooperation is requested in identifying suspicious objects or people." ATOS is "intelligence without representation." Under ATOS, the totalizing representation of the system - the real-time map on the train display board of the CTC - is displaced by a temporal pattern of the actual daiya. Comprehensible only to the eye of an expert, the temporal pattern is a code that is immediately accessible to the layers of the apparatus. It thus supplants the component of human interface whereby a human operator converts an iconic representation into a command. For the technician in the shireishitsu, there is no big picture to monitor. Rather, there is only the continuous output of the pattern. 45


The situation recalls the film, The Matrix (1999), in which the virtual construct produced by the machines is presented as a pattern of cascading symbols on a computer display.



ATOS Diagram What is the significance of the perceptual shift inherent to the notion of "intelligence without representation?" It is important to note in the context of this question that Japan's urban train network is only one example of the application of an autonomous decentralized system. The principle is being applied throughout the world toward the automation of a variety of colossal systems, such as electronic payment networks, computer search engines, steel production, driverless vehicles and electricity and water supply networks for major cities.

72 An autonomous decentralized system subverts the order of what Martin Heidegger identifies as the "age of world-picture." In Heidegger's argument, the world-picture denotes "man's" capacity, incipient with the technological innovations of modernity, to enframe and represent the world for his own use. 46 The world-picture is an epistemological paradigm with ontological implications as man realizes himself as the central subject of a system that he grasps in its entirety. An autonomous decentralized system removes man from the picture, so to speak, relegating him to a secondary position. It produces, moreover, knowledge of the world that yields not to human interpretation and an impulse toward the subjugation of nature, but to communication among machines and an imperative for equilibrium. Human beings, in other words, are left out of the information loop, becoming the object of self-managing systems that do things in the world and have a definite purpose in being. Throughout the twentieth century technologies of representation have been inseparable from notions of centralized control, mass media and mass society. Whether in the context of discussions arising among scholars associated with Germany's Frankfurt School concerning the nature of the culture industry, or in the counter-arguments presented by thinkers from England's Birmingham

Martin Heidegger, "The Age of the World Picture," in The Question Concerning Technology, and other Essays (New York: Garland Pub., 1977). In accordance with the philosophical conventions of the period, Heidegger's subject is "man" and not "humankind." Although Heidegger's argument premises a technological capacity to represent, "getting the picture" is contingent on the metaphysics of modern science whereby nature and history are situated as "objects of a representation that explains," rather than on a technologically proficient vision. The world picture is the effect of a positioning, or spatial designation, between subject and object, man and world, and an ensuing "interplay" between them in which man realizes himself as the central subject of a system he grasps in its entirety. What deserves emphasizing is that Heidegger does not argue that the world picture of the modern age provides a more precise method of knowing than previous systems of knowledge. It is not a new and improved model for viewing the world that makes older ones obsolete. Rather, because the world picture order of representation is the foundation of Being (Dasein), it forecloses the possibility of knowing the past via any other paradigm.

73 School, theories of mass media and culture orbit a fundamental premise of society as organized under mainstream structures of mass production and consumption. 47 Current economic and sociological theories, however, posit a radical shift in the notion of mass society as a result of the decentralizing potentials of computer-mediated communication. This shift is often identified as a current trend toward "demassification" in which "mass production efficiencies, hierarchical organization, and bureaucratic structures that provide central control over activities divided into small parts," is supplanted by a schema of semi-autonomous, self-organizing units. 48 Computer-mediated communication technologies drive this change by "fuel[ing] the growth and effectiveness of organization and its parts." 49 Explaining the significance in terms of commodity production, the Japanese economist and railroad analyst Mito Yuko suggests that worldwide, companies can no longer afford to embark on conventional mass marketing strategies. 50 Instead, they are forced to address

In terms of the Frankfurt School, I am thinking particularly of Theodore Adorno and Max Horkheimer, as well as Walter Benjamin, (who was only tentatively associated with the group), for their attention to the instrumentality of mass mediated representations in modernity, specifically the technology of cinema. Adorno largely negative take on cinema as an instantiation of mass culture and manipulation by a culture industry in The Culture Industry: Selected Essays on Mass Culture (London; New York: Routledge, 2001), was of course not shared by Benjamin, who famously aligned the technology with potentially positive social effects in his seminal essay "The Work Of Art In The Age Of Mechanical Reproduction," in Illuminations (New York: Schocken Books, 1968). In terms of thinkers from the Birmingham School, I am thinking of Stuart Hall and Paul Gilroy, who emphasized the instrumentality of sub-cultures and a complicated reciprocity between official mass culture producers and consumers.

Richard L and Arie Y Lewin Daft, "Where Are the Theories for the "New" Organizational Forms? An Editorial Essay," Organization Science 4, no. 4 (1993): i-iv.


Yuko Mito, Teikoku hashha: nihon no tetsudowa naze sekai de mottomo seikaku nanoka. Mito Yuko posits the change as part of a long trend in shifting social values. In the hundred years following the Meiji Reform until the end of the period of high industrial growth (kodoseicho) in the Showa era, she explains, there was a general consensus concerning the need for constant expansion based on a mass production and mass consumption that, for better or for worse constituted a common national goal. She suggests, however, that in the past two decades, along with rising labor costs, an aging society and an increasing emphasis on different lifestyles and values,


the diverse desires of consumers who wish to live according to their own style by offering customized modes of consumption. Japan's urban train systems are not exempt from this change, Mito suggests, despite being icons of mass society. Train companies are being forced to shift their assumptions concerning the nature of the commuting population, treating it as a composite of individual passengers with specific transportation needs, rather than a mass to be accommodated through a maximization of transport capacities. The Railroad Organism Mito's thoughts are echoed by Yoshihara Mihoko, a senior manager in the Tokyo branch of the JR Group advertising company, JEKI, which is responsible for selling advertisement space on trains and in train stations within JR East's Kanto network. They are expressed as well in the technological and scientific discussions concerning the application of autonomous decentralized systems. As a researcher from Tokyo Information Systems Development Section of the Central JR, Kawakami Takashi, suggests in a paper presented at a symposium in 1993, "Recently, the railway is required to satisfy the variable demands of each passenger. It is necessary for the railway system to offer the variable kinds and the variable quantity transportation [sic], as there are various

people are demanding a slower life tailored to the fulfillment of their own desires. As industry aspires to develop the flexibility to respond to the subtle changes in the market, people are struggling to define what it means to be oneself (jibun rashii). In contrast to the terms of mass consumption that dominated the past, the emphasis today is on the idea that each person must seek their particular happiness, a respect for different sense of values and the importance of individual time. Mito hesitates in identifying the phenomena simply as individualism, calling it instead an expression of a desire to find a middle ground for being part of a group while still maintaining one's own way of life. It deserves mentioning that the irony of the situation whereby a common desire for difference makes it incumbent on industry to produce only the appearance of difference (what might be considered even just an "affect), rather than difference, is not lost on Mito.

passengers' needs." Such needs, he clarifies, are specifically related to the increasing "value of time for each person." He thus suggests that JR should consider time as a management resource and "use it effectively," which is a somewhat bewildering statement considering the preeminent importance time management has consistently played in train traffic control in Japan. Kawakami's point, however, is expound on the necessity of an autonomous decentralized system, which he designates a "Friendly Autonomous Decentralized System (FADS)" in order to emphasize its user-friendly character. What makes the argument remarkable is the manner in which it invokes a biological model as the basis for the customization of railway service and the creation of a fault tolerant railway. The new autonomous decentralized system, Kawakami explains, "is proposed on the analogy between the biological system and the conventional railway system." Describing the characteristics of a biological system, he writes (in English): The cerebrum consists of the blocks having various functions. And the block is the integration of the autonomous nerves. The cerebellum is motor nerves line, and it gradually improves its ability of the motion.
The c e r e b r u m is always w o r k i n g , planning, executing a n d evaluating, a n d therefore its response is fast a n d accurate. The cerebrum also collects the information from outside of b o d y . Therefore it can quickly a n d predictively cope w i t h the change of environment. 5 2

In the framework of the analogy, the history of railroad technological development is divided into three phases: conventional, modernized and next generation. In the conventional system, Kawakami suggests, each station and personnel performed their function as independent blocks in the cerebrum.


Takashi Kawakami, "Concept of Friendly Autonomous Decentralized System for Next Generation Train Traffic Control" (Paper presented at the [First] Proceedings from the International Symposium on Autonomous Decentralized Systems (ISADS), 1993). 52 Ibid., 318.

76 Under a modernized system, the independent components were put under a central command, which while facilitating communication was eventually overwhelmed by information. Under the FADS model (next generation system), The railway system is proposed as a living system. This system consists of the autonomous units of the station, the train and the functions of the station and the train. Each autonomous unit is always working, executing, and evaluating. And, these units communicate with each other not only to control the system but also to cope with the future situation [sic]. Consequently, variable kinds and variable quantity transportation could be realized [sic].53 Metaphorical equivalences between mechanical and electronic systems and organic organisms have been central to the rhetoric of science and social discourse since the end of the nineteenth century.54 As a scholar at the Institute of Railways Studies and Transportation History in England, Ralph Harrington, suggests, the railway in particular has lent itself to biological imagery, with the train lines figuring as the life arteries of a nation, the telegraph as the nervous system and masses of passengers as the "flow" of blood.55 Looking at a wide range of literary and scholarly material from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Harrington points to instances in which corporeal analogies of the railway are invoked in both positive manner and negative contexts. In the former, metaphors are typically summoned to suggest a robust economy in terms of the healthy circulation of commodities and people within the national body, and as evidence of the progress of civilization as demonstrated in the human capacity to duplicate complex organic systems. In the latter, the
53 54 55

Ibid., 317. See for example the earlier discussion of Anson Rabinbach.

Ralph Harrington, "Biological Metaphor and Railway Systems: Nineteenth Century Perceptions of the Railway Institute of Railway Studies & Transport History, 1999), http:/ / (accessed October 25, 2008).

77 convergence of machine, corporeal and social processes, instantiated by the railway, becomes indicative of the assimilation of the human body and society to the dictates of the machine. The railway, according to this line of thought, which incidentally corresponds to a critique of urban modernity, reduces individuals to a homogenous dehumanized mass, forcing bodies to conform to the monotonous and predictable rhythm of machine time and motion. In the railway accident, both the human and railway nervous systems, the spine and the telegraph, are revealed as equally "fragile and easily unbalanced." 56 Kawakami's argument is just one example in which biological metaphors and organic models are invoked in relation to an autonomous decentralized system. In contrast to what Harrington shows, rather than suggesting a homogenization of society and machinization of the body, the metaphors are applied toward establishing the way in which a railway under the autonomous decentralized system allows individualization and temporal flexibility. Although the distinction is slight, the biological analogies emphasize the way in which the system becomes more like a body, adaptable and resilient, instead of the way in which the body is made more rigid and machine-like marked by rigid repetition and prone to systemic failure. Moving between the image of an autonomous decentralized train system as an organism composed of semiautonomous cells, to the notion of a body propelled by integrated limbs, the metaphors in either case foreground the organizational structure of a biological organism. Mori Kinji, a scholar in Information Science and Engineering at Tokyo's Institute of Technology, and one of the initial proponents of autonomous


78 decentralized systems, cites the resiliency, or fault tolerance, of biological structures as the impetus behind the ATOS paradigm. He explains that it occurred to him while he was in New York during the power blackout of 1977, that an autonomous decentralized structure offered a robust alternative for conventional urban systems. He realized, he writes, that "the reason the living body is capable of adapting to changes in conditions, to systemize itself and to function and thus to survive is due to cellular autonomy." 57 Living organisms experience failure on a cellular level on a daily basis, he suggests, but the damaged cells are replaced without impeding the operation of the overall organism. Engineers from Nagoya University at the first International Symposium on Autonomous Decentralized Systems framed the apparatus in similar terms: The autonomous decentralized systems are systems in which the functional order of the entire system is generated by cooperative interactions among its subsystems, each of which has the autonomy to control a part of the state of the system. It is well known that systems with such characters are actually realized by biological organisms. The biological systems have the capability to self-organize various kinds of functional order due to autonomous coordination of many system elements. For example, animal movements are generated by cooperation of many motor neurons which control muscular fibers, and various movements that are suitable for various purposes and environments are realized flexibly. The biological systems are also highly fault tolerable systems in the sense that they keep functioning satisfactorily even if some of the neurons die.58


Kinji Mori, "Coexistence and Evolution," JR East Technical Review 3 (2007): 34-35. Mori claims to have begun considering a biological cellular model in 1977, in part as a response to evidence of technological malfunction behind the blackout in New York. However, due to a combination of factors, including the level of the technology at the time and the cost-effectiveness of switching to a new system, the concept was not readily adapted

Masami Ito and Yuasa Hideo, "Autonomous Decentralized System with Self-organizing Function and Its Application to Generation of Locomotive Patterns" (Paper presented at the [First] Proceedings from the International Symposium on Autonomous Decentralized Systems (ISADS), 1993).

79 The necessity to confront irregularity is the rule, not the exception in all of these models. They emphasize that the benefit of a system composed of autonomous layers is that the failure of one layer or sudden change in conditions does not lead to systemic collapse, which partly relieves the necessity to suppress anomaly. The organism instead adapts, integrating difference and anomaly into its decision-making logic. Similarly, the schema allows for a component to be removed from the network for repairs or subtracted from the overall organization without interfering with the system's performance. In practical application, this might mean removing a station from operation during clean up after a railroad suicide or performing maintenance to a section without shutting down the entire system. It could also include adding or canceling trains. In place of the crowd, biological analogies of the autonomous decentralized systems conjure the image of a swarm of insects or school of fish. Whereas the former emphasizes chaos and alienation, the later suggests a perpetual telepathic-like networked connection among the constituent organisms. A paper from the symposium in 1993 that proposes the behavior within schools of fish as a model for autonomous decentralized apparatuses provides one of the best examples. The paper begins by imagining an ideal apparatus in which there is no center: The autonomous decentralized system is a system whose functional
order is generated only b y cooperative interactions a m o n g its

subsystems. In other words, the system does not have any supervisor for the entire system. Instead, each subsystem has the autonomy to control each part of the system. There does not exist such an artificial system yet. However, in nature there are many phenomena which can be considered as examples of autonomous decentralized system. The phenomena are

related to g r o u p behavior of various animals. 5 9

Providing an example of such an ideal network in action, the authors examine the schooling mechanism of fish in a tank of water through a video camera suspended above the tank. They discover, among other things, that in a school of three fish or more there appears to be no leader. Yet each fish maintains a near constant distance (approximately equal to one body length of the fish) from other fish in the school, regulating "his movement, speed and direction with the speeds of the other fish around him" as the whole school moves with perfect precision as a single organism. From these observations the researchers extrapolate the model in mathematical formulas. Their conclusions bring to mind the system that JR East is developing to replace the ATC-D and ATS-P devices. As the illustration shows, instead of the trains communicating with a wayside device, as they do now, in the new system they communicate with each other, using a GPS, transmitter and computer that coordinates position and proximity to other trains. If the swarm or school lacks the notion of chaos and alienation associated with the crowd, it lacks as well the homogeneity associated with the mass. While presuming a base element of similarity as the condition of interface and communication, the swarm suggests the possibility of difference at the same time that it bespeaks of identity and unity. Difference among the constituents of the swarm is not an effect of character but rather nuanced distinctions in the assimilation to the overall pattern. Each element moves in its own trajectory, determining for itself the vector of its pattern in relation to the overall direction


Doustari, "Autonomous Decentralized Mechanism in Fish Behavior Model," 414.

81 of the swarm. If the notion of the swarm or school represents a technological ideal within an autonomous decentralized system, it is also the implicit sociological model in arguments asserting the need to track patterns among commuters in order to customize railway transportation. Accommodating Masses to Individuating Patterns A transformation in the nature of society has created what the director of the Frontier Service Development Laboratory (another JR East Group), Egami Setsuko, describes as a new dilemma: When daily activities of people were relatively stereotypical, demand for
transportation was appropriately forecasted through investigation of

changes in population or economic figures, and it was possible to predict with reasonable accuracy the number of JR East customers. However when diversification of value perspectives, ways of thinking, and activities become significant, and societal systems and frameworks change as seen in today's Japan, it becomes difficult to predict demand for transportation and other associated activities.60 | Egami posits the notion of an evolution from a society defined by mass production and consumption - when "daily activities of people were relatively stereotypical" 1 to a contemporary demassification characterized by a I "diversification of value perspectives." Regardless of the implicit generalization - are people's activities really any less stereotypical than in the past? - Egami articulates a perception of social transformation that has been an impetus behind the development of automatic ticket gates capable of mapping the supposedly diverse patterns of urban commuters. As the train station ticket gate forms the boundary between the train

Setsuko Egami, "For Creation of New Values in Transportation and Daily Life," JR East Technical Review Winter (2004), 5.

82 system and the city, it is an initial point of interface that establishes the nature of the relation between the commuter and the actual railroad apparatus. Just over one meter long, a half meter tall and a hand-with wide, the machines stand in a row, typically with only one machine on either end adjacent to a booth manned by a railroad employee responsible for addressing a gate malfunction or irregular ticket issues. Otherwise, the long and slender machines are entirely automatic. Until the early 1970s in Kansai and the late 1980s in Kanto, the ticket gate was a small oval enclosure where a uniformed railroad employee wielding a ticket puncher tried to keep pace with the unending stream of passengers. According to the story told by the immensely popular NHK's (Japan's Public Broadcasting Corporation) Project X series, the necessity to accommodate Japan's mass urban society was the impetus behind the development of an automatic fare collection system to replace the manned ticket gate.61 The program, moreover, transforms the story of the evolution of the automatic ticket gate into a tale of engineering triumph that attests to an inexhaustible Japanese capacity for innovation. Aired originally on NHK Television in June of 2001, the series came in the wake of decade that had been scarred by persistent economic recession, unmistakable fissures in formerly idealized social institutions and increasing juvenile violence. Against the backdrop of the despair of the 1990s, designated "the lost decade" by Japan's media and academia, the Project X series bespeaks of desire to reclaim the nation's present through a re-presentation of its accomplishments in the past.


Prujekuto X chosentachi: tsukin rasshu wo taiji se yo (Project X Challengers: Let's Eradicate the Commuter Rush), DVD, directed by Akira Imai (2001; Tokyo, Japan: NHK).

The NHK presentation opens with footage from the 1960s of enormous crowds bottlenecked at manned train station ticket gates. Rapid economic growth in the 1960s, it explains, had created an enormous increase in the numbers of commuters in Tokyo and Osaka. As a result, ticket punchers at train station gates were overwhelmed, which disrupted the flow of the system, intensifying congestion and increasing the misery of the commute. It also led to a rise in the number of incidents of commuters falling from the platform on to the tracks. In order to reduce congestion to a manageable level, train stations had to periodically close the ticket gates, which had dire economic consequences as it forced commuters to wait and possibly miss their train. In 1963, the program goes on to relate, the head of the department overseeing ticket punchers for the private Kansai railway company, Kintetsu, became exasperated by the circumstances. Suggesting that something similar to the coin operated turnstile at amusement parks could be developed for train stations, he directed Kintentsu to contract one of Japan's electronic appliance companies to build such a device. Having framed station congestion as a dire problem, threatening to derail Japan's miraculous economic growth, Project X delivers its central galvanizing message: After all Japan's major electronic appliance companies insisted the project was impossible, a group of young and unknown engineers at Tateishi Denki, a small company on the verge of bankruptcy, stepped up to the challenge. In the ensuing narrative, the engineers are brought to the edge of defeat by repeated failure and the withdrawal of financial support from Kintetsu. But they persevere, and through inspiration from unusual places, they eventually accomplish the unimaginable, producing

in 1967, the prototype of the contemporary automatic ticket gate, thus saving Japan's commuters and economy. The nationalistic narrative of Project X threatens to eclipse another story concerning technological development. In developing an automatic fare collection system, the engineers at Tateishi Denki incorporated the body of the commuter further into the logic of the railroad and mass society. Since the majority of commuters on the Kintetsu lines used a monthly pass (teikijosha ken, or simply, teiki), either paid for by an employer or discounted for students, the engineers at Tateishi Denki focused exclusively on automating the pass in their initial attempts to create an automatic fare collection system. Relying on the conventional method of the time for digitally encoding and transmitting messages, the telex machine, they transformed the monthly pass into a section of telex tape, with the route and expiration date encoded and inscribed in holes punched though it. The result was a medium that Kintetsu accepted but JNR refused, partly for its lack of aesthetics. JNR insisted as well that the holes made the information written in characters on the pass too difficult to read. As a large number of commuters using Kintetsu also used the same pass to transfer to JNR train lines, the refusal from JNR meant that Kintetsu could not adopt the system and was forced to drop the project. The engineers at Tateishi denki persisted, however, eventually winning an opportunity to test their punch card ticket gate at a Hankyu Railway station, part of a different private train company. The experiment was a failure, however, owing to a large number of commuters using small tickets, not monthly passes, which the automatic ticket gates could not read and ended up

85 clogging the apparatus. Unable to punch the required number of holes in a small ticket without completely defacing the ticket's text, the engineers were at an impasse. The solution they eventually developed for the problem exploited the same principle that a young technician at IBM at the time was using to create plastic identity cards for the CIA, and was eventually applied to create the contemporary ATM and credit card. Whereas the innovative moment for the IBM technician came while watching his wife iron, an engineer from Tateishi Denki had his epiphany while listening to music on reel-to-reel audiotape. 62 All the necessary fare information for a monthly pass or one-way ticket, he realized, could be inscribed on magnetic tape attached to the backs of tickets and passes and read by an automatic reader in the ticket gate. After finding a company capable of affixing magnetic tape to paper, the problems left to solve were minor and the first automatic fare collection system was born. In 1969, Kinetetsu, reconsidered the technology and from the early 1970s the automatic ticket gate became a common fixture in subway and private railroad lines throughout Kansai. But JNR continued to resist the technology nationwide. But JR finally adopted it in the 1990s. If according to the analog logic of the railroad whereby the transportation of bodies by train is supplemented by the transmission of electric signals, the automatic ticket gate reduced the commuter to another signal recognizable by

The Southern Utah University Alumni Update from the fall of 2004 tells the story of Forrest Parry, a graduate who worked for IBM for 30 years and invented the magnetic tape identify card. According to the Alumni Update, Forrest struggled to find a means of attaching the tape to the card without destroying it. The solution presented itself when he saw his wife ironing and realized he could attach the tape by pressing it to the plastic with the hot iron. (This story appears in the Alumni Update and Wikipedia, where the article can be accessed.)

86 the apparatus. 63 Like the activation of various switches and signals by means of the train moving along the track, the passing of the commuter through the system's gates became another motion automated for the benefit of the increased equilibrium of the daiya. That the engineer from Tateishi Denki realized the potential for using magnetic tape on the ticket while listening to music on a reelto-reel tape evokes the notion of a relation between the body of the commuter and the ticket that derives from the principle of analog media's corporeal index. Monthly commuter passes are neither audio recordings of a voice, photographs of a body, nor fingerprints. Their corporeal indexicality rests rather on the traceability of information (such as home address, telephone number, place of employment or school), collected at the time of purchase and digitally encoded, not inscribed. At the same time, magnetic tape is also an ambiguous medium. It is able to accommodate both an indexical inscription and digital encoding, which allows it to exist comfortably in both analog and digital orders, rendering it a medium of media and manifestation of in-between. Despite the lack of an actual corporeal relation between the automatic fare collection ticket and the commuter, the traceability of commuter pass data, augmented by a robust bureaucracy in Japan surrounding citizen registration, lent itself to the perception of a bodily connection between the commuter and commuter pass. By contrast, the purchase of a regular one-time train ticket, which still does not require divulging any personal information, allowed an anonymous engagement with the railroad system. However, since most commuters use the monthly pass, for railroad companies, the new magnetic tape

The idea that the railroad embodies an analog logic is borrowed from Martin, "The Organizational Complex: Cybernetics, Space, Discourse."

87 commuter pass technology facilitated transport demand analysis and prediction, as once purchase was encoded for magnetic tape it could also be maintained in a database. Only a deficiency in computer processing power prevented wide application of the information, as well as the culling of actual real-time train usage data from the operation of the automatic ticket gates. It is worth noting that following the innovation with the magnetic tape for automatic ticket gates, Tateishi Denki capitalized on the technology by developing some of the world's first card readers for ATM machines, thus closing the circuit on the connection between the train ticket, identity and currencies. Although placed in a similar orbit by virtue of their encoding to a like medium, identity, currencies and bodies remained confined to separate channels until the emergence of the smart card and corresponding computer processing capacity. Discrete The automatic ticket gate developed by Tateishi Denki is vanishing in contemporary urban Japan as train companies strive to attain a ticket-less system. Similarly, the practice of visually tracing one's itinerary on the giant map of the train system above the automatic ticket vending machines to determine the necessary fare, is becoming a thing of the past, along with lining up to purchase tickets. Commuters stream through the rows of machines demarcating train and city today without slowing or stopping. Instead of inserting a ticket or commuter pass into one end of the gate and removing it from the opposite end as they enter, they need only to touch a bag or wallet containing an integrated-circuit (IC) smart card or keitai with an embedded IC chip to a designated area on the front of the ticket gate. In Tokyo, although each

88 railroad company began by offering its own IC card, the recent assimilation of all the twenty different railroad companies and subways to a single ticket-less system has produced a seamless transportation network. The same IC card or keitai used to enter the train system, moreover, can be used for purchasing items from station Kiosks and automatic vending machines, or at the array of stores that that line Tokyo's renovated train stations. Whereas the former automatic fare collection system only read the ticket or commuter pass, the ticket-less gate reads and writes at the same time. Communication and coordinating, rather than scanning and tracking are its premises. 64 Similar to the system developed for traffic control whereby trains communicate with a wayside device via the wireless transmission of digital data packets, or cars communicate with toll road transponders on highways, the commuter passing through the gate initiates a read/write sequence in which currencies are exchanged and identities checked. That in Japan, the same company, Nihon Signal Corporation, is responsible for all three applications of the technology demonstrates the inherent overlap between systems of control. When the integrated circuit embedded in a credit card, railway card or keitai comes into proximity with the radio frequency emitted from the gate, bidirectional communication at 250 kilobytes per second is initiated with a

1 differentiate between scanning and IC technologies on the basis of the fact that the former only reads while the latter reads and writes. Despite this difference, the IC card still conforms to what Tom Looser calls "the logic of the scan" in see "Tokyo Towers: Animation and the Desire of the Scan in a Time of War," (2006). Scanning, Looser observes, is a technology that incorporates a complicated set of relations. It presumes a particular mode of information organization, specifically in relation to a database, and mapping of the self within the world. Its most basic assumption is of an existence marked by ceaseless modulation, "the idea of a person or an identity being made up of ongoing transformations, and layers of difference" Looser emphasizes the surveillance and potential for social control via scanning in a manner that recalls Deleuze's essay on societies of control, which I cited earlier.


89 computer system in the train station that reads, authenticates, calculates the fare and re-writes the subtracted amount - all of which takes place in less than 0.2 seconds. All the station computers are also connected to a mainframe server, where information is continually accumulated and which sends out necessary system-wide program updates each day. What is visible to the commuter within this whole process is only that an entrance and exit fee, which depends on how far one has gone, is calculated and deducted from a sum stored in the smart card. For those who elect to have the IC recharge automatically via a link to a credit card or bank account, only the action of touching the IC card to the front of the ticket gate remains as a reminder of the boundary between the train system and urban space. A necessity to maintain a distinction between these two spaces is perhaps the reason why despite the potential to operate as a "contactless" technology, the ticket-less system is designated the "Touch and Go," insisting on both a gesture and tactility.65 Every technological development produces its complementary form of a technological accident, revealing, as Paul Virilio suggests, the underlying conditions of the technology.66 In October of 2007, a city-wide systems crash that affected ticket-less gates in 727 stations simultaneously, and two million sixty

The current ticket-less system began with the introduction of JR East's "Suica" smart card in 2001. Standing for "Super Urban Intelligent Card." Phonetically and via the card's penguin icon, the name also evoked the Japanese onomatopoeia sui, meaning to slide smoothly, which was meant to designate the ease with which the commuter could slide through the train system. Initially applicable only for JR East train lines, the Suica was simply a reusable ticket that needed to be recharged periodically at a JR East station automatic ticket vending machine. JR East recognized from the start that it could also encode specific commuter information onto a card when it was first purchased and that advances in computer technology would allow the information to be culled in real-time from actual use, see Yasutomo Shirakawa, "JR East Contactless IC Card Automatic Fare Collection System , 'Suica'" (Paper presented at the 7th IEEE International Symposium on High Assurance Systems Engineering, 2002).

Virilio's insight is part of his thesis on the nature of the technological accident, which I discuss at greater length in the second chapter.

90 thousand commuters until it was rectified by mid-morning, was caused by a two-byte error (the digital equivalent of a single Japanese character) resulting from a logic flaw in a recursive algorithm generating hundreds of thousands of lines of program code transmitted from the main server to station computers at the end of each day.67 Although the problem was recognized late in the evening of the seventeenth, it took until late in the morning on the eighteenth, for an entire division of workers to find the minute error within pages of code written by machine and never intended for human eyes to read. When the technology does work, however, which is most of the time, it allows for the realization of the desire precipitated by the advent of the first automatic magnetic ticket - the differentiation of the mass of commuters into specific consumer patterns. With the data accumulated daily from the "Touch and Go" system, the train company can track exactly who went where and at what time. By virtue of the link with a credit card or bank account, it can know as well that there has been an increase in the past five years in the number of salarymen in their late thirties and early forties on the Tokyo's Chuo Line during the morning rush. They might also know how many children the average salaryman within the group has, what kind of cars they drive, in what kind of houses they live, and the status of loans. In the same year that JR East began deploying its ticket-less system, its Frontier Services Research Laboratory proposed the establishment of a number of research groups to address what Egami articulates, in the citation offered


Hito moji no misu de dai toraburu ni shutoken kasatsuki toraburu" (A Single Character Error Creates Huge Trouble: [Tokyo] Commuter Network Automatic Ticket Gate Trouble), Asahi Shimbun, October 28,2007.

91 earlier, as the increasing irrelevance of the mass as a significant social and economic unit for train system management. The objective, according to Egami, is to establish a market study group to analyze commuter data collected from ticket-less practices, not only to predict transport demand, but also to create new value, amenity and space surrounding train service in accordance with the changed conditions of society.68 With the commuter figuring neither as part of a mass nor individual, but rather as a "station user," the proposed projects aim to transform stations from a medium of transportation into a destination by creating new consumer practices around train travel; to provide individually tailored real-time communications networks for train information, and to shape the "physiological and psychological comfort" of the stations for diverse needs. The result is that train stations are being transformed into a space of activity and entertainment. In contrast to the train terminal /department store model that dominated the growth of urban railroads throughout the twentieth century and made the train a vital medium of consumer culture, under the new paradigm the area within the system - inside the ticket gates - takes on the atmosphere of something between a shopping mall and theme park, complete with performances and shows, but with a train instead of a rollercoaster. The recent reconstruction of main stations such as Mitaka and Tachikawa on the Tokyo's Chuo Line are examples. In both cases, the new stations offer bakeries, bookstores, cafes, clothing stores, delicatessens and gift stores. Ultimately, the transformation renders the train system an autonomous unit, a city within the city.

Egami, "For Creation of New Values in Transportation and Daily Life".

92 To Serve the daiya Narratives of ATOS and the computerization of train operation systems are embedded in arguments espousing national revitalization, deliverance from the yoke of labor and the ascending significance of the individual over the mass. Implicit in these narratives is also the notion of the inevitable evolution of human society through technological advance to a level of complexity that exceeds the natural sensorial and cognitive capacities of the human. The train, it is suggested, propels the emergence of a mass society at the same time that it initiates the desire for an individuation that can only be realized by refining the processes of human and technological interface. At the center of this process is the daiya and the paradigmatic relation it establishes between pattern and social order. The daiya establishes the pattern as something that must be maintained, at the same time that it insists on discovering means to reveal and exploit the pattern. There is a subtle ambiguity at work here in which the daiya oscillates between technique and imperative, between being a technology that serves humankind and an ideal that humankind must serve. Does the daiya serve or demand subservience? When the question arises of how a train accident is still possible despite the extremely advanced state of railroad technology in Japan, this ambiguity surrounding the daiya is brought to the fore of a debate concerning railroad management and operation. Equally important, however, is the effect of a perpetual in-between. Although the desire is for ATOS to supplant the technological order implemented through CTC technology, and according to many of the discussions of the emergence of ATOS it does, the promises of total automated control and unequivocal safety that it inspires are part of a

technocratic fantasy. It is not only that the technology of an autonomous decentralized system is as of yet incomplete and will eventually be perfected and applied to every train line. Rather, nothing short of wiring every component, including every urban being in society, directly into the network, stands for completion.


"The modern technological accident, the sudden collapse of a highly developed machine, is a result of the management of industry according to capitalist principles, as in industrially applied technology as a whole. This technology is subject to the dictates of the profit motive." The Railway Journey, Wolfgang Schivelbusch "We are going to witness the accident of accidents, the accident of time." Politics of the Very Worst, Paul Virilio

At 9:18 on the clear spring morning of April 25 in 2005, a packed commuter semi-express racing to recover a ninety-second delay on JR West's Fukuchiyama Line in Osaka's urban rail network derailed on a curve near Amagasaki Station and slammed into the ground floor parking area of a ninestory apartment building. The impact left the first rail car compacted into the building's ground floor parking area - a space half its size - and the second rail car wrapped around the corner of the building in the shape of what the newspapers described as the Japanese letter " < ." After three days of rescue operations 107 bodies had been pulled from the twisted wreckage of shiny aluminum carriages and hundreds of injured passengers remained hospitalized. Over the course of the next weeks and months, the impact of the accident unfolded in a series of shocking disclosures of JR West's negligence and mismanagement. As evidence surfaced that in order to cut operation costs JR West had refrained from installing safety mechanisms that might have prevented the accident, Japan's media revealed that forty members of JR West management had proceeded with a bowling tournament on the day of the

95 accident and simply watched the rescue operations on the bowling alley television.1 The bowling tournament was followed by a night of drinking at a restaurant-tavern (izakaya), where members of the group made certain the company name did not appear in the guest register so as to avoid attention. On the following day, JR West held a golf tournament and during the next week members of management went on a holiday trip to Korea. It was also discovered that two JR West train drivers en route to work on another JR West train line had been on the derailed train and had immediately called in to report the accident, only to be told to continue to their jobs as usual and not to be late. In addition, the media reported that Takami Ryujiro, the 23 year-old train driver killed in the accident, had been subjected to physical and mental punishment, euphemistically called "education training" (nikkin kyoiku), for previous delays. When he overran the stop at the station before the accident by sixty meters, forcing him to back-up and lose ninety seconds on the schedule, he had collaborated with the conductor at the back of the train via intercom to report the overrun as a mere eight meters. Attempting perhaps to recover the lost time, he had pushed the train to 116 kilometers per hour on a curve for which the speed limit was 70 kilometers per hour. 2

The term "media" used as a compound in with "Japan" or "Japanese" refers to what the OED defines as "the main means of mass communication, esp. newspapers, radio, and television, regarded collectively; the reporters, journalists, etc., working for organizations engaged in such communication."

The death of Takami Ryujiro in accident means, of course, that no one will ever know for sure what happened exactly. In June of 2007, over two years after the accident, JR West released a final report developed from information recovered from the train's trip recorder (similar to the black box recorder used on airplanes). The recovered data revealed that following the departure from Itami Station, the station before Amagasaki, Takami communicated by interphone with the conductor at the rear of the train, requesting that he understate the overrun report. As the conductor then communicated by wireless with the shireishitsu, Takami did not touch any of the controls as the train accelerated. The report surmised that Takami had been listening intently to the conversation between the conductor and shireishistu and did not realize the train was

96 The timing of the various exposes of JR West could not have been less fortuitous. Occurring at the height of Prime Minister Koizumi's campaign to privatize Japan's postal system, they inverted the logic whereby privatization of Japan's main railroad company, Japanese National Railways, in 1987 had been paraded as the successful precedent to the plan. The accident became an allegory of the adverse effects of competition under neo-liberal economics and a portent of the disasters to expect if the privatization trend continued. According to another, contrasting yet equally popular interpretation, the accident was seen as the result of residual effects from the era of nationalized rail. That members of JR West management had proceeded with their entertainment plans despite the accident was indicative of an excessive bureaucratic mentality that had plagued JNR and had encouraged an operational ethos whereby each division was only concerned with what happened on its section of track. How could such an accident have happened? As the economist and railroad analyst, Mito Yuko, confided the real shock of the Amagasaki accident stemmed from its perceived incommensurability with Japan's contemporary technological level. 3 Of course trains had derailed and collided killing hundreds

accelerating. This interpretation was criticized, however, as improbable and as an attempt by JR West to evade its responsibility for the accident caused by such factors as nikkin kyoiku and its tight schedules.

Mito relayed these thoughts in the course of a discussion I had with her on July 7, 2005 that took place in the cafe in the Cerulean Tower Hotel in Shibuya, Tokyo. Mito's comment points to an expectation surrounding the engagement with contemporary technological systems. Accidents resulting from human error are believed to be a phenomenon of the past as a result of the development of fail-safe technology. The assumption belongs to a narrative of technological progress in which the accident figures as an engine of technological innovation and social evolution. As we will see throughout the chapter, this narrative provides the presupposition for much of the discussion concerning the technological factors surrounding the Amagasaki accident. According to the logic of the narrative, technological accidents reveal the flaws of an apparatus, which fuels the development of improved devices, foreclosing the possibility of similar accidents in the future. The remedy for technological accidents is thus more technology and civilization and its technological capacity are supposed to evolve irreversibly, and

97 of passengers in the past. This fact was emphasized in newspapers, which quickly reminded the public through histories and images of major train crashes in Japan since the end of World War Two, that the Amagasaki derailment was certainly not the nation's first nor its most fatal railroad catastrophe. 4 But in an era marked by the safety, predictability and order afforded by the advent of advanced railroad technology like the ATOS and SUNTRAS, a tragedy such as the Amagasaki accident appeared a vulgar anachronism.
unequivocally, beyond certain stages of technological know-how. In a contrasting interpretation, Paul Virilio argues in Open Sky (London; New York: Verso, 1997) that the technological accident is a secular miracle that stands to reveal the "hidden face of technological progress." Mike Featherstone suggests in his reading of Virilio in "Speed and Violence: Sacrifice in Virilio, Derrida, and Girard," Anthropoetics 6, no. 2) that the technological narrative, however, allows the excessive energy produced by the contradictions inherent in the machine to be channeled back into the system to beget newer and more complicated machines - and thus more devastating accidents. In so doing the revelatory potential of the accident is lost and the recognition of the human suffering and loss in the pursuit of progress under capitalism is foreclosed. Moreover, the effect of this foreclosure is cumulatively manifest in the acceleration of technological development and technological processes. Against this narrative of technological progress, Virilio proposes the creation of a Museum of Accidents to reclaim the victims of technological accidents and insist on the tragedy of technological development under capitalism.

An article that appeared in Asahi Shimbun on April 25, 2005, entitled "jyu nin ijo shibo no tetsudo jiko, 71 nen no kintetsu tokkyu irai" (Train Accidents Killing More than Ten People Until the 1971 Kentetsu Limited Express) listed the major train crashes that claimed more than ten lives in Japan between the end of World War Two and 1971. The most recent accident claiming over one hundred lives was in November of 1963, in which 161 passengers died. After that, an accident in a tunnel killed 30 passengers in 1971, a collision in 1991 left 42 passengers dead, and a derailment in 2000 killed 5 passengers. As a way of comparison with the response to the Amagasaki accident, news of the collision in 1963, which occurred in the evening of November 9th on the JNR Tokaido Honsen (main line) in Yokohama, appeared on the front page of Japanese newspapers only the next day. The received only minor mention in newspapers in the following days. (It is worth mentioning that in the Asahi Shimbun edition from November 10, 1963, news of the accident appears next to an article describing a mining accident in Mieke that claimed 363 lives). Similarly, the accident in 1971, which involved a head-on collision in a tunnel in Mie Prefecture on the private, Kintetsu Railway, appeared in the next day's paper but was subsequently eclipsed by other stories in the following days. The accident in 1991 was the first major accident in terms of the number of dead and wounded since the dissolution of JNR and occurred at 10:35 on the morning of May 14, on JR West's Shigaraki Line. Images of the accident appeared in evening papers on that day, demonstrating already the existence of the kind of fast print and dissemination network that marked the reporting of the Amagasaki accident. Similarly, news of the accident continued to make headlines, along with criticism of JR West, throughout the month. Already at the time, the effect of competition as a result of privatization was a central topic, see for example a commentary from an education worker submitted to Asahi Shinbun, Hisaharu Hirokawa, "Anzen yori keiei yusen no mineika ni genin (Cause Lies in the Prioritization of Profit Over Safety with Privitization)," Asahi Shimbun, May 17,1991,17. Discussion of the accident eventually subsided much sooner than it did for the Amagasaki accident. However, the incident and subsequent discourse in the media should be seen as a precedent for the critique that followed the Amagasaki accident.

98 Behind the horrific images of mangled technology, broken bodies and stories of devastated lives that were delivered with spectacular speed to a public accustomed to the convenience of a Japan online was the typical story of a railroad company struggling to increase its profits. Borrowing from Schivelbusch's discussion, cited above, of the railroad accident as a phenomenon indicative of nineteenth and twentieth century modes of capitalist industry, the Amagasaki accident was a "modern technological accident" in every sense of the term: a result of the management of industry according to the "dictates of the profit motive." Stories of shock and trauma, which were emergent in the period Schivelbusch describes and which have become a standard in the repertoire of phenomena associated with the modern technological accident, constituted a large part of the discussion and drama that followed the Amagasaki accident. The accident thus appears to a large extent as a repeat performance of the many train disasters that preceded it. What sets it apart, this chapter argues, is its inclusion of circumstances deriving from a contemporary urban lifestyle dominated by regimes of digital information networks. It is this simultaneous instantiation of the typical modern technological accident and an event that bespeaks of an emerging logic of a digital world that brings the Amagasaki accident into this thesis. Just as these different dimensions of the accident were inseparable in its causes and in the events and stories that it produced, so too are they indivisible in the recounting here. In the months and years following the Amagasaki derailment, discussion of the accident refused to subside, as it had following previous train wrecks in Japan's railroad history. Although the sensationalism of the event produced by Japanese media was in part responsible for this, it was also largely a result of JR

99 West's inability to appease the victims of the accident and respond convincingly to concerns about safety. The question why JR West has been unable to recover public trust is part of the final section of this chapter. The discussion considers the nature of trust in connection to technological systems in the aftermath of privatization and subsequent withdraw of nation not only as a guarantor of accountability but also as an institution with the capacity to rationalize loss as sacrifice in the event of accidents. Shock Mika was riding in the seventh and last car of the train at the time of the accident.5 Before the accident, her commute to work as a paralegal in Osaka was typical of the experience individuals bound by the rhythm of capital have been having since the early 1900s: It was the kind of habitualized tedium that required a mental diversion. From Kawanishi Ikeda Station (two stations before Amagasaki on the semi-express), Mika boarded the train at the same time nearly every morning and rode for twenty-five minutes, reading to pass the time. Her favorite literature was Edo-period novels, which she confessed was perhaps slightly odd for a woman of only thirty-one. But she found the world it conjured, its history and stories of romance, irresistibly captivating. The precision that defines the train system in Japan is manifested by punctuality, and by the train always stopping at the same spot on the platform. Such accuracy allows, or rather demands, a similar performance from its passengers and the platform is conveniently marked where the train doors will

Mika was introduced to me through my wife's family and I spoke with her for several hours at a Wendy's Restaurant near Kawanishi-Noseguchi Station on the evening of June 29, 2005. In anthropologies within the contemporary urban spaces of late capitalism, places like Wendy's, or one of its many clone-like establishments like Starbucks, are by virtue of the uninterrupted time and space they provide for discussion at minimal cost, what often stands for as "the field."

100 be in order to expedite orderly lines. With sometimes less than twenty-seconds for passengers to board and detrain, as was the case with the train Mika rode, lining up is a practice that takes discipline and training. There is, however, room for strategy. Mika, for example, regularly rode in the last car in order to avoid the students who always crowded into the front three cars in order to be closer to the exit at their stops. When she commuted with her brother, however, they rode the first car as her brother liked to smoke while waiting for the train, which was permitted only at the front of the platform. On the day of the accident they had planned to commute together but her brother overslept. To live in urban Japan is to live on the train. The routine frequency with which the individual must engage with the enormous institution and apparatus that is the train system in urban Japan distinguishes it from all the other modes of mass transportation. The combination of dense urban traffic, the distance of the average commute as a result of the development of increasingly distant suburbs propelled by the limit and high price of real estate, and the cost of highway tolls make commuting by car in Japan impractical. In addition, the punctuality of the train system has come to be an assumed feature of urban life upon which businesses implicitly depend for their employees' timely arrival. All of these factors make the train part of the daily pattern and necessitate that it be characterized by an unequivocal sense of security.6 Hence, the thought that a train ride can be a terminal encounter is no less permissible now than it was at the advent of routine rail travel when, as Schivelbusch describes it, human

To drive a car in Japan - or anywhere else for that matter - is to negotiate constantly the possibility of an accident, and airplane travel is still an experience that requires a conscious muting of the nagging whisper of impending doom at take-off. By contrast, rarely does one equate riding a train with the possibility of disaster, especially in Japan.

101 beings formed a "psychic layer" to repress recognition of the potential danger as the train swept them past cities and landscapes. 7 So when the train overran its stop by more than sixty meters at Itami Station, the station before Amagasaki, it was not for Mika a portent of the coming crash but rather an anecdote to relate later to her friends at work. For others, as well, it was a strange but still amusing event up until the final jolt, as Asano Naho, who lost her mother and grandmother in the accident, struggled to relate through a choked voice at the official memorial ceremony one year later:
The train entered the station so fast it didn't seem at first that it was going to stop. But when it did it had almost completely passed the station and had to backup, which was strange because its something one never sees. "This driver must be asleep. Maybe I should go wake him u p / ' my grandmother joked and the three of us laughed. Moments later the accident happened and the three of us struggled to hold on to each other as we were thrown. Then I lost consciousness. That's the last time I saw my mother and grandmother alive.

The train always really flew, Mika explained, but never so fast that she was unable to read the letters on the signs of the stations they passed, as was the case after departing Itami Station on the day of the accident. The speed made her feel nauseous, and she felt frightened as the train began to shake. In an uncanny act of compliance to the mechanisms of repression that Schivelbusch links to the successful assimilation of railroad technology in the nineteenth century, Mika turned back to her stories of the Edo era.8

Wolfgang Schivelbusch, The Railway Journey: The Industrialization of Time and Space in the 19th Century, 130. Schivelbusch observes that the fear of imminent disaster that characterized early rail travel vanished from the European railroad by the mid-nineteenth century. Rail technology had become by that time "culturally and physically assimilated" such that the once novel and unnerving experience of compressed space and time inaugurated with the advent of rail travel had become second nature. The point of Schivelbusch's argument is not that train accidents suddenly ceased or became less catastrophic. Rather, realization of the always-present danger of rail travel had to be successfully repressed as railroad became a central apparatus in society.

Schivelbusch argues that activities such as reading or landscape viewing in a cinematic mode during rail travel developed, in part as distraction from the recognition of the danger of rail travel. He attributes these activities, moreover, to the creation of the "psychic layer" mentioned above.

102 For the victims who survive a violent technological accident the experience often amounts to a turning point in life, which is how Mika later explained the significance of the Amagasaki accident for her. It figures thus in their life narrative as a kind of departure from one mode of being in the world and the incipience of another. Insofar as the Amagasaki accident figured as a departure, by virtue of the delayed psychological effects and lingering sensation of a missed encounter with the real that it produced, it also marked a return to the primordial site of what goes today by the name of post-traumatic stress disorder. 9 For Mika, as well as Noriko, who was riding on the fourth car when the train derailed, the Amagasaki accident instantiated exactly this manner of return. Initially, neither was able to comprehend that they had been involved in a major accident, and although both eventually walked away from the scene unscathed, they began to suffer its traumatic effects a few days later. Mika was unable to ride the train for months and after that capable of riding only the slower local train. When JR West resumed service on the Fukuchiyama Line in mid-June, she could not bring herself to take that train despite the considerable time it would save in her commuting. Stories recounting experiences similar to

Trauma emerged concomitantly with the advent of rail travel and the train crash, see Ibid.. Schivelbusch explains that in contrast to the types of injuries known to human beings prior to the invention of the railroad and locomotive, the distinctive mark of trauma was precisely its tendency not to leave a physical mark on the body. As Freud, famously observed in his attempts to diagnose the phenomenon, it was not unusual for a victim of a train accident to walk away completely unscathed only to develop neurotic symptoms days later, see Sigmund Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle (Liveright Pub. Corp, 1961). Lack of a physical mark of the encounter, furthermore, coincided with the victims lingering impression of not actually having been present at the scene of the accident. That is, despite an ability to rationally deduce the fact of one's involvement in a technological accident, lack of the ability to contend with, let alone comprehend the violence of the event in the moment of its occurrence conjured the sensation of not having really been there. This temporal dimension, or what Freud called "latency," produced by the overwhelming impact on the human body of the violence released in the destruction of the modern technological apparatus, constituted the initial enigma of trauma. For an excellent discussion of Freud's argument, see Cathy Caruth, Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996).

103 Mika's among victims of the accident appeared in the local newspapers for months after the accident. That memory of the accident remained traumatic (or lack of memory of it, according to interpretations of trauma) was also evidenced by the failure of many former Fukuchiyama Line commuters to return to that train once service resumed. For many, JR West had irreparably violated the trust of its riders. For others, the accident had brought about a reevaluation of the dangerous desire to always travel faster. Like Mika, who was only able to ride slow, local trains, after the accident, the accident had left people traumatized by speed. Speed In descriptions of the immediate aftermath of the Amagasaki accident by the Japanese media and by accident victims, the reaction of the JR West employees was consistently contrasted to the response of the workers from light industry factories alongside the tracks. As Mika tells it, after the train jolted to a stop and passengers who had been thrown to the floor began to recover, they waited quietly trapped inside the train for an announcement from the conductor. But it never came. Within moments, however, workers from the nearby steel spindle factory had taken charge of the scene, improvising with whatever they could find to help the wounded. They ripped the long blue cushions from the train benches to use as stretchers, brought endless bags of ice, towels and water, comforted the shocked survivors, and commandeered whatever vehicles they could find to begin shuttling the wounded to the hospital. "It was hell," sighed Haiyama Kikuo, the owner of a small metal shop closest to the tracks. Haiyama had arrived at work early on the morning of the accident and was standing outside his workshop talking on his keitai when the

104 train went by.10 Standing outside his workshop again three months after the accident he described the scene:
The train went flying by as if it was the Shinkansen and slammed into the building creating a mushroom cloud of dust. I yelled dassenl (derailment) into my keitai and ran to help. I don't know how many people I pulled out, and I don't think all of them survived. I've been trying to learn what happened to them. It was horrible. I'll never forgive JR [West] for lying and trying to avoid responsibility. I don't understand their behavior!

Mika was just as bewildered by the JR West employees' behavior. How, she wondered, could anyone have walked away from such a scene? How could they have lacked such basic human compassion? Implicit in the comparison between JR West employees and the light industry workers within discussions after the accident was a critique of the rationalizing effects of technological development under capitalism that echoed writings from scholars of the Frankfurt School."According to the contours of

Throughout this thesis I use the term keitai instead of cell phone because of the specificity of the practices associated with the device in Japan. Text messaging in Japan typically means cell phone email, not SMS (short message service). Cell phones (keitai) have been integrated with the Internet in Japan since 2001 and is comparable to portable mini-computers, such as the Blackberry used in the United States and Europe. Due to screen size and the cost of transmission - cell phone use in Japan is calculated in data usage - the devices are restrained to receive only low content Internet sites. Many sites thus offer keitai specific pages in addition to their regular sites. Text is of course a low data medium, making the email function on the cell phones a popular tool. 1 am thinking mainly of the work by Herbert Marcuse, Theodore Adorno and Max Horkheimer. Although there was no direct reference to their work in any of the discussion of the Amagasaki accident, much of the criticism of JR West recalls central arguments from their critique of technological development under the rationalizing imperatives of capitalism. This can be attributed, in part, to the manner in which these arguments have become mainstream in discourses concerned with the effects of capitalism. In addition, the work of these authors was part of neo-Marxist scholarship that found receptive ears in the academic community of 19501960 postwar Japan and influenced a generation of university students who are now nearing retirement age in Japan. The appeal to this scholarship derived from the rise of Japan's leftist student movement combined with the destabilizing social effects of rapid growth of the economy within the first decades of the postwar, designated in Japan's historical discourse as "the Age of Science and Technology," see William W. Kelly, "Finding a Place in Metropolitan Japan," in Postwar Japan as History, ed. Andrew Gordon (Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1993). Overall, the critique that arose following the Amagasaki accident most closely resembles Marcuse's argument in One Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society (Boston, Mass.: Beacon Press, 1966). In this work, Marcuse rereads Max Weber to posit that the rationalization of society via technology cultivated not heightened rationality but a form of political domination in its name. Marcuse suggests that the emphasis of rational thought on logically correct choices within strategies bound by the imperative for efficiency

105 this critique, JR West was the embodiment of the effects unloosed with Japan's embrace of neo-liberal capitalism and privatization of the railroad. Spurred by the unbridled potential and necessity for profit in the newly competitive transportation market, JR West, it was said, prioritized speed and efficiency over the safety of human beings and cultivated a corporate culture valorizing ends over means. The apathy demonstrated by JR West employees toward obvious human tragedy when they persisted with their bowling and golf tournaments was interpreted as a clear indication that the lives they transported daily in their trains had become nothing but figures on a profit projection sheet and an impediment to the precious efficiency of their schedule. 12 In a related criticism of the negative effects of technology, the drivers and conductors were seen as examples of tecchan, which is a term that denotes a railroad enthusiast but can also be derogatory in alluding to anti-social behavior. Like the designation, otaku, in its negative sense, tecchan points to urban Japan's dense technological environment, denoting a social inept male who engages in technology related

removes the act of choosing from socio-political contexts. It thus forecloses the possibility of reflection on anything but the instrumentality of a decision in achieving a specific end. Under such circumstances, decisions appear as technical matters, bound not by social or political conditions but questions of technological applicability. Technology, according to this formulation, is a means for implementing efficient ends. Moreover, for Marcuse it is always already a system of political control in that "specific purposes and interests of domination are not foisted upon technology 'subsequently' and from the outside" but rather inherent to the technological apparatus itself as a consequence of its emergence from concerns among "ruling interests" of "what to do with men and things." The head of The Japan Railroad Union (JRU), Yomono Osamu, recalled in an speech criticizing JR West that following the accident bereaved parents confronted in anger the president of JR West, asserting that "You are carrying human life, not baggage!" and "90 seconds took my son's life!" Yomono also reiterates a critique of neo-liberalism that appeared in countless newspaper articles (particularly local newspapers) for effecting a competitive railroad market and prioritization of profit over safety, see Osamu Yomono, "View on Fukuchiyama Line Train Clash Accident in Japan" (Paper presented at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan, 2005).

106 fetishistic practices. 13 JR West's drivers and conductors cared for nothing it seemed, but to fulfill their fantasies of operating trains. 14 At the peak of this criticism, newspapers reported numerous incidents involving angry passengers attacking JR West employees in stations. Train drivers, conductors and platform attendants were kicked and spit on and station property destroyed. The violence, however, was sporadic and confined to individual expressions of anger rather than incited under an organized campaign. In stories of the rescue efforts following the accident, workers from the light industry factories came to represent a social and economic antithesis to JR West. Their initiative, in disregard of rescue protocols and their energy and strength before adversity emerges in descriptions of the aftermath of the accident in stark contrast to the action of the two drivers who left the scene and JR West management's response. Coming from workshops whose rusted sheet metal siding testified to the decline in Japan's light manufacturing industry that began with the nation's shift in emphasis to service industries and exported production in the mid-1970s, they signified a mode of labor from a bygone era.

Otaku is a term that has gone through a number of changes in recent years. Once closely associated with Miyazaki Tsutomu, a man accused of heinous pedophile driven murders in 1989, it received a minor boost from the otaku commentator, Taku Hachiro. More recently, essays and books by the academic, Azuma Hiroki have also served to lend the term more significant social currency, see for example Hiroki Azuma, Geemu teki riarizumu no tanjyo: Ddbutsuka suru postomodanisumu 2 (The Birth of Game-like Realism: Animalizing Postmodernism 2) (Tokyo: Kodansha, 2007). In addition, the popular book, Densha Otoko, which is the topic of Chapter Four, did much to change public opinion of otaku.


A close friend who works as a psychiatrist and deals mainly with socially dysfunctional youth stated this to me. She also pointed out the tecchan connection and even expressed the belief that many JR employees suffer from Asperger's Syndrome, which she claims is on the rise in Japan among men especially as a result of a dependency on digital communication technology and games.

107 Their response, moreover, was seen as indicative to the ethos of that labor.15 It exhibited human compassion corresponding to a mode of relation prior to the adverse abstraction - the thinning out of human relations - associated with Japan's embrace of service industry and later its cultivation of an Information Technology Society (IT shakai).16 Comparisons between the disparate responses to human suffering exhibited by JR West and the factory workers were correlated with a critique of the valorization of speed in Japan that was propelled to the foreground by the ninety-second determinant behind the tragedy. Punctuality to the second has been a definitive and much lauded - in Japan and overseas - characteristic of train operation in Japan for as long as most people can remember. The death of 107 people for a mere ninety-second delay, which is not even considered a delay by the standards of most railway companies in the world, made the emphasis on timeliness seem suddenly excessive, if not totally absurd. As the father of an

The comparison between JR West and the factory 'workers often drew on the example of the central government failures versus the local response to the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995. I emphasize "central" government to distinguish between the main legislative and executive body governing from the DIET in Tokyo, and local ward and city governments. The argument on the thinning out of relations effected by the embrace of service industry and the precepts of an Information Technology Society extends over a wide area of scholarship and topics. Initially, scholars such as Asada Akira viewed the possibility of such changes in a relatively celebratory manner and in context with the advent of a specifically Japanese form of postmodernism, see for example Asada Akira et al., "Infantile Capitalism and Japan's Postmodernism: A Fairy Tale," in Postmodernism and Japan (Durham: Duke University Press, 1989). In the mid to late 1990s, however, concern over the negative impact of technology on human relations formed much of the background debate following the murders committed by the juvenile known in the media as Shonen A in 1997, and the Aum Shinrikyo sarin gas attack in Tokyo's subways in 1995. Andrea Arai writes in "The "Wild Child" of the 1990s Japan," The South Atlantic Quarterly 99, no. 4 (2000): 841-64, about the social crisis surrounding. Similar concerns continue to provide the framework for discussions concerning the connection between incidents of crimes committed by children and the advent of consumer digital communication technologies. In Rethinking Identity in Modern Japan: Nationalism as Aesthetics (New York: Routledge, 2002), Yumiko Iida analyzes some of this discourse in connection to concerns about teenage prostitution (enjo kosai). See also Miyadai Shinji's arguments concerning enjo kosai in Shinseiki no riaru (This Century's New Real) (Tokyo: Asuka Shinsha, 1997).


eighteen year-old university student killed in the accident passionately exclaimed at the one-year public memorial evening ceremony (to which we will return at a later point), "why did my son have to be killed by JR West for their minutes and seconds? (nande anna vpyun ichi byo ni kodawatta JR nishi nihon ni korosarenakute wa narnai no ka). This was not the first time that a rigid adherence to maintaining a temporal order had cost lives, making the capacity for punctuality to appear more like a national cultural flaw rather than a laudatory trait.17 JR West's insistence on punctuality - at any cost - and their punishment of drivers for minor delays was perceived as a reflection of a rationalizing ethos unleashed with privatization from the restraints of human compassion. 18 It was equally seen as amplified, as we will see in the next section, by the advent of technology like SUNTRAS that allowed for the further systematization of train
The idea that Japanese are obsessed with punctuality is the premise behind a collection of essays analyzing the incipience of a modern time consciousness in Japan, see Hashimoto Kuriyama and Takehiko and Shigehisa, eds. Chikoku no tanjo: Kindai nihon ni okeru jikan ishiki no keisei (The Birth of Tardiness in Japan: The Formation of Time Consciousness in Modern Japan) (Tokyo: Sangensha, 2001). In "Another 'Just In Time' Japanese Significance," (2005), which is published in English for the Hitachi Review (a main producer of train technology in Japan), Mito Yuko explains the technological and historical conditions behind the emphasis on punctual operation among Japan's railways. Without mentioning the Amagasaki accident directly, Mito questions in the article whether the emphasis on punctuality in Japan is still appropriate to the current social conditions. Mito's choice of the title for the article is intended as a critique of the conditions behind the accident. Another critique of the obsession with punctuality in Japan followed an incident involving the death of 15 year-old female student at a High School in Kobe on July 2,1990. In an effort to enforce punctual attendance the school instituted a zero-tolerance rule on tardiness, shutting the school's front iron gate after the official morning bell. The girl's head was crushed when an overzealous teacher slammed the gate shut as she attempted to slip in a few seconds late after being delayed by heavy rains. It is also worth point out that the term karoshi, or "death by overworking," is tied to the supposed Japanese culture of time consciousness. An expose of JR West that appeared May 19, 2005 in the popular weekly magazine, Shiikan bunshun, entitled, "Nikkin kyoiku wo tskutta 'JR nishi no tenno' wo chokugeki" (Critique of the Emperor of JR West Who Created nikkin kyoiku) tells of a manager by the name of Masatada, who was given the responsibility for streamlining operations after privatization, which he did through by implementing extreme rationalizing measures. His efforts to cut costs went so far as checking employees' drawers to verify that no one was collecting more than one eraser or an unreasonable number of writing utensils.
18 17

109 operation and unprecedented precision to the second - on parts of the JR West network. In the public's eyes, JR West had cultivated technocracy to its utmost extreme. 19 Over and over that message was reinforced in the media through images of JR West president Kakiuchi Takeshi's expressionless face before weeping families of victims, or scenes of JR West management deflecting questions from angry parents with insipid bows of apology. Light manufacturing industries and the JR West railroad abide, of course, to a similar imperative for speed and efficiency as both are subject to mutual profit equations. 20 The factory workers, however, as victims of a decision among bureaucrats to shift the focus of the national economy and move production to overseas factories with cheaper labor, became implicitly commensurate with the

The critique of JR West as technocratic recalls Lorenzo Simpson's argument on "the domestication of time" effected through the rationalization of society under capitalist technological development in Technology, Time, and the Conversations of Modernity (New York: Routledge, 1995). Although Simpson's argument builds on a conventional reading of Heidegger's "The Age of the World Picture," it is important for its problematization of the relation between time, meaning and value. Simpson's views on this topic are similar to concerns I often encountered during my research. Simpson argues that "technology, through its emphasis upon efficiency and control, effects a 'domestication' of time, a reduction of time to manipulable, dispensable units geared toward future goals." He ties this definition of technology to the destruction of meaning through its transformation of meaning into value. Meaning takes time, that is, whereas technology, through its emphasis on ends, asserts that the only meaning is in value, which governed by an economics of efficiency, is higher the less time it takes. Reading "The Age of the World Picture," Simpson lays a large part of the blame for this notion of technology on Heidegger's representation of the world as a picture and as a resource, and on Nietzsche's notion of the will to power. Postmodernism, he argues, also removes constraints that might limit the desire and possibility for total control by removing the possibility of even a critique of technology. The only way to recuperate meaning, according to Simpson's argument, is to willfully take time. Whereas speed for the former is a component of commodity production, for the latter it had become both a commodity and a command-control imperative realized through communication. This difference in the significance of speed is where Paul Virilio's argument on the effects of technology propelled by military conflict on human relations departs from Marxist inspired critiques of technological development under capitalism. For Herbert Marcuse, who represents arguments of the latter for example, the insatiable desire for speed is a component of the technological rationality that emerges with the emphasis on production and profit under capitalism. Naturally, the reasoning goes, the faster the process of production, the greater the profit, see Herbert Marcuse, One Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society. For Virilio, while speed is inseparable from capitalist economic principles it is more importantly driven by the primacy of vision on the battlefield, where conflicts are fought within fields of perception, see Paul Virilio, War and Cinema: The Logistics of Perception; Paul Virilio, The Vision Machine.

110 wounded whom they carried from the twisted wreckage. Both were the casualties of Japan's unchecked trend toward economic and social rationalization. 21 Network When Paul Virilio warns of an impending "accident of accidents, the accident of time," (in the citation prefacing this chapter), he is referring to an event for which the condition of possibility is a digital network of instantaneous communication. The premise of Virilio's argument is that every technological development has its inverse effect. For example, the invention of the train results in the advent of the train crash and the airplane in the airplane crash, etc.22 Whereas accidents in a pre-digital world transpired within restricted spatiotemporal boundaries, the impulse for a total annihilation of space by time informing the development of instantaneous communication makes the accident an exclusively temporal event -- the accident of time.23 The Amagasaki accident was not quite the "accident of accidents"


Virilio's argument is spread out across multiple texts. My summary here draws mainly from Open Sky; Politics of the Very Worst: An Interview by Philippe Petit (New York: Semiotext(e), 1999). The notion of an accident of time denotes the potential of fiber-optic based digital communication technology to transform what would be a local, specific catastrophe into a global, general one by transmitting it instantly and pervasively around the globe. More importantly, the term refers to the effect that Virilio sees instantaneous communication having on politics and human relations. For Virilio, the interval is a space and time of autonomous possibilities, contemplation, imagination and critical politics. By displacing interval with interface, instantaneous communication not only forecloses these dimensions of individuality and thought but also even the volitional aspect of communication. Once networked in, that is, one receives the transmission regardless of whether one wants to or not, and the rules of teleaction whereby one is able to manipulate things from a distance are reversed - one is manipulated by remote. The notion that, to borrow a phrase, the technological is political aligns Virilio with Marcuse's critique of technological development under capitalism. Both perceive technology as expediting capitalism's rationalizing, ends over means, logic and foreclosing the possibility of intellectual critique and individual reflection necessary for democratic politics. Differences between the two arguments have to do with their characterization of the role of speed in this process and their identification of the impetus behind technological development, as stated earlier.


Ill anticipated in Virilio's dystopic prophesy. But the primary role of time among its determinants bespeaks of phenomena commensurate with its condition of possibility. In particular, portents of the "accident of accidents" emerge in the instrumental role of the network, or rather JR West's "urban network," in producing the Amagasaki accident. The network determinant also distinguishes the Amagasaki accident from technological accidents of the past that were the result of an impulse to shorten the interval of the journey (one of the most prominent being the sinking of the Titanic).24 In contrast to the secure position enjoyed by JR East in Kanto as the dominant railroad company following privatization of JNR in 1987, in Kansai JR West was faced with an area named for its abundance of private railways as the "Kingdom of Private Rail" (shitetsu no okoku). In its struggle to compete with the other railroads, JR West began establishing an "urban network" in the late 1980s by rationalizing the connection among its train lines, which, although not numerous, extend throughout the region, linking its three major cities, Osaka, Kobe and Kyoto. Written in the Katakana alphabet as "aaban nettowaaku" the "urban network" was meant to signify an innovative structure of urban transportation. It was also meant to denote an end to the cumbersome and wasteful practices that had plagued JNR and the incipience of a future-oriented company attuned to the demands of an era defined by information capitalism. For the commuter, JR West's urban network offered speed and the convenience of connectivity. Railroad daiya for different lines were recalculated to maximize


See the discussion of the role played by the effort to decrease travel time in the Titanic tragedy in Stephen Kern, The Culture of Time and Space 1880-1918 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1983).

112 the possibility of quick connections at hub stations (such as Amagasaki), and considerable efforts and funds were invested in the development of increasingly faster and lighter trains as part of JR West's "speed-up" campaign (again, written in Katakana and pronounced "supiido appu").25 Under its urban network strategy, a convenient and efficient daiya became JR West's strongest commodity and weapon against the loyal patronage enjoyed by the area's other railway companies. Offer speed and connectivity, JR West surmised, and they will come - and they did. Ridership increased substantially on the Fukuchiyama Line as a result of the changes. 26 JR West's main competitor for passengers on the Fukuchiyama Line was Hankyu Dentetsu, which runs parallel to the Fukuchiyama Line for one-third of the journey between Takarazuka and Osaka.27 In 2002, JR West redesigned the


The light construction was blamed for providing no protection in the collision and the metal was said to have become razor sharp when torn, which increased fatalities.

In Naze fukuchiyama sen dassen jiko wa okotta no ka (Why Did the Fukuchiyama Line Derailment Occur) (Tokyo: Soshisha, 2005), Kawashima Ryozo provides an exhaustive explanation of the incremental improvements made toward the development of lighter, faster and more comfortable trains on the Fukuchiyama Line, and the subsequent increase in ridership. Still, he emphasizes how difficult it was for JR West to attract riders from the competing Hankyu Line, with commuters choosing sometimes to switch back to the Hankyu lines at relevant points in their commute because of the better service. Similar explanations and examples are also given in Hiromi Suzuki and Tesuo Yamaguchi, JR nishi nihon no tazai: hattori untenshi jisatsu jiken to amagasaki dassen jiko (JR West's Great Crime: The Suicide of the Driver Hattori and the Amagasaki Derailment) (Tokyo: Gogatsu Shobo, 2006).

That JR West is fast but Hankyu offers a better service is a matter of local knowledge. Aside from the fact that Takarazuka is the first station on the trip to Osaka, which is a decisive factor in the daily struggle to secure a seat for the commute, Hankyu Line employees are perceived as having a reputation and tradition to maintain. The difference between Hankyu and JR West is articulated for the passenger most clearly in employee protocol. For example, the packed commuter train is a problem that plagues almost every urban rail line in the morning and evening rush. To facilitate punctual departures, large stations must deploy pushers (oshiya-san). Being forcibly shoved into a train can be a source of stress and unpleasant experience for any passenger. Hankyu pushers, however, bow deeply once the doors are closed. For the commuter, no interpretation is offered or perhaps needed. The display serves no functional necessity of the system. It supports, rather, the humanity of the passenger. At the risk of digression, it is worth noting that ground personnel line up and bow after seeing an airplane off from its dock at Narita Airport, which sends a similar message to passengers who might be looking out the window. It

113 tracks around the Amagasaki station, creating the infamous curve, in order to allow commuters arriving from the suburban areas around Takarazuka and a series of new development (bed) towns to the Northwest to change easily and quickly for a connecting train line to Kobe. By comparison, passengers riding the Hankyu-line who wanted to continue to Kobe had to continue to Umeda Station in Osaka and walk a couple-hundred meters to the Osaka central station for a line to Kobe. In 1986, the CTC system was extended on the Fukuchiyama Line to Amagasaki Station and electrification completed. 28 In 2002, the SUNTRAS (JR West's equivalent of ATOS) was connected to the Tokaido Line, which runs through Amagasaki connecting between Osaka and Kobe. Although the Fukuchiyama Line was not connected to the SUNTRAS, the logic of one network bled into the other with SUNTRAS setting the standard in the desire for speed and precision. The Amagasaki accident was the final expression. Having reached a physical limit in the pursuit of speed and convenience on the Fukuchiyama Line, in December of 2003, JR West added an extra stop to the limited express at Nakayamadera Station in order to attract more riders. The overall travel time, however, was not compensated in relation to change. Instead, the designated twenty-second stopping time at major stations was shaved to fifteen seconds. Calculated to the second, (16 minutes and 25 seconds for the

puts a human face behind the system and lends the sense that someone is taking responsibility for the lives of the passengers.

Electrification of the line had been proceeding in sections starting from Amagasaki and working to the Northwest toward Fukuchiyama since 1956. Similarly, installment of CTC technology had been preceding in sections, albeit from the opposite direction, since 1982. In 1986, CTC control was installed on the section between Hirono Station and Amagasaki and electrification completed on the section between Takarazuka and Fukuchiyama.

limited express between Amagasaki and Takarazuka, and 16 minutes and 40 seconds for the regular train) the schedule was cited as an exemplary model of efficiency. But it provided for no margin of error for drivers or passengers. 29 If twenty seconds barely sufficed for passengers to alight and board packed trains, fifteen seconds demanded an as of yet improbable level of fusion of the human psyche with the machine tempo. When passengers failed to move in a fluid and efficient manner they were warned against noncompliance in an announcement that the media later referenced as proof of JR West's prioritization of the schedule over safety: "Presently, passengers have been rushing to board. This is dangerous and, moreover, causes schedule delays. Please cease immediately (oyame kudasai)."30 The five-second schedule change also challenged the drivers and their machines, requiring maximum speeds in an excess of 120 K h / h to recover time between stations and last-second braking at platforms so as not to lose seconds to deceleration - an ability that the driver, Takami Ryujiro, apparently had trouble mastering. When drivers failed to comply, they were subjected to the system of disciplining known as nikkin kyoiku, concerning which more will be discussed below.

The railroad information and system specialist and researcher, Tomii Norio, cites the daiya on the Fukuchiyama Line in his book concerning the science of timetables as an example of a nearly perfectly calculated system, see Norio Tomii, Resshya daiya no himitsu: teiji unkou no shikumi (Secret of the Timetable: The Structure of Punctual Railroad Operations). Tomii's book was published two months before the Amagasaki accident. In discussions with Tomii, he maintained that the problem on the Fukuchiyama Line was not with the daiya but rather JR West's failure to install safety mechanisms on the track.

The Japanese for this is: fcfd'V^S 0 0|RT:\ K f t i A ^ f g ^ r r ^ V S L/c 0 miV&%-MMti J ^BBfc-C-fo fc^J<Z>@ft<DjgBlfcft5fc\ Bft^& ^ib<fi\ Reference to this

announcement appears in Ryozo Kawashima, Naze fukuchiyama sen dassen jiko wa okotta no ka (Why Did the Fukuchiyama Line Derailment Occur). See also Noriko Yamane and Koji Togo, "JR nishi nihon no 'tsumi to bachi' (JR West's Crime and Punishment)," Sandei mai nichi, May 22, 2005, 140-143.

115 According to analyses of the accident, Takami Ryujiro's haste to recover lost time from the overrun compelled him to a speed that derailed the train on a curve. What caused the overrun, however, was said to be a daiya without leeway or yoyu - that is, a schedule calculated to the second that leaves no room for maneuver. Although the term "congested schedule" (kamitsu daiya) was used most often in the media to describe this daiya, the railroad analyst and writer Kawashima Ryozo argues in his book concerning the accident that the expression "dense schedule" (chumitsu daiya, W$sh*?4 ~Y) is more accurate.31 JR East's Chuo Line in Tokyo, which can run thirty-one trains per hour with less than a two-minute interval between trains, has a congested daiya, he explains. By comparison, the eighteen to twenty trains per hour at three-minute intervals that ran on the Fukuchiyama Line at the time of the accident can hardly count as a congested daiya. The lack of yoyu in the schedule derived instead from tight correspondences - connections at central hub stations. In other words, when Takami Ryujiro began accelerating dangerously after leaving the station before Amagasaki, the necessity to connect at Amagasaki with a Kobe bound express on the Tokaido Line - a line controlled via SUNTRAS - was far more important than maintaining a performance of punctuality. Even if he had been on time, passengers would have had only one minute and a half to transfer. The distinction between a "congested" and "dense" schedule is slight but significant in that it identifies precision rather than punctuality as an operative mechanism and imperative. Despite the semantic proximity between the terms, precision bespeaks more of a system's coordinated internal functions and

Ibid., 108-09.

116 balance while punctuality denotes compliance to an absolute p a t t e r n dictated b y the progression of the clock. Combining N o r b e r t Wiener's t h o u g h t s o n the difference b e t w e e n the cybernetic and mechanical a p p a r a t u s w i t h Virilio's a r g u m e n t o n the evolution of technology a n d speed, w e can say that punctuality w a s for the temporal regime of the transportation revolution w h a t precision is to the n e t w o r k e d logic of the communications revolution: punctuality belongs to a mechanical order of m o n a d s m o v i n g u n d e r the p r e d e t e r m i n e d pattern of the clock, while precision is a p p r o p r i a t e to the shifting equilibrium of the cybernetic network. 3 2 Discipline JR West train drivers w h o could not maintain the daiya or c o m m i t t e d

A Perfect System For Hiratsuka and Kawabata of the association of plaintiffs claiming discrimination in the dismissal and reassignment of JNR employees with privatization, the Amagasaki derailment is reflected everything that was wrong with the JR groups throughout the country. Many of their arguments overlapped with the central critique in the media. JR West, they claimed, had prioritized profit over safety and they treated commuters like freight rather than human beings. But it was not just commuters who were being treated poorly, they emphasized, JR workers (in JR East and West) were equally the victims of abuse. Along with such practices as nikkin kyoiku, drivers were regularly pushed to operate trains for much longer shifts than in the past in order to limit the number of drivers the company had to employee. In stations, similar personnel hiring restrictions meant that workers manning the ticket gates were not able to take breaks for hours at a time, even to use the toilet, or that the number of platform staff were always insufficient for dealing with-M17


Norbert Wiener, The Human use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society, 21-22. Wiener draws inspiration from Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz's (1646-1716) discussion of two clocks set on opposite side of the room but in synch as a model of a pre-established harmony among monads. Wiener notes that many of the first automata were constructed on a clock mechanics, sometimes even containing clocks. But this is in contradistinction to the cybernetic model since the automata of in the clock model, "move in accordance with a pattern, but it is a pattern which is set in advance, and in which the past activity of the figures has practically nothing to do with the pattern of their future activity." In the cybernetic model, however, devices do not work in accordance to a "pre-established harmony" but must constantly seek "a new equilibrium with the universe and its future contingencies, Ibid., 48.

the crowds. "The result," they said, "was a gloomy and oppressive corporate environment." JR West's problematic daiya, according to Hiratsuka was exemplary of the company profit over safety policy. Although he agreed that technology like ATOS or SUNTRAS improved safety, the problem, he argued, was the basic principle behind the technology. It was being deployed not to solve an insufficient capacity problem, but rather to increase profit. "JR will never do anything if it doesn't increase their profit," Kawabata added. "For example, they know more or less how many people will be on each train every hour of the day since its almost the same number day after day. So, they need to make the train station much bigger and then to limit the number of people on each train but building a gate that would only allow a certain amount of people in at one time. Same thing with accidents, they always come up with the solution after the accident, after people have been killed since then it's profitable to solve the problem." "After an accident like at Amagasaki, regaining the people's trust starts with treating their own employees correctly," Hiratsuka said. "Just last year, two workers committed suicide by jumping in front of the Shinkansen after being mistreated. JR only knows how to motivate its workers through fear. They promise they will change things like nikkin kyoiku, but that's just lip service. Nothing has changed. When I->119

operational errors w e r e subject to nikkin kyoiku (day-shift (re)education). Prior to his fateful o v e r r u n o n April 25, Takami Ryujiro h a d u n d e r g o n e thirteen d a y s of nikkin kyoiku in June of 2004, for a 100 meter overrun. A l o n g w i t h t h e typical battery of p u n i s h m e n t , including menial labor (pulling w e e d s a n d cleaning) a n d copying b y h a n d the c o m p a n y ' s rule book, he w a s forced to write repeatedly, "If I d o it again I will quit" (kondo yattara yameru). Leaked to the media, the countless w h i t e notebook p a g e s filled w i t h his hurried, almost illegible, characters w e r e displayed o n the evening n e w s as evidence of the abuse the y o u n g driver h a d suffered. A l t h o u g h

p u n i s h m e n t s exploiting the tedious labor of writing n o d o u b t still exist as c o m m o n disciplinary m e t h o d s in schools, the incommensurability of the convention w i t h the image of JR West as an operator of sophisticated computerized train technology m a d e it seem all the m o r e like an anachronistic cruelty. A n a r g u m e n t could be posited that nikkin kyoiku corresponds w i t h the

118 representational regime and structure of the CTC on the Fukuchiyama Line, but not with the SUNTRAS on the connecting Tokaido line at Amagasaki. In other words, nikkin kyoiku is consistent with the hierarchically informed and authoritarian practices of a disciplinary society but not the dispersed and selfregulating practices of a control society.33 Or, it could be argued that the labor of handwriting as punishment is compatible with the persisting necessity to draw the daiya by hand - discussed in chapter one. The necessary skills for operating the train, that is, are derived not from technical training but the discipline of the pen, upon which the order of the system ultimately rests as well. What makes nikkin kyoiku shocking is not the revelation of such crude disciplinary practices at the corporate level, but the insistence on handwriting as a means of technical (re)training. One might expect that a driver displaying a deficiency in skill would be required to spend time practicing in a simulator and not copying by hand the corporate manual and writing humiliating sentences.34 Importantly, nikkin kyoiku involves not only handwriting, but repetitious hand writing that becomes automatic and meaningless to the writer. The insistence on a relation


Chapter One discusses the CTC and SUNTRAS technology vis-a-vis notions of disciplinary and control societies.


The Hyogo Prefecture Human Rights Protection Committee of the Bar Association expressed as much in a ruling in 2002 concerning the case in 2001 of a forty-four year-old veteran driver who committed suicide after being subjected to nikkin kyoiku for causing a 50 second delay when he rechecked a safety device. The association wrote that: "The content of day-shift work [nikkin kyoiku] regarding this case was mainly to write out company rules and to pull out weeds in the company's gardens surrounding the building. As for transcription of the company's rules, it subjects a grown man to physical and mental suffering, and it is questionable whether it has an educational meaning to order the transcription without voluntary will. As to pulling out weeds, it is inappropriate for improving the ability and quality of a driver after returning to work, and it causes physical and mental suffering as well. In other words, it is recognized that this kind of education forces physical and mental suffering on the complainant, and it has little reasonable and educational meaning and one of its purposes is to publicly ridicule the complainant. Therefore it is concluded that it violates the complainant's personal rights because it is undue in terms of both purpose and means," cited in Yomono, "View on Fukuchiyama Line Train Clash Accident in Japan".

119 b e t w e e n writing b y h a n d a n d operation of the technological a p p a r a t u s connects the train system to the disciplined b o d y . The practice threatens, moreover, to unveil the automaticity informing all acts of bureaucratic inscription. For the c o m m u t e r unfamiliar w i t h philosophical inquiries into the social ramifications of technology, nikkin kyoiku w a s simply i n c o m m e n s u r a t e w i t h an increasingly d o m i n a n t aspect of the c o m m u t i n g experience. Once defined solely b y practices of reading, the train in c o n t e m p o r a r y Japan's major u r b a n h a s become a site of digital communication, m o s t notably via the keitai.35 The result of this trend, as will see in the next section, h a d a p r o f o u n d effect o n the public's experience of the A m a g a s a k i accident. Similarly, advertisements inside the train (shanai kokoku) are n o longer simple surfaces of representation a n d exhibition b u t portholes to a s u p p l e m e n t a r y digital dimension. According to the current precept of the advertising trade informing the organization of spectacle o n the typical train advertisement, even m o r e important t h a n the n a m e of a p r o d u c t a n d its various attributes is the w e b p a g e link, which invariably complies to the c o n s u m e r ' s one35

was a conductor and made a mistake, I was also taken off regular duty and made to copy the manual and rulebook by hand. The idea was and remains that all errors are simply the result of workers not following orders or paying attention. The system, they think, is perfect so they want workers who will respond like machines, never questioning an order. I've never been in the army but I imagine that that is exactly what it means to be a soldier. It's a system where they threaten and pin down the workers until they are ready to accept every order without hesitation. They want machines, not people. In the end they would prefer to have everything automated, where workers simply stand by just in case something goes wrong. But since they can't do that yet, they train the workers to operate like machines."

In "Intimate Alienation: Japanese Urban Rail and the Commodification of Urban Subjects," Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 11, no. 2 (1999): 106-33, James Fujii offers a fascinating analysis of the train interior as a site defined by reading. His argument will be discussed at greater length in chapter four as will the notion of the contemporary train car as a site of communication.

120 click impulse with an "order it now" link. The story of Takami Ryujiro's punishment prompted revelations from former drivers about pressure from JR West to maintain impossible schedules and punishment for minor delays. Only days after the accident, under enormous front-page headlines such as, "nikkin kyoiku jigoku" (re-education hell), newspapers carried an additional story of a veteran driver who had committed suicide after being subjected to three days of nikkin kyoiku for a fifty-second delay. Although shocking, news of JR West's disciplinary techniques was not entirely surprising. Amounting to corporate "bullying" (ijime), the topic evoked expressions of pessimism, anxiety and ultimately resignation, as it has after decades of discourse on ijime mondai (bullying problem) in schools. "It's the Japanese way and anyone who has worked in a large Japanese corporation has had a similar experience," explained Inoue Taihei, a middle-aged salaryman at a small iizakaya (tavern) near Higashi-Koganei Station on Tokyo's Chuo Line. Echoing the reasoning behind Maruyama Masao's argument from the 1960s, that the development of a true modernity in Japan was being impeded by residual feudal practices, Inoue submitted that such backward educational methods as nikkin kyoiku were the reason Japan had failed to become a truly modern nation. 36 Mediations "Hey, the semi-express just overran the station &l and had to back-up (lol) ' ' > " a 22 year-old woman in the first car reported amusingly to her


Masao Maruyama, "Nationalism in Japan/' in Thought and Behavior in Modern Japanese Politics, ed. Masao Maruyama, and Ivan I Morris (London; New York: Oxford University Press, 1969).

121 sister at 9:16. "What the... ? Laughable, isn't it *," her sister responded at 9:18.37 One can only wonder if the response was opened. The ubiquitous practice in urban Japan of thumbing keitai email messages while traveling by train yielded a cache of last thoughts, such as the above, from victims of the accident in the form of textual remains that were re-circulated in newspapers and displayed on television news. 38 Retrospectively read as final transmissions, the light-hearted tone, playful insertion of emoticons (emoji), or even calm quality in some of these messages relays a tragic obliviousness of the approaching disaster, stemming no doubt from overwhelming trust in the railroad. Serving to individuate the 106 lives (minus the driver whose last thoughts remained an enigma) extinguished in the accident, these pithy correspondences also provided the kind of intimate re-crafting of a real-time encounter with death that contemporary media audiences have come to expect in an era of nearly ceaseless connectivity. "The realm of the dead is as extensive as the storage and transmission capabilities of a given culture," writes Friedrich Kittler.39 We can add to this that


In Japanese the message read: ima kaisoku ga bakku de modotte kita...(warau) nani X'<y ? XM^XMtc {%) fiiyu?

sore? waraikeru nee. (^^Mtm'OM^tc-


For the youth of Japan's cities, where the politics and economics of real estate have succeeded through an appeal to cultural tropes in making the small home with limited space for individual family members a mainstream reality, the Internet cell phone (keitai) is an important space of privacy. Mizuko Ito writes extensively on the subject of keitai use in Japan and was a main editor for a compilation of essays devoted to the subject, see Mizuko Ito, et al., eds. Personal, Portable, Pedestrian: Mobile Phones in Japanese Life (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2005). The cell phone usurps the role once played by the diary, its portability enticing the reflective whispers of subjects bound by the solitude of urban spaces while its connectivity renders it the embodiment of those singular being's social presence. To gain access to someone's keitai is to gain access to more than just his or her thoughts.

Friedrich A Kittler, Gramophone, Film, Typewriter (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1999), 13.

122 the temporal architecture of the storage and transmission devices determines the proximity to that realm. If Morse Code and the telephone seemed to promise the possibility of frequent actual contact with the dead, and photograph and gramophone stored their corporeal traces, the combination in the keitai of telephony, email and database merges the temporality and function of the telegraph, telephone, photograph and gramophone to engender a sense of a sustained connection with the other realm. An article from Yomiuri Shimbun reporting the important role of keitai messages in the aftermath of the accident evokes in its title the power of the device to mediate between worlds: "You can hear the voices" (koe ga kikoeru).40 The article carries a photograph under the title of a plaque established at the accident site with two poems about keitai. Written in black brushstrokes on a white background, the poems read: It was a momentary encounter with devilish fate that took you away and left only this keitai phone. Caught in a fiendish moment unable to use your keitai, you passed on. What sadness the accident brought. Recalling Ernst Bloch's association of the first accident-plagued railroads of Europe with a demonic nature, both poems connect that accident to a diabolical act while situating the keitai indeterminately between the world of the living and the dead.41 Use of the Kanji character M (ma) conjures the notion of possession or

40 41

"Koe ga kikoeru" ([you] can hear the voices), Yomiuri Shimbun, April 19, 2006.

Schivelbusch notes that in remarking on the tendency of the railroad accident to undermine the sense of security that had come to surround the apparatus, Bloch speaks of a sense of the demonic nature of the first railroads that was reawakened in the individual in the accident, see Wolfgang Schivelbusch, The Railway Journey: The Industrialization of Time and Space in the 19th Century, 130.

123 temptation by an evil spirit through its relation to the expression, ma ga sasu (HS^iiH - ), meaning to be possessed or tempted by evil, "ma" is also a homonym for fn\, which as an indicator - among other things - of a spatiotemporal in-between serves to reinforce the theme of mediation. In

Accidental Connections Recovered email messages from seconds before the accident offered glimpses of last thoughts. Messages also continued among the survivors after the accident, offering each other support and reassurance. A newspaper article from Yomiuri Shimbun tells the story of friendships created by the accident, among them the story Mika and a woman named, Tsutsumi, who carried on a steady email correspondence. Yomiuri Shimbun, May 27, 2005. 'Are you okay' Ms. Hiramoto and Ms. Tsutsumi encourage each other through email. They now commute by-M24

of the fateful encounter and a trace of the first poem the keitai becomes the ensuing absence, thus inflecting the presence of the device among the living with a sense of irregularity. In life, it suggests, the individual and the keitai were one such that the presence of one without the other seems unnatural. The intimate relationship between the individual and the device that this conjures is no doubt in part what informs the strong attachment to the surviving devices among family and friends that the article goes on to mention. In the second poem, the incredible violence of the collision figures as a moment of disconnection. The sadness of the event is both the loss of the friend or loved one and the loss of the connection in the seconds before death. By associating disconnection with a "fiendish moment" before death, however, the poem also confines disconnection to that one moment, leaving open the possibility that the connection can be restored after the dust of the collision has settled. Under the photograph of the plaque with the poems are brief stories of the last keitai communications from six individuals lost in the accident and their

124 surviving family's subsequent attachment to the device. Each story is accompanied by images of a keitai screen displaying a final message or the contents of a message inbox folder. All the families describe how they keep the devices on the family altar for the deceased (butsudari) alongside the spirit, such as photographs. By

Hankyu Railroad. Commuters, who by coincidence were riding the same train car in the Amagasaki accident, are finding inspiration and support in one another. Two women who became acquainted because of the accident are sharing their troubles. In the hospital, a victim who lost his memory and wants to know what happened that day is being helped by a high school girl who was in the same train car with him, and a university student who came to his rescue. Victims of the accident are creating deep ties with strangers in order to overcome their anxieties and the ordeal. -> 125 the other typical modern embodiments

virtue of the keitai, the connection with the spirit realm mediated through the butsudan is thus upgraded to the digital age. In the keitai's database, the recording thresholds specific to different types of analog media, which previously restrained the expressions of the dead, merge into a single flow.42 It is all there: sound, movie, image or text. The terms of its mediation, moreover, follow the logic of an information economy. Not only must batteries and power be renewed, but service paid for according to kilobytes transmitted and received must be maintained. As long as the connection remains, however, one can continue to send messages, which as the article explains, is what many do. But, the lack of response can be disheartening, as one woman confessed, "it became too painful and I had to just stop." The dead, it seems, have yet to shift from analog to digital technology. Sacrifice

Friedrich Kittler observes how the operation of analog media according to distinct data channels engenders a disparate recording threshold and logic in relation to the ghostliness associated with the devices, see Friedrich A Kittler, Discourse Networks 1800/1900 (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1990); Friedrich A Kittler, Gramophone, Film, Typewriter.

125 The d a y before the one-year anniversary of the A m a g a s a k i accident, m e m b e r s of JR Soren, one of the largest railroad workers unions, distributed flyers in front of A m a g a s a k i station announcing plans for a major strike t h e next day. Grievances against JR West listed o n the flyer included failure to implement a yutori daiya, continuation of nikkin kyoiku a n d the continued lack of safety mechanisms o n tracks a n d trains. Despite the insistence of one of the u n i o n representatives that the strike w o u l d be a significant event w i t h "full m e d i a coverage," there w a s n o sign of either JR Soren or the kind of confrontational a t m o s p h e r e intimated in the flyer on the d a y of the anniversary. There w e r e also n o overt signs of cooperation or dialogue either. Instead, there w a s a sense of disconnect b e t w e e n the JR West a n d the c o m m u n i t y that w a s indicative of the condition that h a d persisted over the course of the year since the accident. While JR West h a d struggled to recover

Ms. Hiramoto Mika (31 Yr. old) and Ms. Tsutsumi Takako (32 Yr. old) from Hyogoken, were both commuting from Kawanishi Ikeda Station in the seventh car, sitting separated by two other commuters. They were both thrown to the floor in the accident, Ms. Hiramoto severely hurting her arm and Ms. Tsutsumi her leg. 'What happened?' They wondered in the confusion and both went to the same window to look outside. They saw the twisted fence and concrete electric pole with rebar sticking out of it. There were also numerous people covered in blood. Both women could not stop shaking, and without waiting for the other to ask, said to one another, "lets go together.' They were sent to the same hospital and accompanied each other home. That night, Ms. Tsutsumi sent email asking if Ms. Hiramoto was okay and if she had been able to calm down. After that, she sent mail asking if her body still hurt and if she had been back to the hospital. They continued to exchange concerns via email and on May 22 they went together to lay flowers at the scene of the accident and pray. "I couldn't stop thinking of the people who died and I can't enjoy anything anymore," said Ms. Hiramoto. "I was worried that as time goes by no one would be able to understand this feeling." At that time, it was Ms. Tsutsumi who was able to accept and understand her feelings unconditionally. "Our connection also gave me peace of mind, that without I couldn't live," said Ms. Tstsumi. Visiting a company worker in the hospital and helping him get back his memory. Mr. Sakai Nobuyuki (40 Yr. old), a company employee from Nishinomiya City who broke his collarbone and ribs in the third train car and is still in a hospital in the->126

same area was visited on May 15 by a high school girl. "I wanted to help him recover his memory," she said. She read in the newspaper that he had lost his memory and jumped in a taxi from Inagawacho city. The 17 year-old high school student was in the same car as Mr. Sakai, standing in front of his seat and she endeavored to tell him what had happened. "There was this terrible shock and I couldn't stand," she described for him. "I was lying on top of many people who had fallen beneath me. Through an open door on the right, I could see workers from the factories coming to help." At the end of last month, a male university student who had rescued people also came to see him. Together with a friend he had helped Mr. Sakai, whom they had found kneeling in the parking lot of the first floor of the mansion into which the train collided. "His face had turned pale as a result of the extreme shock he'd received. Its no wonder he lost his memory," the university student said consoling him. "From listening to them I learned that I was thrown outside the train and landed in the parking area of the building," Mr. Sakai said. "I'm really thankful. When I am released from the hospital I want revisit the scene of the accident and give thanks," he said.

from the scandals that e n s u e d in the w a k e of the accident by following a conventional protocol of apology a n d appeasement, the c o m m u n i t y and families' of victims of the accident r e m a i n e d frustrated, claiming it w a s not enough. T w o posters in the m a i n stations o n the line at the time of the anniversary s u m m a r i z e d JR West's efforts over the course of the year t o w a r d appeasing the c o m m u n i t y a n d recovering its trust. With a h e a d i n g that read, "In Order to Offer You Even Greater Peace of M i n d a n d Trust" (sarani, "anshin" "shinrai" shite itadaku tame ni), the posters w e r e the first t w o

installments in a poster c a m p a i g n series a i m e d at recovering c o m m u t e r s ' trust. 43 Labeled "Vol. 1" a n d "Vol. 2," the posters respectively addressed the core of the critique leveled at JR West following the accident. "Vol. 1" r e s p o n d e d to the a r g u m e n t that the failures leading to the accident w e r e the result of its corporate cultural b y a n n o u n c i n g the establishment of a n e w "corporate principle" (kigyo


At the time of writing, nearly a year after the anniversary, the poster series had reached volume 17 and 18, with volume 17 describing training procedures for accidents and 18 describing a new computer assisted simulator for driver training.

127 rinen) and "safety charter" (anzen kensho). Similarly, "Vol. 2" confronted the claim that the accident would have been prevented had safety mechanisms (ATS-SW and ATS-P) been upgraded and installed before the curve by describing the deployment of new safety devices on the track, with pictures of the device, an explanation of its functions and a map of the planned installation points in the future.44 !-,;.'', '" "-..x ' !'-:- " . - ." '; ' JR West's ultimate gesture toward

appeasement, however, was the sacrifice of one of its own, Takami Ryujiro - the 23 year-old train

^^^ ^"*

driver killed in the accident. Prior to the anniversary, JR West sent a questionnaire to the accident victims and bereaved families asking, among other things, whether Takami Ryujiro, should be counted among the casualties. The majority answered no, and throughout the day

the phrase "106 casualties," rather than 107, reverberated repeatedly like a gavel
There was considerable debate surrounding the types of ATS devices being used and JR West's failure to install a device before the curve. The ATS-SW is an older model of ATS than the ATS-P and JR West claimed it was preparing to install the new devices in June. A general conclusion, generated by discussion in the media, suggested that the ATS-SW was only an automatic train stop mechanism used in conjunction with signals at the entrance to track block sections and did not have speed control functions like the new ATS-P. Therefore, there would have been no sense for JR West to install such a device before the curve. In Naze fukuchiyama sen dassen jiko wa okotta no ka (Why Did the Fukuchiyama Line Derailment Occur), Kawashima claims that the media was mistaken and that the ATS-SW does have speed control functions. He argues that JR West did not install one before the curve simply to cut costs. It is worth noting that Kawashima also makes a convincing argument that what caused the derailment was not the curve or the speed but a flaw in the train design, which was covered-up due to the considerable investment in the technology from a number of major companies. According to Kawashima, one of the expanding cushions, called a bolster damper, located between the train chassis and body in order to reduce the transmission of vibrations from the track malfunctioned leaving the train tilting to one side as it went into the curve. This, combined with the centrifugal force from the high speed caused the derailment. Had the damper not malfunctioned, he claims, the train would have made it through the curve even at the speed it was traveling.

128 announcing an unequivocal verdict. Although JR West's gesture was motivated perhaps by genuine consideration for the victim's feelings, its scapegoat effect was not lost on most people. Offering to exclude Takami Ryujiro naturally allowed the blame for the accident to fall almost exclusively on the shoulders of the novice 23 year-old driver. That the public went along with what could be called an obvious ruse attests to an almost desperate determination to seek explanations and conclusions for the tragedy along with the persistence of ambivalent feelings toward JR West. No matter how thorough, JR West's attempts at appeasement failed. In a multitude of forums, from television documentaries to newspaper articles and magazines, the families of the victims declared repeatedly that what they needed was to understand not only the causes behind the accident but also for what "106" people had died. And, most of all, they wanted JR West to show genuine empathy, not just reiterate formulaic expressions of sympathy. Their message could not have been clearer. Yet, time and again television documentaries and news revisited scenes of parents who lost children and husbands and wives who lost their spouses confronting JR West officials, describing for them the face of a loved one that was disfigured beyond recognition in the crash and the lives that were crushed. And always, JR West officials were seen to only listen, silent and enduring, with their heads lowered. When they responded it was only through formal apology, never daring to step out from behind the cover of convention. "Nothing's changed. We still don't feel anything from them" {kawaranai. kokoro wo kanjinai), an owner of a small restaurant who lost his wife exclaims after such a scene in an NHK documentary. Considering this environment, it was not surprising that on the one-year

129 anniversary JR West and the community under the leadership the 4.25 Network grassroots movement, which emerged under the direction of victims and bereaved families after accident, organized separate events for the occasion. Nonetheless these events sometimes overlapped in space and time. In the six main stations between Takarazuka and Amagasaki, for example, representatives from JR West dressed in black suits stood deferential, heads slightly bowed, beside a registry open for people to sign. Nearby, sometimes only a few meters away, groups of community volunteers distributed flyers announcing an afternoon concert and public memorial ceremony while encouraging passersby to inscribe large wood message boards. Everything organized by the community carried a variation of a somewhat cliched motif of mourning and recovery comprising a white doves in flight across a tranquil blue background and the phrase, "A Day We Will Never Forget." The motif also included, however, terms like "Friendship," "Dialogue," and "Time," written in English and Japanese. The logo lent the events and forums a thematic continuity. At the same time, its blend of cliche and attempt at innovative expression betrayed the persistence of a struggle to construct a narrative capable of subduing a still keen sense of grief within the community. Even while plagued at times by recourse to cliche, the atmosphere at events planned by the community stood in stark contrast to the formalized language of remorse employed in the events organized by JR West. Rather than insincerity or intent to deceive, JR West's behavior leading up to and on the day of anniversary reflected confusion. Similarly, despite their continual critique of JR West, voices from the families of victims and community announced frustration rather than anger. Both sides were groping for a means to reestablish the terms of a relationship, but for different reasons.

130 "The railroad is the nation's feet" (tetsudo wa kokumin no ashi) was a popular expression in the days of JNR that manifested the implicit assumptions informing the relation between the railroad and the inhabitants of Japan prior to privatization. 45 With the Railway Nationalization Act in 1906, Japan's railroads became an indivisible component of the nation and index of its condition. If a properly function railroad meant a robust economy and stable society, then train delays and accidents signaled the opposite. The railroad became a guarantor of the national present as well as a vehicle to the nation's past and its future.46 The railroad accident, in this context, although tragic in the lives that it claimed could ultimately be framed within an overarching narrative of national progress. The equation was applicable to the first half of the twentieth century during which Japan developed its modern industry and moved to claim a place for itself among the world's empires and equally significant in the immediate post World War Two period when hardship was seen as an inevitable facet of reconstruction. That nations demand sacrifice, either in war or for the sake of progress, is a formula that has worked for centuries throughout the world and seemed to work in response to the question of "why" for major train accidents

Yuko Mito, Teikoku hashha: nihon no tetsudowa naze sekai de mottomo seikaku nanoka, 3\2. Mito refers to the phrase to emphasize the overwhelming importance of the train network for Japanese society and economy. The expression was repeated to me during many conversations with people who grew up in the era of JNR. It is not common, however, among the generation that grew up with JR.


The relation between the railroad and that nation's past is an implicit component of Marilyn Ivy's discussion of JNR's "Discover Japan" travel campaign in the late 1980s in the second chapter other work, Discourses of the Vanishing: Modernity, Phantasm, Japan. Ivy observes that travel to rural areas of Japan discursively figured in the campaign as a metaphoric return to national origins formulated via the textual, iconographic and economic sphere of advertising. That the train is the exemplary medium for this manner of travel of return is a quintessential, yet tacit, part of the campaign.

131 prior to the Amagasaki derailment. 47 As long as JNR could promise in the wake of previous accidents that lessons would be learned from the tragedy and new preventive technology developed so that the lives extinguished would not have been sacrificed in vain, there could be closure. When JNR became JR the equation was radically altered. With the official legal and economic relation between railroad and nation severed, so too was the premise of unequivocal reciprocity, making the rhetoric of national sacrifice unavailable for the explanation of why 106 passengers had perished on what should have been an ordinary commute. If JR West was unprepared for this alteration in the terms of its relation with the community, the community was as equally lost in defining its relation with JR West. Theoretically, just as there was no longer supposed to be a premise of nation behind the railroad, there was not even supposed to be a "community" per se as the term presupposes the notion of the railroad company as social institution along the lines of its role during JNR. According to the dictates of private industry, there were only customers, individuated by demands quantifiable through marketing data. Similarly, despite its material dissolution, JNR persisted as a concept within a structure of oppositions, as evidenced by an enduring use of the term shitetsu (private railways) in order to differentiate between JR West and other lines - when in fact all the railways had become shitetsu. In other words, it is not that the kokutetsu (national railway) JNR still existed for people but rather that people appeared unready or unable to define what exactly JNR had become. The national railway had been a foundational social institution in the history of the

See the discussion earlier concerning the media coverage following major train accidents prior to the dissolution of JNR.

nation whereas the formation of the JR companies was supposed to have marked its end. But if not a shitetsu nor kokutetsu (national railway), then what was it and what were its social responsibilities? The negative equation allowed for the deferral of a definition, consigning JR to ambiguity between kokutetsu and shitetsu. The accident and its aftermath revealed the fact of this deferral and underscored the necessity for resolve. Consequently, a significant part of the frustration exhibited by the community, represented most often by the 4.25 Network, arose from JR West's apparent unwillingness to respond in a genuine manner (without recourse to formalized expressions of apology) to questions and accusations of negligence. People naturally wanted reassurance that new fail-safe technology would be installed but most of all they needed JR West to step out from behind the bygone fagade of a national institution and acknowledge the terms of its social significance as not kokutetsu but something more than just private industry. Without that, the deaths of 106 remained undefined on the terrain of social meaning and lost in cathartic transit. The struggle manifest by the design and expressions decorating the flyers distributed by volunteers to develop a narrative framework capable of assuaging the grief of loss was equally pronounced in the events organized by the community for the one year anniversary of the accident, particularly in the final event of the day, the (public) evening memorial (tsuito no yube). Held at the Amagasaki Cultural Center, the public memorial service was carefully scripted to lead an audience of nearly six hundred people plus a row of reporters from various media along a designated emotional trajectory. Following an opening with a recorded narration of Haiyama's eyewitness account of the accident, a

133 professional piano player who had been wounded in the accident took the stage to relate her experience before playing Mozart's, Ave Verum Corpus (K. 618), no doubt chosen for its theme of sacrifice. The highlight of her talk concerned the description of how after being pulled from the wreckage barely conscious a factory worker drove her to the hospital. Adding to the aura of compassion and resourcefulness that already surrounded the factory workers as a result of stories that appeared in the media, she told of how the man had stuck his head out of the window while driving and yelled "kyu-kyu" for the length of the journey, imitating the sound of the siren in order to clear traffic. Her talk and recital was followed by a reading and singing of "Do Not Stand at My Grave and Cry" (sen no kaze) and musical performances by other individuals, including local professional singers and gospel choir. Classmates or friends of victims of the accident also read letters addressed to the deceased. Embracing the necessity to mourn but also holding out the hope, if not imperative for an eventual release from grief, the composite message of the performances might have even been informed by a conventional reading of Sigmund Freud's famous essay, "Mourning and Melancholia." 48 More important, the performances framed the appearances of two men, the first the father mentioned earlier who lost his eighteen year-old son and the second, a

Sigmund Freud, "Mourning and Melancholia," in General Psychological Theory: Papers on Metapsychology (New York: Collier Books, 1963). I write "conventional" in contrast to the reading David Eng and David Kazanjian propose in the introduction to Loss: The Politics of Mourning (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003). Eng and Kazanjian frame the work as an attempt to conceptualize Freud's notion of melancholia in relation to the notion of historical materialism that Walter Benjamin develops in "Theses on the Philosophy of History," in Illuminations (New York: Harcourt Brace & World, 1968). The basic concept here can be summarized in the analogy: mourning is to melancholia as historicism is to historical materialism. The aim is to transform melancholia via this relation from a pathological state of mind into a way of imagining a "a continuous engagement with loss and its remains" that "generates sites for memory and history, for rewriting of the past as well as the reimagining of the future."


134 man who lost his wife and sister in the accident. The performances, which separated the their appearances, seemed orchestrated to bring the audience back from the overwhelming anguish of their stories. Nevertheless, the men's words remained raw and powerful expressions that threatened to derail the two-hour ceremony not only from its tight schedule but also what seemed its planned cathartic course. The second man, especially, Asano Yasakazu, disrupted the ceremony's schedule and rhythm by remaining on stage for ten minutes beyond the planned twenty minutes allotted him in order to deliver a biting condemnation of JR West in the context of a meditation on the meaning safety. A white-haired slender man of 58 with silver rimmed glasses, Asano appeared obviously afflicted and in a continuous battle to hold back tears between fragmented and incoherent sentences. After depicting himself as irreparably shattered and "thrown into the middle of a bleak desert" as a result of the accident, Asano described his only solace as arriving from an ability to set aside his emotions and help other victims and the community. In this capacity and guided by the recognition of the need for calm, rational thought, he explained, he had invested considerable thought to the nature of the term "safety." He implored the audience have the patience to listen: Lately, JR West has persistently been using the phrase "safety" within such slogans as "Safety Improvement Plan" or "Safety Verification." I want to talk about this a little by putting aside my emotions for a moment. As you all know, the media has been thoroughly reporting what JR says. What bothers me the most though is [trying to understand] what in the world is the meaning of the word safety for JR West Japan and on what grounds they are using it. Actually, this is a problem that I noticed immediately after the accident last year. And it is something that I've been thinking about ever since. Safety is not a thing that you can't see with your eyes. Also, it can't be something that is relative. Relative safety, that is, safety that takes into account a certain amount of risk, is not safety.... What is safety? If it's not close to you and firm, then it's only conceptual and not something that can be part of our daily lives.

135 Based on these stipulations, although with sporadic digressions to lambast JR West for turning its back on its responsibility toward the community, dragging its feet on the investigation, offering nothing but empty promises about technological improvements, and failing to really reform its daiya, Asano proceeded to outline two conditions for achieving what he defined as a need for "absolute safety." Real safety, he explained, was of course contingent on fail-safe mechanisms like the ATS. But, he emphasized, such devices were only a last resort against human error or error within the organizational structure. In a clear reference to nikkin kyoiku, he stressed that safety was contingent on the stable mental condition of the driver and conductor, as well as the true implementation of a relaxed daiya. However, he argued, the community should never entrust itself to JR West again and never be content with promises of safety and reform. Instead, real, absolute safety could only come from the community, "it could only be supervised by the passengers, by society." (riyosha ga anzen to iumono ni tsuite kanshi shiteiku, shakai teki na kanshi wo shite iku, kore wo kakushite anzen toiu no wo mamoreru no desho kal). No matter what they write about in their "safety improvement plans" and no matter what we're told about company ideals, this [supervised safety] should be the first and foremost concept of safety for industry. If those of us who were victims can someday say to each other "don't you think safety has gotten a little better" then I will feel there is real safety. Trust, according to Anthony Giddens, must precede the yielding of oneself to the "expert systems" of modernity whose mechanisms separate the individual from the safety of immediate contexts while guaranteeing only a minimum amount of risk will be involved in the movement across the time and space over which the system extends. As Giddens suggests, the antithesis of trust is not mistrust but a psychological condition best defined as "existential

136 angst or dread."49 Trust, in other words, supplants the need for a guarantee of absolute safety, which, along with all other absolutes exists only as a myth under dictatorships as a mechanism of thought control. The imperative for trust and the corollary "existential angst or dread" that arose in its absence following the Amagasaki accident was made evident in the phrase mo shinyo dekinai (we can no longer trust [JR West]) that punctuated, like a mantra, Asano's as well as almost every other discussion enumerating JR West's failures. Considering what is at stake, the granting of trust in instances with potentially fatal consequences, (whether to a superior or national leadership during war or yielding oneself to "expert systems/') can never be founded on a rationalized relation of reciprocity. Trust, rather, requires an irrational investment in an object, institution or other as a prerequisite for the dissociative state that is its condition. That is, contrary to what Giddens suggests, in trusting, one does not yield oneself fully to an expert system. One yields oneself only partially by engaging a mechanism of disavowal that allows one to be aware of the potential for imminent disaster the mechanical failure that will drop an airplane from thirty-five thousand feet or derail a train - and not be aware of it at the same time. Thus trust, like the logic of the fetish, demands the creation of an overdetermined object, an over-


Anthony Giddens, The Consequences of Modernity (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1990), 100. In Japanese, as well, the terms for trust, shinyo and shinrai, premise a potential of danger or uncertainty of outcomes against which trust is the coin of guarantee. 49 Shinyo and shinrai, like trust, confidence and reliance in English have slightly different nuances. Shinyo tends to be used in reference to the reliability of social institutions and systems (such as the railroad), while shinrai is often used in the context of individual relations to refer someone who can or cannot be trusted. However, neither of these usages seems to be mutually exclusive as throughout my fieldwork I encountered the use of both shinrai and shinyo in connection to JR West and the train system. In Shinrai no kozo, Yamagishi Toshio posits that the term shinrai is based on some kind of precondition of danger or uncertainty, in contrast to the sense of total safety implied by the term anshin Toshio Yamagishi, Shinrai no kozo: Kokoro to shakai no shinka gemu (Tokyo: Tokyo Daigaku Shuppankai, 1998), 37-42.

137 invested relation.50 If pushed to explain while flying at thirty-five thousand feet why we trust the airplane company to have checked and maintained every minute device that might possibly fail, we would naturally be at a loss for words. It is on account of the ineffable nature of trust that people manage to be surprised when, yet again, a food supplier is caught changing expiration dates to increase profit or, as in the case of JR West, cutting costs at expense of safety.51 As the examples suggest, as potential objects of overdetermined relations, companies and corporations are ultimately prone to a fickle currency of trust. They cannot, that is, command the same level of trust as the nation, which as what Slavoj Zizek calls a "sublime object," has substantially more power to defer the necessity for accountability.52 If, according to Schivelbusch's reading of shock of the technological accident denotes a condition whereby the habitualized experience of the everyday by means a perpetual disavowal of potential disaster is made untenable, then a perpetual inability to trust is equivalent to a prolonged state of shock.53 This would explain Asano's condition and the logic behind his proposal

Sigmund Freud, "Fetishism," in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Tr.from the German 12, ed. Josef Breuer (London: Hogarth Press, 1953).

At the time of writing, the end of 2007, public trust in established food suppliers in Japan had been severely damaged by successive stories in the media concerning the falsification of product expiry dates. Naturally, the incidents had countless precedents, for example the similar accusations made against the dairy company, Yukijirushi, in the year 2001.


Slavoj Zizek, The Sublime Object of Ideology (London; New York: Verso, 1989). Zizek's notion of the nation as a "sublime object" appears in the context of his discussion of ideology. According to Zizek's argument, ideology is organized around a "sublime object," something such as a nation or god, as a master signifier through which it musters belief. Everyone feels they know what the ideological object is but are ultimately unable to express, identify or clearly define it, which only serves to substantiate the notion of the thing's transcendent power. Zizek's argument will be discussed in more detail in chapter three in regards to the acceptance of the packed train in Japan.

Reading from numerous sources discussing the effect of train crashes at the incipience of railroad travel, Wolfgang Schivelbusch describes the modern technological accident as a "kind

138 for a system of absolute safety. As Asano makes clear at the beginning of his speech, his proposal is contingent on a calm, rational, disposition achieved by "putting aside his emotions" and the presumption that safety is tangibly manifest ~ or in words closer to his own something you can see with your eyes. In this pragmatic spirit he imagines a condition of absolute safety founded on a system of community supervision. In other words, according to his plan constant community supervision would effectively remove the necessity for trust, which Asano, devastated by the reality of his loss, is no longer capable of conjuring. Did Asano truly believe his plan for absolute safety would eliminate the possibility of train accidents in the future? Whether he did or not, the plan points to particular form of expectation enabled by technologies of real-time control, which was articulated as well in the preceding speech by the father who lost his eighteen year-old son in the accident, Shinohara Shinichi. In contrast to Asano, Shinohara did not attempt to adopt a pragmatic stance or offer suggestions on how to improve safety. His speech, which he read from a paper held in shaky hands and a choked voice, described the unjustness of his loss and the future that JR West had stolen from both his family and his son. His criticism of JR West focused especially on their delay in informing the families of victims. He had learned of the accident, he explained, sometime around ten in the morning and realizing that there was a possibility that his son had been on the train, began running from hospital to hospital. But it was not until after seven in
of sudden and powerful event of violence that disrupts the continuity of an artificially/mechanically created motion or situation, and also the subsequent state of derangement." He later relates this understanding of shock to Freud's discussion of the stimulus shield in Freud's Beyond the Pleasure Principle, see Wolfgang Schivelbusch, The Railway Journey: The Industrialization of Time and Space in the 19th Century, 157-58.

the evening, when accompanied by his family, that he found his son's name, along with his birth date, among the list of victims posted at the school gymnasium being used as a temporary morgue. JR West, he explained, had used his son's monthly pass to retrieve his personal information from its database. The question was why JR West had not attempted to contact the victims' families earlier if they had access to such data, which included family contact information. Furthermore, Shinohara related that he was later able to recognize his son's body lying on a stretcher beside the train in an aerial photograph of the accident that appeared in a newspaper at 9:47 on the morning of April 25. The picture was proof, he said, that his son's body had been among the first recovered from the accident. Yet JR West had still not contacted him. The fact that a newspaper was able to disseminate an aerial photograph of the accident less than thirty minutes after it occurred suggests the successful operation of an extremely efficient information network. By contrast, JR West's failure to exploit their own information network in order to notify the victims' families suggests the opposite - a deficiency in the use of contemporary information technology. According to the critique that the derailment would have been prevented had JR West installed an ATS device before the curb in order to limit speed, the accident demonstrated a similar failure to exploit existing information technology. Had JR West installed its real-time train operation control system on the Fukuchiyama Line, the argument suggests, there would have been no accident and thus no victims and no necessity for sacrifice. The premise of sacrifice, as articulated in the temporality of its if/then formula, is the uncertainty of the future and desire to bind the future toward a

140 desired outcome. 54 There is, however, no equivalent notion of a future in a realtime system. There is only a continuous unfolding of the present managed via feedback circuits. The dream of real-time technology management is analogous to Asano's plan for "absolute safety" - the notion of total control by means of continuous supervision in order to manage and contain all irregularities. Similarly, the expectation is that real-time control technology will lead to the cessation of the technological accident, eliminating as well the necessity of sacrifice. What it ultimately proposes is an elimination of the necessity of relations of trust in favor of the possibility of continued real-time surveillance. 55 Invested Relations In the context of the discussion on relations of trust, the story of Shike Keijiro provides a somewhat hopeful conclusion to the chapter. Shike is a civil servant assigned to a city hall in an area just outside central Osaka. His son, a fourth year university student named Takashi, was killed riding in the second car of the train. Takashi almost never took the Fukuchiyama Line but on the day of the accident was traveling to a job interview in anticipation of his graduation. Specifically for the interview he had purchased a new suit. Shike and his wife were not permitted to see their son's body after the accident because of its condition. They thus had to verify their son's remains by means of a Poloraid picture of his feet and later DNA. In place of his body, they received only his possessions, including a briefcase, keitai, mp3 player and the new suit, which

See Henri Hubert and Marcel Mauss's seminal discussion of sacrifice in Sacrifice: Its Nature and Function (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964).

We can see a similar phenomenon occurring among parents today as well who chose to track their children's movements via Global Positioning System (GPS) technology rather than develop relations of trust.

141 arrived soaked with their son's blood. A final image of their son, as he boarded the train at a station before the accident was also retrieved from one of the platform security cameras but the parents could not bring themselves to watch it for six months. Similarly, their son's suit remained unwashed for months, stained with the blood that became a supplement for the body they were not able to see. In contrast to many of the other bereaved families, Shike and his wife refused to speak to the media. They chose as well not to join the 4.25 Network, nor any of the other support groups. In addition, Shike, unlike many of those injured in the accident and families of victims, had few harsh words for JR West. Not that he was completely ready to forgive them, but he believed rather that criticizing JR West was unproductive. Instead, Shike and his wife chose to send JR West the one thing that had become the dearest to them, their son's suit. Their gift, so to speak, to JR West was accompanied by the request that it be presented at training seminars for JR West employees along with the story of the son who wore it, in order to emphasize the preciousness of the lives carried in their trains and underline their responsibility to the community. As Marcel Mauss famously observed, a gift that is received must be reciprocated. 56 And so JR West gave Shike and his wife a video featuring a safety seminar in which their son's suit is exhibited before a classroom of new employees being told the story of a boy wearing a new suit who eagerly boarded a train one day to a job interview in the city and his future.


Marcel Mauss, The Gift: The Form and Reason for Exchange in Archaic Societies (New York: W.W. Norton, 1990).


The link between the capital and the body lies in the capacity of each to maintain constant output, and to increase this output in moments of crisis. When output falters, both the market and the body risk perilous shock, whose consequences include cardiac arrest, distress, or major capital drainage. The danger may be fatal. Output is the life cycle and the vicious circle of any stress-inducing system. Failure to sustain it becomes the system's natural selection process. 1 ReMembering the Body Andre Lepecki

A special feature in the popular weekly magazine SPA in 2005, entitled "We Will Never Ride man in densha Again/' conveys the voices of Tokyo's frustrated commuters. 2 Man'in densha, the article declares, is an anachronistic abomination in twenty-first century Japan. On average, it explains, congestion in train cars within the Tokyo train system during rush hours reaches 171% above capacity, with crowding as high as 214% above capacity on the Chuo and Keihin Tohoku Line. As one salaryman interviewed in the article describes, once inside the train you are completely immobilized, packed to the point of suffocation within a thick body heat imbued with the pungent odors of half-digested breakfasts and sweat. It is an intimacy in excess, the article argues, that produces hyper-stress and disrupts basic cognitive functions, like the ability to distinguish right from wrong or make simple time calculations. The result is a social environment on the verge of collapse: a lawless zone (muhochitai) in which women are regularly groped and the human capacity for compassion vanishes.

Gabriele (G) Brandstetter et al., R e M e m b e r i n g the Body: O n the Occasion of the Exhibition "STRESS" at the MAK, Vienna (Ostfildem-Ruit; N e w York, N.Y.: Hatje C a n t z ; Distribution in the US D.A.P. Distributed A r t Publishers, 2000)

"Mo man'in densha ni wa noranai" (We Will N o t Ride the Packed Train Anymore!), Spa, S e p t e m b e r 13, 2005, 36-38.

143 People may be normal when they get on the train, the article adds, but they are not by the time they get off. The crowded train is a spatiotemporal paradigm common to cities throughout the world that embodies two quintessential phenomena of urban modernity: the crowd and the railroad. Bringing together strangers of different gender, class and sometimes vastly disparate tracks of life, the crowded train has been a quintessential trope of the twentieth century, a site of spectacle and mise en scene for potentially threatening or romantic encounters. 3 The crowded commuter train bespeaks specifically of alienation and relations of capital in which the body is a central medium in the production of value. Its continued existence marks the persistence of embodied labor despite claims of a growing shift - spearheaded by advanced capitalist societies like Japan - toward immaterial labor.4 Man'in densha is not just a crowded commuter train. Whereas the latter denotes a degree of human proximity inflected by the heterogeneity and concomitant uncertainty inherent to the urban crowd, man'in densha announces paradox vis-a-vis capacity and labor. Composed of the characters for full (ijj), personnel/worker (H.), and train ( H ^ ) , man'in densha specifies an absolute limit.

Lynne Kirby, Parallel Tracks: The Railroad and Silent Cinema. Kirby provides an excellent description of the role of the railway in the constitution of the crowd and its relation to the city in the twentieth century as expressed in early silent cinema. The term "immaterial labor" is drawn from Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri's works Empire (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2000) and, Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire (New York: Penguin Press, 2004). According Hardt and Negri, labor power within a capitalist economic paradigm maintains a dimension or force, a kind of "imminence" that remains inaccessible to the economy as abstract labor. What they are suggesting is an outside to capitalism that ultimately provides a continually creative force. Only, it can be argued that capitalism's capacity to consistently colonize this creative force determines that it is simply a force of capitalist expansion. It is not a site for a potential alternative but rather an outside that is ultimately constitutive of the inside.

144 The train, it declares, cannot accommodate more personnel /workers, and yet it must and it does. Likewise, it impels corporeal limits. The bodies of the commuters (laborers) cannot endure any more and yet they must and they do. As a result, the social environment within man'in densha is in a chronically fragile state while a railroad apparatus is consistently in danger of deteriorating into systemic chaos. Mariin densha is a condition of perpetual imminent collapse that continues nevertheless. 5 Paradox is thus inherent to man'in densha. It is part of the historical condition of its possibility and the terms of its contemporary operation. Morning For the visitor to Tokyo or Osaka who has the misfortune of being caught in the morning rush, the train station (especially large stations like Tokyo, Shinjuku, Shibuya, Umeda, Osaka, Tennoji, Namba) is a scene capable of inspiring both marvel and horror. One after another trains packed beyond capacity arrive at platforms crowded with waiting commuters and stragglers from previous trains, who inch forward toward bottlenecked escalators and stairs. As a train rolls to a stop and the incredible congestion inside it becomes evident, the visitor no doubt begins to wonder how the mass of people still waiting on the platform, who in their movement toward the slowing train signal a clear intention to board, will manage to exchange places with the people inside the train, let alone find a space among the bodies. The maneuver appears impossible. Moments before the doors open, the waiting crowd separates, as if

While the actual man'in densha is peculiar to urban Japan, the condition of which it speaks is not. Man'in densha, in other words, is a localized articulation of a global condition and the consequence of factors that exceed the particularizing compulsion of cultural identity discourse.

145 performing a well rehearsed dance, to either side of the train doors forming a corridor for the arriving passengers to detrain. Passengers from the train who have been standing near the door but are continuing to another station alight momentarily, taking their place at the head of the those waiting on either side to board as other passengers stream out from behind them and make their way toward the lines leading down platform escalators and stairs. Seconds into the operation the platform melody begins. Each platform and each station has its distinct melody - an expression of its semi-autonomy within the system - but its tone, volume and quickening cadence is calculated to expedite the exchange between embarking and disembarking passengers. 6 Passengers know that when the music stops the doors will close and they move swiftly to take their place in the packed train. As platform attendants announce through wireless microphones and small megaphones that the doors are closing, the last passengers enter backwards, facing the platform and pushing with their backs into the mass of bodies, which often elicits a grunt of displeasure as the crowd is compressed just enough for the doors to close. Although in most cases their assistance is unnecessary, platform attendants stand ready to rush forward and nudge a protruding arm, leg, or body preventing the doors from closing inside the train. Finally, the repacked train pulls away. From start to finish, the entire operation has taken less than thirty seconds.

Mr. Kashiwamura from the Cerjet division of TESS Group within the Railroad Technical Research Institute (RTRI) was involved in extended research concerning the effectiveness of platform melodies and described the conclusions. Unfortunately, he explained he had disposed of all the acquired data. Mr. Kashiwamura was part of a team of researchers that traveled throughout the country recording platform melodies and observing the boarding process at stations. This data was then used to determine the type, volume and cadence of melodies that would be most effective in expediting the boarding process and the conclusions were implemented in stations nationwide. It should be noted that my contact with Mr. Kashiwamura was in the context of my teaching English weekly to the employees of the Cerajet division.

146 With the platform slightly less crowded following the departure of the train, the visitor notices that in anticipation of the next train orderly lines form at marks designating where the doors will be when the train stops. As the platform quickly refills the lines are engulfed in the mingling of bodies but maintain their form nevertheless and the visitor realizes that what appeared before to be a crowd was actually orderly queues. 7 Unfortunately, such a realization is often taken as evidence of the penchant for order and social harmony that is still sometimes thought to be part of the Japanese national psyche. The lines that form on the platforms are the result of decades of conditioning to the technological prompts of the train system, or what Schivelbusch calls "technologically caused stimuli." 8 Like the culture of etiquette

At large hub stations like Shinjuku or Tokyo, platform speakers emit the gentle chirp of a cricket in the intervals between announcements. Only minutely audible amidst the background commotion, the sound is as oddly incommensurable as it is unexplainable in the setting. In a work on the corporate structure of Japan National Railways, Paul Noguchi writes that an employee from the travel center at Shinjuku Station once trapped a cricket and recorded its chirp to play over the public address system. The employee's intention was supposedly to reemphasize a bond with nature that had been lost in the urban environment, see Paul H Noguchi, Delayed Departures, Overdue Arrivals: Industrial Familialism and the Japanese National Railways. Whatever the reason, a chirping can be heard now in stations throughout the Tokyo area.

Wolfgang Schivelbusch, The Railway Journey: The Industrialization of Time and Space in the 19th Century, 169. Schivelbusch observes a similarity between discussions in the early twentieth century attributing the individual's internalization of social norms and an external domination of nature through technology to a "civilizing process." Whereas the former appears as a force emanating from the social and directed at the internal nature of the individual, the latter appears as a force also emanating from the social but directed externally toward domination of nature to produce "cultural, i.e., economic achievements." Schivelbusch draws attention to the manner in which the externally directed force ultimately follows the same trajectory of the social norms directed toward regulating and shaping the internal nature of the individual as the human being becomes habituated to the stimuli of a technologically constituted environment. His argument asserts, moreover, that technology produced stimuli are in fact "more immediate expressions of the productive forces than the social rules/' which also develop as functions of productive forces but through a more complex process. For Schivelbusch, the significance afforded to the reduction of "play" in the development of a complicated technological apparatus and complex social structure also points to a corresponding evolutional logic between the technological and social. The greater the number of people incorporated into a social structure, the argument goes, the more tightly organized and coordinated their actions have to be in order to maintain stability. Similarly, technological progress is measured via the elimination of play between the parts of the technological apparatus. The more advanced a machine, the less play between the parts and the greater its efficiency. The example of the packed commuter train in Japan emphasizes the corollary relation suggested in the comparison, producing the formula that

147 governing behavior among passengers, or "manner" (manaa), the system's prompts are an expression of a social force applied to reshaping the environment that comes back as technologically produced signals and retools human nature. Compliance to these signals, like conformity

j : ' '

to manner, is indicative of a commensurate process of sublimation that is never completed but rather intensifies and accelerates in direct proportion to the increasing complexity of the technological and the social. That there is i nothing intuitive about the lines that form on the platform

" '
I ij

" i ij ;

"' "

is substantiated by the posters that can be found throughout stations and trains urging obedience to the system's imperatives. "Line Up Precisely When Boarding the Train," (josha no sai, kichin to narande ne) a poster from a station on the Chuo Line instructs passengers. Although the ending, ne, affixed to the verb softens the imperative form by feminizing the tone, the words articulate a clear command, which the poster reiterates rather than explains in its second line: "In Order to Facilitate Smooth Boarding, Please Cooperate by Forming Orderly Lines" (sumuuzu ni noreru "seiretsujosha" ni go kydryoku kudasai). Transliteration of "smooth" via Katakana into the phonetically comparable English sumuuzu, works to soften the request in this case while the enclosure of seiretsujosha (lining up orderly to board) in quotation marks without reference, designates the stipulated action as an established practice whose precedent should be part of common knowledge. The
specifies that the more complex the technological apparatus, the more it is necessary to regulate social behavior and limit the dimension of "play." The morning rush exemplifies the machine in its prime form, humming along silently with its human components sliding through their designated trajectory / itineraries like well oiled parts. The evening rush exemplifies the opposite.

combination of the "ne" in the first sentence and entreating language of the second sentence produces a gentle yet disciplining tone, like that which a mother would direct at a child. The illustration of two smiley-faced shoes lined up at the platform mark betrays an intended cuteness that reinforces this impression. Small text at the bottom of the poster explains that it is the product of the "Children's Railroad Association" (tetsudo shorten dan) developed by the children as part of a project to benefit society. An insignia displaying two saluting railroad employees with the slogan, "Let's all keep Good Manner" (goddo manaa) adorns the lower left corner. If the title and subtitle text of the poster infantilizes the rider as a precondition for making him/her the object of a disciplinary command, the text at the bottom of the poster diminishes the pedantic effect by displacing the source and responsibility for the poster onto the Children's Railroad Association. 9

The child, like the criminal, in modern society is a figure that on account of its discursively constituted status as pre-sublimated or marginal being, evokes an anxiety and concomitant rationale for the institution of disciplinary action. For discussions of the status and figure of the child in modernity, see Arai, "The "Wild Child" of the 1990s Japan"; Marilyn Ivy, "Revenge and Recapitation in Recessionary Japan," The South Atlantic Quarterly 99, no. 4 (2000): 819-40. See also, Julia V. Douthwaite, The Wild Girl, Natural Man, and the Monster: Dangerous Sxveriments in the Age of Enlightenment (University of Chicago Press, 2002).

149 A poster from Tokyo's metro system also employs children for its pedagogical message but in the context of a model, rather than authorial voice, and in a reversal of positions intended to compel selfreflection and recognition of social responsibility. The poster is part of a series in which a boy and girl around seven or eight years-old dressed in conventional business attire are situated within a subway setting sketched in minimal lines. The boy is inevitably committing some kind of transgression of manner while the girl, who is the unintentional victim of the offense, looks on with an expression of combined shock and reproach. The boy, however, is either oblivious or indifferent to his infraction, as well as the girl's disapproval. The poster's central text declares, "Kids are Watching You. Mind Your [adult] Manner" (kodomo wa miteru yo, otona no monad) while another text at the bottom of the scene explains, "adults are the model for kids" (otona ga tehon desu). In this particular poster, the boy is rushing forward clutching a (sketched) briefcase in one hand and with the other hand extended forward as if to enter the closing doors of a train. Small font text beside him articulates his intention of kakekomi jdsha, dashing onto a train as the doors are closing. Looking surprised, the girl is stepping back and a text beside her explains, "everyone is astonished." As children of the age depicted in the poster are rarely, if ever, present during rush hour commutes, the poster implies that behavior within the train system is paradigmatic of behavior in society in general. In a reversal of the typical schema of surveillance, the poster urges adult commuters to internalize - like the inmate of the panopticon - the possibility that they are always in the field of vision of

150 children. Social responsibility, rather than the threat of disciplinary action by authority, however, is the impetus behind its message reminding the commuter that a certain code of behavior is expected of them as adults while simultaneously defining what it means to be an adult. What is missing from both posters is reference to the railroad as a voice of authority behind the prescriptions and an explanation of the effects of noncompliance to codes of manner on the apparatus. Instead, forming lines on the platform and not rushing to ride the train at the last minute are depicted as examples of proper adult behavior, that is, "good manner," with manner figuring as a self-evident rule. The rhetoric presents a stark contrast with the logic meticulously expounded in a poster that appeared in stations in Tokyo in 1925. Under the heading "Alighting Passengers Have Priority. Please Board Orderly" (oriru kata saki ni, noriori ojun ni), the poster explained:
A delayed departure of thirty seconds at one station will amount to a delay of 7 minutes across the 14 stations between Nakano and Tokyo, and a delay of 3 minutes and 30 seconds across the 7 stations between Kamata and Tokyo. This will result in a reduction in the number of trains during the two hours of evening and morning congestion between Nakano and Tokyo from 44 to 20 and between Kamata and Tokyo from 35 to 17, increasing congestion on trains by an extra 2000 to 3000 people. 10

Translation into English simplifies a formula complicated by the fact that in the original Japanese it is stretched into one sentence. One wonders how many commuters paused before the poster, perhaps even producing a pencil and paper from their pocket to clarify the calculations. As the text from the 1925 poster testifies, mastering the technique of boarding and alighting has been mandatory for living in urban Japan since the

Noda Masao in Yuko Mito, Teikoku hashha: nihon no tetsudowa naze sekai de mottomo seikaku nanoka, 126-27.

151 first part of the twentieth century. The need for proficiency in training and detraining was precipitated by industrial growth fueled by the First World War that led to major demographic shifts and the appearance of crowded rail cars in the city.11 As populations gravitated to cities seeking to escape the poverty of rural areas and benefit from the industrial boom, traffic volume (passengers and freight) on railroads in Japan nearly doubled. 12 At the same time, a manufacturing industry for rail cars and locomotives had not yet developed in Japan, leaving railway companies dependent on foreign technology that was unavailable as a result of trade restrictions during the war. Railway companies thus had to find a means of accommodating the increase in traffic volume without the benefit of new trains and infrastructure, which Mito Yuko argues was accomplished by transforming the train system into an "ultimate shuttle service."13 In other words, the existing infrastructure and rolling stock had to be maximized: trains had to make more round-trips per line per day, which

The chance to supply allied forces in World War One provided a major impetus for industrialization in Japan, resulting in tremendous growth and a shift from light to heavy capital industries, see Ibid., 91-97. By the mid 1920s, this expansion of industry and embrace of capitalism in Japan had created urban milieus comparable to those in Europe and the United States. As Harry Harootunian shows in Overcome by Modernity: History, Culture, and Community in Interwar Japan (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2000), the era saw the rise in a philosophical tradition that, in dialogue with the theories and philosophies emanating from the West, sought to comprehend, problematize and respond to the shock, speed and perceived disruption of values brought by modernity in Japan. Some Japanese thinkers, drawn to Marxist theories, saw themselves as participating in an unfolding global order in which the activation of the past within the present might produce new positive social and political possibilities. Others reacted by particularizing the Japanese experience within a desire to overcome modernity by fixing the past as a stable origin and azimuth for a safe trajectory into the future.

In "War, Peace, and Nonweapons Technology: The Japanese National Railways and Products of Defeat, 1880s-1950s," Society for the History of Technology 48, no. 2 (2007): 286-302, Nishiyama Takashi also attributes the economic boom during the war to the fact that the Japanese archipelago remained outside the battlefield, allowing industry to develop freely. He cites the definitive nineteen-volume collection on one hundred years of railway history, Nihon kokuyu tetsudo, ed. Nihon kokuyu tetsudo hyaku nenshi (One Hundred Years History of the JNR), vol. 11 (Tokyo: Nihon kokuyu tetsudo, 1974). He points out that in 1914, JNR carried 166 million passengers and by 1918 this number had risen to 245 million.

Yuko Mito, Teikoku hashha: nihon no tetsudowa naze sekai de mottomo seikaku nanoka.

152 demanded decreasing the turn-around-time at terminal stations combined with the realization of an unprecedented level of punctuality and the reduction of stopping time in stations.14 The relatively short distance between train stations in urban Japan, Mito argues, was also a critical factor in the equation as at it amplifies the results of a decrease in stopping time and increase in speed - the effects of which are explained in the text from the 1925 poster. According to a report from the Tokyo Railroad Bureau in 1927, in 1914 the stopping time at major stations in Tokyo was one to two minutes, and at mid stations thirty seconds. 15 By 1918, stopping time at major stations had been reduced to one minute and by 1924, except for the Chuo Line, to a standard 20 seconds at both major and mid stations. Railroad companies, it seemed, had discovered that once passengers could be trained, initial projections of the potential for decreasing dwell times at stations could be pushed back even further. The combination of circumstances surrounding the changes that took place during World War One initiated a process of acceleration that once begun would not stop and the decrease in stopping time between 1918 and 1924 was the result of another considerable increase in railroad traffic volume following the reconstruction of Tokyo in wake of the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923.


An alternative to a tight schedule is a very relaxed one - such as on the subway system in New York City. Only, as any New Yorker knows, a relaxed schedule does not provide maximum efficiency, which with the level of urban crowding that emerged in 1950s Japan was a necessity. Mito also explains that in order to increase the efficiency of the trains and passengers, a research committee on electric trains (denkisha kenkyu kairon) conducted tests using students in June of 1925 at Tabata Station to see how long it required for a certain number of people to board and alight trains of varying degrees of fullness. At that time there were still not automatic doors, demanding that the conductor rush and close each door before departure. The first automatic doors using technology imported from the United States were deployed in September of the same year, which significantly decreased stopping time at stations. Mito adds that there was considerable consternation at first among passengers when doors appeared to open and close by themselves, see Ibid., 126-29.

With much of the city's population having fled to the suburbs, Tokyo became a commuting destination and the center of a new mass consumer culture that also gave it the distinction of having the most congested trains - a distinction that it maintains to this day.16 Crowded commuter trains were icons of modernity in Japan whereas man'in densha was a symbol of postwar recovery. What set man'in densha apart from the commuter train of industrial Japan was not only an unprecedented degree of human congestion but also a concomitant heightened imperative for punctuality and efficiency in railroad operation, which stemming from a combination of socio-economic factors, was re-imposed via the railroad apparatus onto the urban population. Logic of Recovery In Japan's historical narrative, the first three decades following the end of World War Two are designated "The Age of Science and Technology." 17 Within this period, the mid-1950s saw an unprecedented surge in urban overcrowding as a result of an economic boom precipitated by a combination political, social and technological factors. Having lost China to communism, the United States was determined by the late 1940s to consolidate its position in Japan by creating economic stability and affluence. Together with its infamous "reverse course" tactic, which among other things led to the suppression of Japan's labor movement and the (re)arrest of labor leaders, the United States introduced


Ibid., 124-25. In "Intimate Alienation: Japanese Urban Rail and the Commodification of Urban Subjects", James A. Fujii points out that until the reconstruction of Tokyo, Osaka was the center of the nation's industry and a lucrative boom in private railroads. William W. Kelly, "Finding a Place in Metropolitan Japan".

154 advanced automation technology to facilitate and rationalize mass production. 18 Lured by the promise of employment and a better life in the industrial boom, Japan's rural population poured into the cities in the early 1950s in numbers that far exceeded the demographic shifts that had taken place during the economic growth around the First World War.19 As a result, reconstruction and expansion of the railroad infrastructure was a constant race to keep u p with the sudden influx of new urbanites. 20 With the United State's war in Korea fueling a production demand, the Economic Planning Agency in 1956 forecasted a period of high economic growth (kodo seichoki).21 Just as automation and rationalization of production generated an economic boom and overcrowding, the railroad's strategy for accommodating

The collection of essays in Andrew Gordon, ed. Postwar Japan as History (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993) provides an excellent look at the social and economic conditions following World War Two. Gordon's essay, "Contests for the Workplace," in particular, provides a good account of the ramifications of the "reverse course" on labor unions. In "Formations of Mass Culture," in Postwar Japan as history (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), Marilyn Ivy also notes that the contemporary writers began to speak of "masses" and "crowding" at this time in reference to the great numbers of people who traveled to urban centers in search of work a n d / o r consumer activities. On this subject see also, Victor J Koschmann, "Intellectuals and Politics," in Postwar Japan as history, ed. Andrew Gordon (Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1993). It is also important to add that in 1950s, the newly formed Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) began its careful guidance of economic development, creating an intimate relation between government and industry that became a defining, and later contentious, aspect of Japanese economy until the ministry was absorbed into another governmental body in 2001.

Irene Barnes Taeuber, The Population of Japan (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1958).

Nishiyama, "War, Peace, and Nonweapons Technology: The Japanese National Railways and Products of Defeat, 1880s-1950s". Offering an example of the dire situation faced by the railway companies, Nishiyama explains that in 1947, only 47 percent of 18,000 coaches were considered functional. In addition, the American Occupation Authority requisitioned 900 of the least damaged from within this number for its own use, as well as two coaches made especially for the imperial family. Statistics from Nihon kokuyu tetsudo, Nihon kokuyu tetsudo hyaku nenshi (One Hundred Years History oftheJNR), state that in 1949, Japan National Railway carried 3,043,866,975 passengers. By 1956, this was up to 4,118,793,771 passengers and by 1960 it reached 5,123,900,941 passengers.

Hirofumi Yamamoto, ed. Policy: Rapid Growth and Transportation Policy, vol. Technological Innovation and the Development of Transportation in Japan (Tokyo, Japan: United Nations University Press, 1993).

155 the sudden and overwhelming increase in commuters (kyaku wo sabaku) was to automate and rationalize its system in an effort to improve its "ultimate shuttle service" paradigm developed following World War One. Electrifying the trunk (main) train lines to allow the introduction of CTC control and advanced signaling technology was an important first step.22 In contrast to the conditions following the First World War, however, turn-around-time at terminal stations was already near the minimum and dwelling time at stations had to be extended rather than reduced in order to handle the increase in commuters, but without compromising the schedule. What was needed was new technology that would allow a significant increase in the speed between stations combined with meticulous punctuality, so as to allow not only an increase in the number of trains per track per hour, but for the system to accommodate commuters beyond its structural capacity. In 1957, Japan's train manufacturing industry introduced the high performance electric and diesel motorcar train (shinseino densha) just as work on electrification of trunk lines was being completed. 23 Replacing steam and diesel push-pull locomotives as well as older electric trains, the new train utilized an

Mito explains that the rationalization and electrification also allowed for a standardization of training, machinery and personnel in order to produce a uniform product. The result was a uniform driving pattern of acceleration and deceleration between stations that became part of the natural rhythm of the commuters and the city. When the train is late, she explains, people experience the delay at a visceral level as a disturbance in this rhythm, see Yuko Mito, Teikoku hashha: nihon no tetsudowa naze sekai de mottomo seikaku nanoka, 163-68. Distributing the propulsion system over the length of the train allows for increased acceleration and deceleration by eliminating the concentration of weight at one end of the train in the locomotive. The system also decreases maintenance costs and wear of the rail and roadbed because of the reduced weight, see Hirofumi Yamamoto, ed. Railroads: Revolution in Rolling-stock Technology, vol. Technological Innovation and the Development of Transportation in Japan (United Nations University Press, 1993). Rationalization of the train system was also helped by Seiko corporation's introduction in 1952 of a special edition clock with a second hand, which was quickly adopted for railway stations, see Yuko Mito, Teikoku hashha: nihon no tetsudowa naze sekai de mottomo seikaku nanoka, 98.

156 improved propulsion system distributed among small motor units on every other carriage together with a light construction employing an innovative design developed by engineers previously working in Japan's military aircraft industry. 24 Lighter and more powerful, it was able to achieve increased speeds and improved acceleration and deceleration between stations, which meant that stopping time in stations could be extended beyond the scheduled time in order to take on extra commuters, and then recover in the short distance before the next station by means of kaifuku unten (recovery-driving). In other words, the system incorporated kaifuku unten as a basic operational principle for transporting numbers of commuters beyond its means, reinforcing recursive fluctuation between temporal debt and recovery as part of the rhythm of the urban everyday. The combination of technological changes resulted in the emergence of a high-density/high-capacity urban railroad, and sometime around between 1956 and 1957 Japan's entire train system, not just main lines, began to run on time.25 Overcrowding could not be reduced, nor really contained, but commuters could at least be accommodated and the rhythm of an economy surging outward on the momentum of a war just across the sea was sustained - but just barely. Operating beyond capacity meant that the train system was always on the verge of collapse. If anything, even something minor, went wrong - a signal or switch


Nishiyama, "War, Peace, and Nonweapons Technology: The Japanese National Railways and Products of Defeat, 1880s-1950s," 298-99.

Up until that period only express and other priority trains ran on time while regular trains were often delayed as much as fifteen minutes. Mito adds, however, that exact information on the punctuality is difficult to find, especially since definitions and expectations of punctuality have changed in accordance with technological changes Yuko Mito, Teikoku hashha: nihon no tetsudowa naze sekai de mottomo seikaku nanoka, 88-91.

failed or heavy rains or winds impeded driving - the entire system and city would be thrown into chaos. Recovery-driving, like economic recovery, is bounded by the principle of schedule. The latter is situated within the promised futurity of an unfolding national historical discourse and the former within the recursive order of the system. In both instances however, the logic is contingent upon a deferral of the present. Economic recovery is premised on the belief in a past that was more complete than the present, and belief in a (national) future that will either equal or surpass the wholeness of that past. In the temporal logic of recovery-driving the position held by the notion of complete past is filled by the ideal schedule (kihon daiya). The present, in these terms, is constituted in the gap between the ideal schedule and the actual schedule (jisshi daiya) and in a temporality that is always overdue. The prospect of a temporally solvent future must ultimately be forsaken as an unattainable illusion but simultaneously tenaciously maintained as a possibility. In that recovery-driving is what allows for the railroad to operate beyond its means, it shares an affinity with the system of deferral and debt that is at the heart of consumer culture. Recovery-driving abides by the same logic as living outside one's means (via a credit card debt or what not), which when interpreted via the conditions that characterize the everyday operation of the trains in Japan means existing in a perpetual state of imminent collapse. The logic of recovery-driving converges with inevitability of debt in contemporary urban Japan in the advertisements ubiquitous in trains for quick loan services, like Puromisu (Promise), Aifuru, Akomu, etc. Although such loan services have become affiliated with major (read: respectable) banks, the sums

158 they offer are not appropriate for buying a home or starting a business but rather constitute a stop-gap-measure, a temporary financial fix, at very high rates. Directed at the salaryman, the advertisements invariably employ a young woman with the proper "morally pink complexion" required by a spectacleoriented service industry. 26

Dressed in the subdued uniform of the female bank clerk, her demeanor is playful but serious, pedagogic but also intentionally naive. In 2005, these loan companies came under government scrutiny for questionable practices associated typically with black-market financing: lending to individuals with insufficient credit history, threatening defaulting clients with physical harm and purposely misleading individuals concerning contract terms. Ironically, the loan companies responded with a passive-aggressive campaign urging potential customers to be more prudent. Most notably, Purotnisu began a series of advertisements conflating careful financial practices and the scrupulous review of contracts with compliance to otona no manaa (adult manner). In a popular twopanel Purotnisu advertisement that appeared often in trains and was


Siegfried Kracauer, The Salaried Masses: Duty and Distraction in Weimar Germany (London; NewYork: Verso, 1998), 38.

complimented by similar television commercials, the Puromisu girl in one panel is pointing to a scene in the other panel in which two young salarymen and a salary woman are sitting at the counter of a small Izakaya (drinking restaurant). 27 The three customers have just separated their disposable wooden chopsticks (waribashi) while holding them vertically when their attention (we assume) is captured by a television in the bar corner where the Puromisu girl appears again, wearing traditional service garb before a group of men seated at a traditional style corporate dinner, or enkai. "You must always break your waribashi while holding them horizontal," a text balloon relays her words to the television audience. The astonishment of the two salarymen in the Izakaya scene is indicated by an iteration of surprise from one and the question from the other "There is also a proper manner for waribashi?" (waribashi ni mo manna- ga arul). All of the Puromisu commercials and advertisements follow a similar paradigm, always with the Puromisu girl instructing the audience in the proper "adult manner" particular to a discursively marked Japanese practice: one must never step on the crack between Japanese tatami (washitsu) rooms, or on the crack between tatami; when eating with chopsticks one must lift the plate under the chopsticks rather than holding one's hand under them, etc. Only in the last moments of the commercial and in the small text alongside the explanation of loan terms at the bottom of the advertisements on trains, is the message relayed that "confirming the contents of a contract before signing as well as balancing one's income and spending are also adult manner."


1 use the word "girl" not "woman" here intentionally, following Kracauer's example, to mark the manner in which her apparent youthfulness is a significant part of her currency as spectacle.

160 Why a loan service should become the champion of the compliance to proper ("Japanese") manner is not immediately evident. On one hand the advertisements relay a buyer-beware sentiment. The loan services, they say, are not to blame for the questionable practices of which they were accused, and taking responsibility for what one signs is part of being an adult. On the other hand, the correlation they construct between money borrowing practices and a manner particular to Japanese customs, together with the intrusion of this rhetoric into a railway space typically devoted to manner messages concerning use of the train, bespeaks the underlying logic of the urban everyday, mediated by trains, performing a recursive fluctuation between (temporal) debt and recovery. It also testifies to the role the train car played and continues to play as a nexus of relations defined by capital in the production of the urban subject.28 Returning to the decisive moment in the advent of the contemporary man'in densha, it is important to add that anticipation of perpetual imminent collapse as an inevitable and habitualized way of urban everyday was of course nothing new to Japan in the late 1950s. Such a mode of existence has been a dominant characteristic of urban modernity that has occupied authors and artists throughout the world since the late nineteenth century. What the problem of railroad capacity changed in postwar Japan was the degree to which commuters were required to move in tandem with the railroad system and become what Mito Yuko calls throughout her work, its "players," in order for it to function smoothly. The problem of capacity required that they internalize its

Since the advent of railroads in Japan, as train tracks increasingly snaked out from cities they effected an equal assimilation of land and populations to the relations of capital within an emerging industrial environment, transforming landscape into real estate and the persons into citizen, consumer, spectator, passenger, commuter and laborer. James Fujii provides an excellent history of this process in an article that will be discussed at a later point in the chapter.

161 logic to an even greater degree than before, which became manifest in a heightened sense of time consciousness - if not for the simple reason of making the train on time and arriving promptly at one's place of employment - as well as an ethos of perpetual debt to a future from a present always on the verge of derailment. Capacity The year 1957 was a milestone in the evolution of the railroad in Japan and a significant moment in the emergence of the contemporary man'in densha. It was also the year that the director Ichikawa Kon released a biting satire of life in urban Japan appropriately entitled, Man'in densha Ichikawa's film is remarkable for the manner in which it presents phenomenon of the crowded train, man'in densha, as the central metaphor in a story that attempts to address all the changes affecting urban Japan at the time. The result is a film that while suffering from the same frenetic pace and sense of disjuncture that it depicts as afflicting life in urban Japan, provides a critical view of the conditions surrounding the emergence of man'in densha. Although a box office failure at the time of its debut, the film Man'in densha resonates in the contemporary for viewers who lived through the period not only for the nostalgia it evokes, but also for its incisive critique.30


'Man'in densha (The Crowded Train), Film, directed by Ichikawa Kon (1957; Tokyo: Daiei Studios).


To comprehend the film's extremely fast dialogue and period relevant references, I sought the help of a number of individuals who had lived through the era. All of them were familiar with Ichikawa Kon but none had known about the film Man'in densha. Along with translation help, I was also fortunate to hear their impressions of the film. Interestingly, they were invariably surprised that the film had done so poorly at the time of its initial release.

162 Man'in Densha's central character is a new university graduate, Moroi Tomio, whom the film follows from his graduation ceremony to his new career as a salaryman for the accounting section of a beer factory located in Amagasaki. Introduced in the trailer as the contemporary man and hero, Moroi is an eager but ideologically sober and punctual subject. Comically energetic and invigorated by the certainty of a life of continuous struggle, his actions are nevertheless guided by careful calculations and an ardent adherence to rationality, as demonstrated when he leaps to his feet to calculate for the benefit of a fellow employee the projected lifetime earnings of a salaryman. An impressive sum at first, after the cost of living, education and health care is deducted, there is no doubt about the futility of their lives. Not quite the equivalent of debt, but nowhere near financial security, the sum foretells of restriction and not ideal, of a life fated to an endless struggle to keep-up. 31 But devoid of illusion about the prospects of a better future, Moroi remains stalwart even as the economic conditions and overcrowding that characterize the era leave him unemployed and destitute by the end of the film, sharing a squalid shack with his mother in the desolate North.


The fellow employee's response is, "nanda, tatta hyaku kyuju mon ka...iisho hataraite hyaku kyuju mon ka, wabishii na~".

163 Urban overcrowding is the film's central problematic, which it attributes to the effects of modernization exacerbated by the arrival of advanced automated production technology. Opening on a somber university graduation ceremony in Meiji 9 (1876), in which only eight students stand dwarfed in the center of an enormous hall, history progresses via a series of curtainwipe cuts to the same ceremony being held in Taisho 2 (1913) and Showa 1 (1926). With each advance the hall becomes progressively filled with students. The scene settles finally on a graduation ceremony in the diegetic present (1957) in which a mass of students hold umbrellas beneath driving rain as a university official delivers a conventional graduation speech burdened with tropes of hope and social responsibility. In the background is what could be either a burnt-out structure - remnants of the war - or a building under construction... a symbol of renewal. The indeterminacy of the image suggests the ambiguous character of the era: situated somewhere between the hardship of immediate postwar recovery and the affluence of the so-called postwar economic miracle, as well as between a society ruled by the imperatives of industrial production and one informed by an economy of consumption. The dilemma society faces at the time is articulated by the owner of the beer factory where Moroi is initially employed, who explains that new automation technology has increased production, attracting population to the cities and creating overcrowding at the same time that it has decreased the demand for labor. The result is a kind of disequilibrium between production and consumption that Marx defined as the pre-condition to economic crisis, and which Ichikawa Kon depicts through crowds gathered

before a department store window displays, able only to stare at, not yet purchase, the coveted consumer items of the postwar. 32 In factories as well, production floor laborers sit idly by the humming machines while factory management must cultivate a work ethos of inefficiency so as to legitimize their continued employment by extending their work quota over the day.33 Ichikawa's critique of society is, however, conflictual. On one hand, the social woes he depicts appear to be the effect of temporary socio economic imbalances, which are the ramifications of the in-between character of the era. On the other hand, the film suggests that the more society embraces rationalization, the more irrational it becomes. The exemplary expression of irrationality is man'in densha and in a manner that bespeaks of the heightened punctuality that was part of the phenomenon, the film juxtaposes its single


In the early 50s and 60s the three coveted items were the fan, rice cooker and laundry machine. As the economy grew so did desire and purchase power and in the mid 60s the three items were a car, cooler and color television.

Ichikawa also relays the ambiguity of the era via the use of cinematic special effects, like the curtain-wipe cut, that were popular in the 1930s. Similarly, the factory floor - the site of the classic cinematic critique of modernity in Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times - has also yet to recede fully in Man'in densha into the cinematic background, as it will one year later in 1958 in Masamura Yasuzo's incisive critique of Japan's consumer culture in Kyojin to gangu (Giants and Toys). In contrast to the advertisement office situated high above a caramel production line that provides the mise-en-scene of labor in this latter film, the accounting department of the beer company in which Moroi is employed is adjacent to the production floor. Salaryman labor is thus symbolically aligned with the physical labor of production (rather than consumption as in advertising), and the two loci of labor share similar conditions. Noise from the machines not only makes conversation among employees impossible, it produces physical pain for Moroi, who is sensitive to mechanically generated acoustic vibrations. The nature of Moroi-san's ailment, which he suffers from even amidst the mechanical clamor of urban environment, bespeaks more of a subject acclimating to modernity in the industrial urbanity of 1900 and the 1930s than it does of one struggling with the empty semiotic play of Japan's emerging consumer society in 1957. Masumara's film depicts a much different Japan, already beset by commodity advertisement schemes. Also a satirical critique of capitalism, it retains footage of factory production but superimposes it with the clicking of a cigarette lighter. The effect is a cinematic idiom that one could argue anticipates the arrival in Japan of the influence of French New Wave Cinema one year later. For a discussion of New Wave Cinema in Japan, see David Desser, Eros Plus Massacre: An Introduction to the Japanese New Wave Cinema (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988).

165 man'in densha scene with a discussion, voiced through Moroi's father, on the relation between time, social order and the ontology of the modern subject. Befitting of Moroi's rational character, his father is a watch dealer and advocate of the necessity for social order. Immediately preceding the film's man'in densha scene, the story shifts to Moroi's parents' home in Odawara, where Moroi's father delivers a lecture on the nature of temporal authority to a customer whose watch he has been fixing. With his speech allegorically reinforced by his positioning before a wall of clocks all set precisely to just before three, Moroi's father explains with an air of all-knowing pride,
Father: It is simply inconceivable that a watch I cleaned only one month ago could be off already because any watch that I have cared for once should be positively accurate. (All the clocks in the store chime as if to punctuate his sentence and verify his claim). I've run a watch store for 30 years in Odawara and I take pride in my ability. May I inquire as to who told you this watch was off? I noticed when I set it to the clock at the city hall. No, no, the city hall clock is no good. As a city alderman I'm always going to city hall, today for example at three. And I have never known the clock at city hall to be accurate. Precise social order is important, not only for city hall but all of Japan. And, well, I set it according to the time announced on the radio. Ah yes, radio is certainly a convenient thing. However, relying too much on civilization and its accoutrements is alas a flaw of the Japanese. Civilization (bunmeibunka) is good, but the important thing is to have confidence in yourself, to trust your own watch, to have an independent spirit (dokuritsu seishin), to be self-reliant (dokuritsu doppo)

Customer: Father:

Customer: Father:

The father's notions of an autonomous modern subject were no doubt intended to be comical, specifically at a time when increasing rationalization demanded greater compliance to the rhythm of machines. 34 The absurdity of his doctrine on

The father's doctrine can also be read in relation to the notions of success and careerism (risshin shusse) promulgated in the Meiji as part of the emphasis on the need to cultivate a

166 the relation between time, the self and social order is then emphasized in the following scenes depicting Moroi's commute on his first day at work. Preparing in the morning to leave his bare room in the company dormitory, Moroi is rushed yet obviously exhilarated to begin his new life, checking his necktie repeatedly in the mirror and his shoes for marks at the door. Once outside his apartment door he is instantly engulfed in a crowd of salarymen, all exiting their room at the same time and filling the corridor down the stairs. Convinced, perhaps, of his selfimportance or simply oblivious to his surroundings, Moroi pushes ahead of them to rush to the train station, where he is engulfed by yet again by an even larger horde of suited salarymen struggling to board the train. The scene is chaotic with the men grabbing each other by the head and shoulders, pushing, twisting and squirming to get ahead of one another and board the train. At last the train doors can be closed only after the station platform attendant or, "pusher" (oshiya), shoves the back of the last man in with his foot.35

modern subject. Citing Oka Yoshitake, in "Intimate Alienation: Japanese Urban Rail and the Commodification of Urban Subjects", James Fujii explains that in early Meiji success and careerism had tended to be associated with the advancement of one's family and hometown. After the Russo-Japanese war the term became associated with a more privatized notion of success. Similarly, the ideology of serving the country through government service was replaced by desires for personal wealth, articulating a kind of hedonism that Oka suggests was indicative of a rising sense of disillusionment in the search for meaning in life. Viewed within the contexts of technological development, the notion of self-advancement becomes ironically more about individual satisfaction the more the individual is imposed on by the technological apparatuses and architecture of the surroundings.

It is worth noting that Ichikawa hangs an advertisement for his own film in the center of the train car. Most likely an intended as a self-referential parody, it also denotes the inherent relation as vehicles of capital and spectacle between the train and cinema that has characterized

Later in the film w h e n w e learn that the father's sense of time is off

Ai to rddd no hibi
Riding the Chuo Line home from teaching in Yotsuya, I found myself with nothing to occupy my time for the twenty-minute trip to Mitaka Station. There was no email to respond to and no one in my contact list with whom I really wanted to initiate a new correspondence. For lack of anything better to do,1 began browsing the free games that came with my AU KDDI keitai. That is when I found "Days of Labor and Love." The introductory page for the game describes

(kurutte iru) as a result of a n astigmatism that causes h i m to set the clocks w r o n g , he becomes n o t only ideologically b u t also actually misaligned w i t h the era. The father, however, is also the only character in the film w i t h any political ethos a n d sense of individual a u t o n o m y . Ironically, it is only inside a m e n t a l institution, to w h i c h h e commits himself u p o n learning of his

it as "A unique life simulation game" with the following explanation: "This is a surreal life game of 31 days, during which you endeavor to work and manage your alternate identity in the figure of a [blue] 'bear.' Your work is to role a large ball. Avoiding holes and other obstacles, you must push it skillfully to the prescribed place. Your wages are contingent on the color of the ball and the number of balls you carry. With your wages you can buy not only a house and car, but also, purchase a wife and kids and build a house. You can work until retirement and then look back on your life. Your life in the game-M68

astigmatism, that h e is able find solace. The institution, h e explains to a concerned Moroi w h o comes to visit, h a s a rational social order a n d its patients are a receptive audience to his concerns for the welfare of the c o m m u n i t y . O u t s i d e the walls of the mental hospital the rationalization of society h a s culminated in a reversal

of logic, p r o d u c i n g irrational conditions for w h i c h the exemplary icon is man'in densha.

modernity. In addition, it lends the scene a sense of authenticity, suggesting that what we are watching is a documentary.

168 But man'in densha w a s n o t a symbol of irrationality for J a p a n in 1957, w h i c h according to the director a n d Ichikawa's contemporary, M a s a m u r a Yasuzo, is w h y the film failed. Ichikawa's a t t e m p t s at irony in depicting a n o v e r c r o w d e d J a p a n on the brink of chaos, h e explains, simply failed to resonate w i t h a nation r e a p i n g the first fruits of economic expansion following the war. 36 Significantly, there is n o In the next scene I was standing before the boss, who informed me that because of my initial ineptitude I actually owed money and would not receive wages that day. So, I tried again, and this time I managed to push one ball after another to the proper place, earning a total of 400 yen for my day of labor. When I went to collect my wages, the boss asked if I want to join him for a drink. Feeling somewhat obliged, I complied. In the next frame, a drink and food menu appeared, from which I could choose a beer for 50 yen or chicken on skewers for 20 yen each. My day's wages were quickly disappearing! At the next round of work I was promoted to pushing a yellow ball, for which I receive -M69 m e n t i o n of t h e w a r in t h e entire film, aside from w h a t m a y or m a y not be a n a m b i g u o u s reference in the opening scene. Theoretically speaking, neither should there be, since one year before the film's d e b u t the g o v e r n m e n t ' s Economic Planning Agency issued a w h i t e p a p e r declaring the e n d of the p o s t w a r

is over in 31 days.... Was it a happy life?" Seemed simple enough so I started. But it was harder than I imagined to manipulate the little bear with the toggle switch on my phone and in my first four or five attempts at pushing the ball, I pushed it off the platform, which earned me the reproach of my boss a green bear. I was told that if I cannot do the work properly that I should leave and that the cost for my mistake would be deducted from my salary. After a few more times I began to get the hang of it and managed to push the ball to the proper spot as the time ran out and my work day was over.


Kon Ichikawa and Yuki Mori, Ichikawa Kon no eigatachi (Films ofKon Ichikawa) (Tokyo: Waizu Shuppan, 1994); James Quandt, Kon Ichikawa (Toronto: Cinematheque Ontario, 2001).

200 yen each time, rather than 100 yen. But the work was considerably more difficult, with obstacles and holes to avoid. I lost two of the balls, each time being more severely reproached by my boss and threatened with demotion, before I managed to push the last three ball to the correct spot. By the end of the day, I had only 300 yen. This time I declined the offer to go drinking and instead clicked to begin another day of work. Things went better the next day and when was over I had earned 1000 yen. Since working all the time was turning out to be no fun, I decided to browse the "Purchase Something" menu. Along with basic things like a car or watch for 1000 yen each, or a house for 2000 yen, there were also wives for anything between 100 to 10,000 yen. I bought a wife for 200 yen. She told me right away that she loved me. When I returned from work the next day, having earned another 700 yen, she informed me that while I was away she made some purchases and the next screen shows that I am 7000 yen in debt. I'm in serious debt now and unable to make even the most minimal purchases or pay my rent. So I had no choice but to click "yes" when a screen pops up asking if I want to borrow money. Determined to pay back my loan as soon as possible, I threw myself into my work, pushing the balls as fast as I could. I refused my bosses invitations to go drinking after each day and instead clicked right away to begin another day of work. When I had collected almost 4000 yen, a screen suddenly popped up in which my wife is informed me that she was. lonely with me always at work. She said she had decided to leave me and return to her parent's home. Well, I think to myself, that's what I get for buying a wife for 200 yen! I click to go back to work but the train has already arrived at Mitaka.

based o n statistics indicating that the economy h a d recuperated to its p r e w a r level. 37 W i t h o u t the premise of p o s t w a r recovery, Ichikawa is saying, there is n o rational reason w h y people should submit to the continuous d e m a n d for sacrifice foisted u p o n t h e m by the system - epitomized b y the conditions of man'in densha. If the p o s t w a r is really over, h e posits, t h e n the only explanation for w h y p e o p l e surrender to the conditions of man'in densha is the irrationality of society combined w i t h a lack of politics that h a s allowed the c r o w d a n d masses to be rationalized as a p r o b l e m of capacity. Where there is a c r o w d there is the possibility of the individual a n d should the c r o w d t u r n into masses, there is a possibility of politics. But w h e n the c r o w d is situated in terms of


See Victor Koschmann's discussion in "Intellectuals and Politics," 403-04, concerning proclamations of the end of the postwar in 1956.

170 questions of capacity, there is neither a subject nor politics and only a technological dilemma. When Georg Simmel contemplated the effects of modern urban life in 1903, the existence of an autonomous subject was the premise, and the continued psychological integrity of this subject amidst the constant stimulus of urban life was his concern.38 For Simmel, the phenomenon whereby the forces that threatened to unwind and dilute individuality in the metropolis led to its reinforcement was never as clear as when among the urban crowd. According to the theories of Walter Benjamin and the films of Dziga Vertov, if mediated by the lens of Marxist inspired cinema, the crowd could be made to see its own potential as a revolutionary mass. 39 When the crowd or mass is framed in terms of problems of capacity, the inherent issues are no longer political but concern rather only the logistics of human administration vis-a-vis technological limits. The lack of a possibility for politics or ideological motivation behind the irrational conditions of man'in densha is summed up early in the film by Moroi as he is leaving his university dorm and heading for this new salaryman life. With calculated nonchalance, Moroi turns to a junior student and declares, "You

Georg Simmel, "The Metropolis and Mental Life," in The Sociology of Georg Simmel, ed. Kurt H Wolff (Glencoe, 111.,: Free Press, 1950). It merits pointing out here that while the certainty of the existence of the individual is the premise behind Simmel's theory, his consistent use of mechanical metaphors to describe the effect of metropolitan life on the psyche enact a transformation of the individual, if not completely into a machine, then into mind encompassed by some kind of mechanical apparatus. For example, he describes the quintessentially urban "blase outlook" as a result of a potential mental systems overload and corollary energy deficiency. Simmel is of course not alone in the use of such prose, as evidenced by Sigmund Freud's description in Sigmund Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle of the mental stimulus shield that emerges to protect the mind from an input overload. One could say that such language ultimately serves to undermine the presumption of a coherent and autonomous subject, even anticipating its eventual impossibility as a discursive object/entity.

See Lynne Kirby's discussion of Vertov in Parallel Tracks: The Railroad and Silent Cinema, 170188.1 am thinking here of the possibilities Benjamin associates with cinema in Walter Benjamin, "The Work Of Art In The Age Of Mechanical Reproduction".

171 know, there is not a single seat we can occupy with hope in this country. But moping around won't get us anywhere closer [to a seat on] the man'in densha, either. [Society] is rigged so that we have to work senselessly hard without good cause." There is no room in this metaphor for the prospect of salvation, not even an illusion of hope. Moroi's willingness to persevere without the illusion of hope is comic. It denotes as well the principle of "they know what they are doing but they just keep doing it" that Slavoj Zizek identifies with ideological cynicism.40 The point of Zizek's re-reading of the classic Marxist formula whereby ideology is thought to obscure the reality of social relations in capitalist society, is of course that an insistence on freedom from the influence of ideology and a claim of awareness of the reality of social conditions, is in fact proof of subjection to ideology. Ideology functions, that is, not by concealing its rhetoric and mechanisms of subjugation, but by making them obvious so as to offer subjects the illusion of choice, which is necessary for securing (so-called) voluntary servitude to the system. Ideology, according to Zizek's argument, is organized around a "sublime object," something such as a nation or god, a master signifier through which it musters belief. The "sublime object" resists representation. Everyone feels they know what the object is but they are ultimately unable to express, identify or clearly define it, which only serves to substantiate the notion of the thing's transcendent power. Although ideologies are conceptual, they must nevertheless be embodied in the institutions that structure the actions of individual's everyday lives. Only in action is ideological belief instituted while

Slavoj Zizek, The Sublime Object of Ideology, 28-30.

172 at the same time the belief that is subsequent to action is premised on belief preceding action. In Zizek's words, to discover belief in God by putting one's hands together in prayer assumes that one already believes before one believes. To ride man'in densha in the period of postwar recovery was not to endure an insufferable condition as inevitable, but to believe. The phenomenon of man'in densha emerged as an ideologically bound practice in the postwar, deferring again its instantiation of functional necessity contingent on training. 41 Its organizing signifier, moreover, was not simply the Japanese nation but rather the nation under the perceived threat of annihilation following defeat in World War Two and the initial hardship of the postwar. In other words, if faced with the questions, "Why do we endure the man'in densha!" The answer would inevitably have been "because we must in order for Japan to recover, and man'in densha is a symbol of recovery." The radical student demonstrations in Japan in the 1960s suggests that contrary to Ichikawa's theme, society was not devoid of political possibility. The implication is not only that the postwar was still the condition of possibility for man'in densha in 1957, but also that the postwar could not be allowed to end. Suggesting a science fiction-like representation of the future as a critique of the present, the film man'in densha, is thus a depiction of the inevitable absurdity the


Before the war, the crowded train was endured within the ideological framework of nation and the sake of catching-up with the West. What separates the notion of practice from training is the premise of a subject in the former and the irrelevance of a subject in the latter. Insofar as both theories of practice and training emphasize the role of the body, the difference between the two can be difficult to discern. In both, discursive regimes converge via institutional apparatuses on the body, aligning thought to conventional precepts through corporeal articulation. The difference is the difference between Michel Foucault in Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison and Friedrich Kittler's Discourse Networks 1800/1900. In Foucault's work, there is ultimately a corporeally situated writing subject behind the discourse while in Kittler there is only the materiality of the writing media, a network of discourses.

phenomenon man'in densha would embody were it deprived of the postwar recovery pretext. Consequently, the potential for a strong critique and expression of exasperation with the conditions of man'in densha in the contemporary moment, as in the article referenced at the beginning of this chapter, conveys that the postwar has indeed come to a close. What effected its closure was its displacement as a suturing crisis and foundational narrative by another crisis - the collapse of Japan's economic bubble in the early 1990s.42 For the generation that reached adulthood immersed in the lavish affluence of the bubble, its collapse is a principle historical coordinate in personal narratives; for the generation that enjoyed the wealth of the bubble as employees of prosperous corporations, its collapse is a catastrophe that precipitated unbearable ideological uncertainty; and for the generation born after or that was too young at the time to remember, the bubble is a myth embellished by a propensity for nostalgia among the older generation. 43 As the culmination of the so-called economic miracle of the postwar, the collapse of the bubble spurred social dispersion rather than cohesion and emerged as unequivocal announcement of the failure of the socio-economic policies and ideologies of the 1950s and 1960s. It thus presented a possibility of freedom from the ideological necessity to endure the irrational conditions of man'in densha. And yet, man'in densha abides.


In Bodies of Memory: Narratives of War in Postwar Japanese Culture, 1945-1970 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2000), Igarashi Yoshikuni makes a compelling argument concerning the role in postwar Japan of defeat and occupation as a foundational narrative.


For an entertaining expression of the historical significance of the collapse of the economic bubble along the lines described here, see the 2007 film Baburu e go!! Taimu mashin wa doramushiki (English Title: Bubble Fiction) directed by Baba Yasuo.

174 Silence and Fantasy "Japanese salarymen have a fixed schedule/' explained Akira, an employee at one of Japan's major banks, I leave my house everyday at exactly 7:05, arrive at the station and line up at the second door of the ninth car of the 7:23 express. Every day exactly the same, and always, with a Nikkei Shinbun under my arm. From my station until Shibuya it's too packed to even lift my arms and hold the paper. But at Shibuya a lot of passengers get off and I have about fifteen minutes to read all the important articles in the paper. There is a group of regulars I ride with but I've never spoken to them or exchanged a nod or greeting. A salaryman's energy is at the lowest in the morning. It's like 'ach, back to work again and back on the packed train.' You just have no energy to waste. Nobody rides man'in densha unless they absolutely must. Packed into the train, body to body, man'in densha forces a proximity between passengers that while appropriate for lovers, is otherwise "commuter hell" (tsukin jigoku). Arms entangled in the mesh of bodies have been broken on man'in densha and people have been known to lose consciousness as a result of the oxygen deprivation and heat inside the train. For a commuter who rides the man'in densha day after day, it is an unendurable experience that is nevertheless endured. "You feel as if your internal organs are going to be crushed" (naizo ga tsubureruso), explained a woman in her late 20s who commutes on the Chuo Line. "By the time I arrive at work I'm exhausted and too tired to do anything. I would do anything not to have to ride man'in densha but there's never a choice. If one train is packed, then so is the next and the next. There is just no point in waiting, and besides, I have to get to work on time." According to a report from the Japan Association of Railroad Industries


Akira's choice of words "no energy to waste," evokes the metaphors of 19th and 20th century industrial society that aligned human labor power with the thermodynamic machineries of production, see Anson Rabinbach, The Human Motor: Energy, Fatigue, and the Origins of Modernity.

175 (JARI), which oversees the production of train cars, in 2004 congestion remained particularly difficult in Tokyo despite efforts to reduce levels to 150% on all trains. During rush hours, the report states, congestion on the city's central Yamanote Line and the Keihin Tohoku Line (running from Saitama to Yokohama by way of Tokyo Station) reached 230 percent above capacity between Okachimachi and Ueno Station - even with forty-eight trains per hour comprised of ten and eleven cars. Congestion, in the JARI report, is defined relative to train car capacity, which is determined by the number of seats plus the minimum floor space required per person. 45 Although the latter is not specified, an illustration depicts degrees of congestion vis-a-vis a capacity to read. Implicit in the correlation is the perception of an obdurate pursuit of reading despite the intense crush of bodies as an expression of selfishness and bad manner.

At 100 percent capacity, the illustration states, you can grab on to the hanging strap. At 150 capacity, you are shoulder to shoulder with other passengers but still have enough room to enjoy reading a newspaper (raku ni shinbun wo yomeru). At 180 percent capacity, the newspaper has to be folded into fourths in order to be read. When capacity reaches 200 percent the pressure of bodies pressed together is particularly oppressive. An obstinate reader,

Interestingly, train cars in urban Japan do not display maximum capacity stickers, as one often sees in trains in New York, for example.

176 however, might still find a way to read a weekly magazine. Anything above 200 percent denotes an extreme condition and reading is impossible. As the train sways, the illustration explains, your body is forced to lean together with the others; you are entirely immobilized, unable to move even your hands. 46 The equation whereby an ability to read becomes a measure of congestion recalls a diverse collection of literature situating the train car at the center of a visual regime particular to modernity and the concomitant production of the modern subject. Reading on the train may have developed, as Schivelbusch argues, as a distraction from the potential for disaster and alienation inherent to the railroad journey, but it soon became part of a distraction of a different sort, embedded in the visual cultural economy of the railroad. 47 Writing on the expansion in the first quarter of the twentieth century of urban railroads in Japan and the concomitant production of a modern Japanese subject, James Fujii points to the relation between reading on the train and a visual culture of the train car that became dominated by advertisements and a publishing industry devoted to filling commuting time with material compatible in size, content and tempo, to the commuting experience.48 This textual material, Fujii explains, corresponded with the train car as a productive nexus in the relations of capital, what Henri Lefebvre defined as a productive "urban space. "


Masahito Mizoguchi, Nihon no tetsudo shyarou kougyou ni tsuite (Concerning the Production of Train Cars for Japan's Railroad), Japan Association of Rolling Stock Industries (2007), http: / / / pdf /' sharyo-kogyo.pdf (accessed November 4, 2008).

Wolfgang Schivelbusch, The Railway Journey: The Industrialization of Time and Space in the 19th Century, 66-69. Fujii, "Intimate Alienation: Japanese Urban Rail and the Commodification of Urban Subjects".


177 In addition, it instantiated that kind of visually based commodity desire that Guy Dubord associates with the currency of spectacle in capitalism. Situating strangers in close proximity, the train car was also an exemplary site for what Georg Simmel described as a mode of social interaction characteristic of the metropolis that "reduced the majority of sensory relations between human beings to mere sight" creating "entirely new premises for their general sociological feelings." For Simmel, the overwhelming visual and simultaneous lack of aural stimulus was bound to leave the individual "far more confused, undecided, upset than one who hears without seeing."49 That the social relations of the train car remain visually overdetermined is evident by the utter and overwhelming silence that dominates man'in densha during the morning commute. Familiarity stresses the fact of and necessity for silence. As the comments from Akira above suggest, the punctuality of the train system in Japan compels a commensurate time consciousness from the population such that commuters typically share the same train every morning with the same faces of fellow commuters. Nevertheless, social intercourse is deferred. Michiko, Akira's wife who worked as an administrator for a pharmaceutical company before getting married in 2002, described her commuter experience in similar terms:
I knew all the faces of the people I commuted with. When they didn't show up a few mornings in a row, I'd start to get worried. And then when I'd seen them again I'd want to ask if they were okay and what happened. But I never did. If I had, I would have had to greet them every morning and probably would have eventually ended up sneaking off to ride in a different car so as to avoid them. It's just too much.


Simmel in Wolfgang Schivelbusch, The Railway Journey: The Industrialization of Time and Space in the 19th Century, 74-75.

178 To risk social interaction is not only to render oneself vulnerable to the process of entropy and fatigue but also to imperil the self. In the extreme conditions of physical proximity of man'in densha, the logic of the social is reversed such that to be anti-social is to be social. One may recognize the others with whom one shares the daily commute, but interaction is strictly, albeit tacitly, taboo. The silence of man'in densha is not an effect. It is an imperative. For Fujii, relations founded on visual intimacy and divorced of social intercourse within the space of the train imbued with commodity spectacle logic was a base for a culture of "intimate alienation" that developed in tandem with the emergence of the modern Japanese city. In addition to the sense of confusion that Simmel attributed to the dominantly visual mode of social relations in the city, "intimate alienation" reflects the manner in which the train car becomes a potentially erotically charged space. Reading from a short story from 1907 in which the male protagonist, who happens to work for one of the types of publishing industries that developed around commuting, becomes obsessed with young women and girls he sees during his daily commute, Fujii notes that the protagonist assembles in his mind, like a commodity, a perfect female object from the various glimpses of female flesh within the packed commuter train.50 Such labor of fantasy is made unnecessary in a man'in densha car by its inundation with images that are part of an erotic economy produced, to a large


Fujii's argument suggests an analogous modality between the process that Marx attributes to commodity fetishism and desire, and practices of reading on the train. Like the creator of an idol whose devotion to the object is spurred by forgetting its profane origins, or the consumer whose insatiable pursuit of a commodity is contingent on forgetting the exploitative modes of production that are its conditions of possibility, the protagonist becomes obsessed with his own creations. The point is that the protagonist's arousal depends on the incredible proximity to the women afforded by the packed commuter train and at the same time is contingent on the women remaining anonymous.

179 extent, for commuter consumption. Reflecting dominant, albeit bygone, assumptions of a (heterosexual) male composition to the commuting population, the images construct the train interior as a decisively male space of consumer fantasy. Occupying the space and time between home and work, the erotic economy of the train forms an in-between sphere of consumption that within the overall socio-economic structure is equivalent to the role that Siegfried Kracauer observed distraction played for the laboring masses. 51 The so-called "commuter amnesia" that plagues the riders of man'in densha is not only a response to the stress of the crowd and the sign of habituation but a mark of the fantasy that imbues the space of the train. That commuters do not remember the commuting experience and know only that their bodies went through the motions to carry them from home to work bespeaks of an automaton-like existence, which as films and literature of the twentieth century have shown, necessitates the construction of alternative dimensions that empower precisely where society enfeebles.52 One example is the daily evening sports newspapers (yukan supottsu shinbun) that line the newspaper racks of every train station kiosk. With an invariable center spread known as the erotic pictures (ero shashin), it is impossible to determine whether the paper's conventional recount of recent sports events or its pornography provides the critical pretext for its consumption. In addition, while the advertisements hanging at the center of the

Distraction, in Kracauer's The Salaried Masses: Duty and Distraction in Weimar Germany provides the possibility for the attention required by labor and at the same time a diversion from recognitions of the modes of labor.

The examples are too numerous to cite, but just to mention a few, Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927), Terry Gilliam's Brazil (1985) and most recently, Andy and Larry Wachowski's The Matrix (1999).

180 train (nakazuri kokoku) have, as Fujii notes, been exploited for innovative textual formats like the nakazuri shosetsu, (literary expressions that are also advertisements and occupy the space typically reserved for nakazuri kokoku) they are also, without exception, the primary site for the promotion of numerous weekly men's and manga magazines, which can regularly be seen in the hands of salarymen of all ages on the train. Central to the advertisement is the magazine cover featuring the supreme paradigm of erotic visual economy, the grabia idoru - a girl usually in her late teens, rarely past her early 20s, shot typically in a bikini and always in a pose that emphasizes a buxom figure. 53 Aside from a few glossy additional first pages of full body pictures, there is often no apparent link between the cover image and the remaining content. That the cover image is pure decoy, or sakura, supplemental to the content and to S T ; TV3 I - i "" ^ tX"'l/iVi J * '
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r^Jtrr-'^^-"! Amidst the close company of the crowded './j t r a m / a reader's glance at the first pages is always furtive, never longer then the time it takes to turn the page, which is done only


slightly slower than when turning the other pages. A more extreme example of the male-centered erotic visual economy that permeates train space is (so-called) "adult manga," (adoruto manga) which can be found on the front magazine racks beside the conventional fashion, cooking and news magazines at convenience

A relations director for JEKI, the company responsible for overseeing advertisement for JR East, confided that she had received only one complaint about such advertisements from a mother who was worried about the images her daughter would be exposed to while commuting to junior high school.

181 stores, like 7-11, next to stations. Prohibited b y censorship rules from a d o r n i n g the cover w i t h a n y t h i n g m o r e explicit t h a n a swimsuit photo, " a d u l t " manga magazines h a v e available the recourse to illustrations. W h e t h e r explicit pictures in the evening sports paper, t h e bikini clad grdbia idoru or the indelicate illustrations of adoruto manga, there are n o comparable images or illustrations of m e n p r o d u c e d for a female c o m m u t e r population. Is there a relation b e t w e e n the erotic economy of the c o n t e m p o r a r y u r b a n train car a n d the chronic p r o b l e m of female c o m m u t e r s being g r o p e d (chikan sareru) b y male c o m m u t e r s in man'in denshal The question is subject to the same caveat that Fujii offers in his work, discussed above, that there is n o unequivocal causal relation b e t w e e n the logic of capital that propelled the

Real World What is it like for a woman to grow up in Tokyo, riding the packed commuter trains as a child and then as an adolescent? The contemporary popular female novelist, Natsuo Kirino, offers a poignant description through one of her characters in the novel, Real World, translated by Philip Gabriel (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008). "I've taken the train to school ever since elementary school. My parents wanted me to go to a private elementary school in the city. It takes thirty-five minutes from P Station in Fuchu City, the Tokyo suburb were we live, to S station in Shibuya Ward. Since the train goes all the way into the center of Tokyo, it's always packed. I think it's cruel to make a little elementary school girl ride the train like that every day to school. P Station is in the suburbs, so the train isn't crowded when I get on. Its not like I can always get a seat, but there are usually very few people standing and you can relax. Mom told me when she saw how uncrowded the train was she felt confident I could commute by myself. At first Dad said it's okay, he'd go with me, but after a while he was transferred to some other city where he had to live by himself. So I was left alone...I'd squeeze myself into a space next to the door and stand there. With each station the number of passengers increased and I'd start to get squashed. One time I was pushed from behind, fell forward, and cut my cheek on the metal clasp of a woman's handbag. Another->182

d e v e l o p m e n t of the railway culture and the m o d e of social relations p r o d u c e d b y the interior space of the c o m m u t e r train. O n e might argue, however, that advances in railroad technology that h a v e m a d e the c o m m u t e b y rail in Japan an

time my backpack hit an office worker who was sitting at the end of the row of seats and she shoved me away. After that I stopped standing next to the door. Countless times I tried to get off at S station, where my school was, only to find myself stuck between people, unable to shake my backpack loose, so I'd have to get off at the next station. One time I felt faint, leaned against some old guys, and wound up going all the way to Shinjuku. But never once did any adult try to help me.... One morning I'd caught a cold and wasn't feeling well. It was pouring outside so the windows were shut tight, clouding up with all the C 0 2 the passengers were breathing out. I started to feel really bad, suddenly couldn't stand it anymore, and threw up my breakfast on the lap of a person seated in front of me. It was a nicely dressed young woman, an office worker by the look of her, and when she saw this mess - the halfdigested toast and stinky yogurt - all over hr blue skirt, she was close to tears... When I got into the upper grades in elementary school I got physically stronger and no longer threw up or had trouble getting off at the right station. But worse things began to happen. Perverts would surround me on the train. It was always the same men. I knew what these guys looked like, so I tried all sorts of things to avoid them - taking a different car, changing the time I left for school or home. But even if I could avoid this group of perverts there were always new-> 183

increasingly smooth, continuous glide, reducing to a m i n i m u m the jolts a n d vibrations, h a v e effected a kind of sensory deprivation that m a k e s the space of the train car even m o r e decisively defined b y visual interface, exacerbating the logic of "intimate alienation." Once finally recognized b y the railways, the groping p r o b l e m p r o m p t e d the railways in the year 2000 to begin designating a certain n u m b e r of train cars d u r i n g r u s h h o u r s as w o m e n only (jyosei senyo sharyo). Posters in railway stations also r e m i n d c o m m u t e r s that groping, destruction of property a n d violence are criminal acts and w o m e n are instructed to grab the h a n d of their

assailant, raise it in the air and yell "chikan" (pervert). The appearance of "destruction of p r o p e r t y " directly after groping a n d before "violence" suggests a relation that p r o m p t s pause. O n e can only imagine the effect such a n action w o u l d h a v e in the silence of the packed train. It is precisely the capacity to imagine the effect that prevents m a n y w o m e n from saying something. "Really, it's so c r o w d e d that y o u just can't be sure so I d o n ' t w a n t to cause any trouble,"

ones, no matter which train I rode. A few men would surround me and when I couldn't escape, they would feel me up. One liked to stroke my bare thighs. Another stroked my butt. And another would press my breasts, which were just beginning to show. If I yelled, they'd quickly turn away transformed in an instant into ordinary office workers and students. But then after a while they'd be back at it. I was easy prey for perverts. I was young, weaker than them and an obvious target. I couldn't stand it. Even though I was only in grade school, it taught me a painful lesson - that adult men are dirty and my enemies."

explained Yuko, a 27 year-old OL or "office lady," w h o c o m m u t e s from Tachikawa to O c h a n a m i z u on the C h u o Line. 54 But even instances m a r k e d b y unmistakable intention h a v e b e e n silenced u n d e r the same rationale. U n d e r m i n i n g the a s s u m p t i o n s inherent in the images constituting the erotic economy of the train, groping is also not confined to instances of m e n groping w o m e n . M e n are sometimes g r o p e d by other m e n a n d in rare cases, w o m e n grope men. Such instances, however, a p p e a r to b e m u c h less frequent. They

lack, as well, the m a r k of unequivocal violence a n d humiliation that the experience is for w o m e n g r o p e d by m e n . While w o m e n m a y suffer the crime (in m a n y cases crimes) committed against t h e m in the silence of shame, m e n are often free to joke about being solicited or g r o p e d b y other m e n or by w o m e n . Reading, or a t t e m p t i n g to read, o n man'in densha is also about negotiating the stress s t e m m i n g from the p u b l i c / p r i v a t e , exterior /interior ambiguity that h a s defined the train car space since it became a fixture of u r b a n life. Reading p r o d u c e s w h a t T o m G u n n i n g , d r a w i n g from Walter Benjamin's writing of the space of the arcades, terms a "cocoon of c o n s u m p t i o n " t h r o u g h w h i c h the


The term "office lady" designated in the 1980s a female office worker whose tasks involved duties like serving tea along with other secretarial or clerical work. The "office lady" was imagined as perhaps living with her parents and engaged in employment only until she could find a proper husband, which was often used to rationalize a lower salary despite her full-time employment. The term has changed somewhat since and evokes more the sense of simply a female office worker who is not pursuing a career track.

commuter negotiates the indeterminate public/private nature of modern urban space by blocking out the surroundings and reasserting the possibility of an inferiority as the foundation of the private individual. 55 Along with the erotic images, other optics of the train car space work, as Benjamin wrote concerning the arcades, to disguise the exterior and "transform the nature of its looming" invasion of the interior. Train-company travel campaign posters urging retreat from the exhausting dissonance and relentless pace of city life inscribe the kind of boundaries between urban and rural, individual and crowd, that occupied Simmel while also conjuring the kind of rhetorical currency of a national subject (albeit ultimately phantasmagoric) that Marilyn Ivy observed haunted JNR's "Discover Japan" campaign. 56 In addition, since the success of the Sony Walkman in the late 1970s, portable music devices, the latest being the mp3 player, have provided another layer to the commuter's cocoon of consumption shutting out the announcements that, that like intrusion into private space by the aural summons of the doorbell that Benjamin noted, could not be ignored. The considerable transformations of commuter practices and the space and time of the train car effected by the keitai and other digital devices are the subject of the next chapter. Night A study conducted on London's rail network in 2004 determined that a commuter in a packed train could experience stress levels greater than that of a


Tom Gunning, "The Exterior as Interieur: Benjamin's Optical Detective," boundary 2 V 30:1, no. Spring (2003), 105-07. Marilyn Ivy, Discourses of the Vanishing: Modernity, Phantasm, Japan.


185 fighter pilot in battle or a police officer in a riot.57 The difference between the two environments, the study explains, is that while the pilot or police officer can actively address the conditions, the commuter is relegated to a mostly passive position, forced to endure. Unlike on the battlefield (at least in contemporary wars) or in a riot, adherence to a "code of conduct," or manner, prevents the social environment inside the train from dissolving into chaos and violence. 58 Manner provides the premise for the inevitable elbow in the side or stepped on toes to pass without response. As long as transgressions of manner do not enter the territory of unequivocal criminal behavior - "groping, destruction of property, violence" manner is not law. It cannot even pose as law as it lacks entirely the premise of institutional violence that makes the law the law.59 Codified in the manner posters and stickers dispersed throughout stations and trains, manner rests, instead on a general compliance enjoined through pedagogical strategies like those discussed earlier in relation to posters concerning the technique of boarding a train.60

The results of the five-year study of 125 commuters was published in November of 2004 in BBC News It is worth noting that according to the study even the most crowded trains in London are only 85 percent above capacity.

In his reading of the Parisian metro Marc Auge calls manner the "codes of conduct" that constitute the "law of the metro," see Marc Auge, In the Metro, 28-30. For Auge, regardless whether transgressed or not, the law reveals the "ritual paradox" inherent to the composition of the metro as a social space constituted by the individual journeys: "only individual itineraries give it a reality, and yet it is eminently social, the same for everyone, conferring on each person this minimum of collective identity through which a community is defined."

The phrase, "law is the law" is in reference to Slavoj Zizek's discussion of belief in The Sublime Object of Ideology. According to Zizek, the foundation of Justice and Truth behind the law as contingent on repression of its necessary violence. Without a formal codification, manner is given to an indeterminacy that renders it a perpetual cause for anxiety and topic of conversation. Is eating on the train, or doing anything to attract attention a transgression of manner? If there is a subject of practice that remains unassimilated to the technological apparatus, it emerges in the ambiguity surrounding the topic of manner and


Like the effect of the accident or jolt in revealing the habitualized dimension of the everyday, the night train unveils manner. 61 The evening rush hours, Mito suggests, can be divided into distinct groups. There is the "punctually return home" group between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., the "worked overtime" and "one drink before going home" (which is never just one drink) group from around 8 p.m. to around 9:30 p.m., and finally, the "return just before the last train" group from after 11 p.m.62 One of the outstanding features of trains in Tokyo and Osaka is that from around 9 p.m. until the last train just after midnight, trains on the main lines are nearly as congested as during the morning rush. Whereas the morning commute occurs in silence, the return home at night can be a raucous affair marked by eventfulness. Station platform attendants need to be especially on guard against members of the "one drink before going home" and the "return just before the last train" group. Emboldened by the alcohol, they show no fear in using the narrow corridor on the wrong side of the yellow line at the edge of the platform to bypass the crowds lined up waiting for the train. Tensions rise with the announcement of an approaching train. Wireless microphone in one hand while signaling to the approaching train with the other, station platform attendants

humor it is capable of evoking. An online community devoted to the topic of commuting within Japan's Mixi network entitled, densha tsiikin tsugaku sha (work and school rail commuters) discussions concerning transgressions of manner provides example of the humor and discourse the subject of railroad manner is capable of provoking. A woman named Shida Kyoko started the community on a whim. She explained in an interview that she was inspired to start the community after years of commuting and was surprised that no one had already created such a community. As of December 2007 the community had 513 members.

The notion of a "jolt" revealing the habituated dimensions of the everyday is taken from Freud's famous footnote in his essay on the "uncanny," see Sigmund Freud, "The Uncanny," in Writings on Art and Literature (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997). Yuko Mito, Teikoku hashha: nihon no tetsudowa naze sekai de mottomo seikaku nanoka, 121.


187 urge passengers with increasing apprehension to clear the clanger zone.63 The platform attendants' voices, amplified over the platform speakers to compete with the thousand other sounds of the system, convey a sense of near panic as the train approach. Will the salaryman tottering dangerously as he rushes down the edge of the platform succeed in ducking safely back into a line before the train arrives or, in his inebriated haste will he lose his balance just enough to send him over the edge and into the oncoming train? It is a scenario that repeats itself a hundred times a night at stations throughout the city. Not willing to take the chance, the train driver lets out a short burst of the horn - an exclamation point to the waiting crowds that re-instills the order of the system just long enough for the train to make it to its designated stop precisely at the end of the platform. "Evenings are the hardest shift," confided Saito, a veteran driver of twenty-five years on the Yamanote line. "All I ever hope for is to get through the hours without an accident." In 2001, two men, one of whom was an exchange student from South Korea, jumped to the tracks on the Yamanote Line at Shinokubo Station (just outside Shinjuku) to save a 50 year-old drunken salaryman, leading to the death of all three men. Platforms are equipped with clearly labeled and strategically placed emergency buttons to stop the train in the case of such circumstances but either no one thought to push it or everyone was too engrossed by the drama occurring on the tracks to remember. No doubt the one-hour delay that ensued as a result of the chaos made many regret the oversight.

Since 2001JR East has been experimenting with special sensors for quick detection of passengers falling to the tracks.

188 The smell of sake hangs in the air inside the train at night. Men in suits, their faces flushed from drinking at obligatory business entertainment outings (settai), or over snacks with a colleague or friend at one of the many izakaya around the station, hang by one hand from the standing straps in the effort to remain standing on rubbery legs. If the colleague or friend happens to live on the same train line, the conversation, relieved of any inhibitions by the alcohol, continues in the train in an animated spirit until one of the men reaches his stop. There are groups of university age students in modish but casual dress and men and women in their 20s and 30s who try to maintain the structure of their little crowd despite the dispersive pressure of the larger crowd. They rehash the events of the night or share stories about incidents at work, laughing loudly at times. Those who are alone, which are often the majority, hang quietly by the standing strap, or if lucky, savor the respite offered by a space on the soft cushioned benches lining the sides of the train. Some thumb email messages or scroll through pages of minute text on keitai. Others flip-scan slowly though thick magazines or manga, or are absorbed in pocket-sized paperback novels (bunkobon). All emit an aura of exhaustion. The long hours under the fluorescent glow of the office, the effort required in being deferential (ki wo tsukau) toward a colleague or superior over the course of the evening at a noisy, smoke filled izakaya is easily discernable on their faces. Packed among the warm bodies and comforted by soothing rhythm of the train, eyelids grow heavy. But only for those sitting is sleep really possible. Exhausted, they surrender to the motion of the machine, their books or cell phones still in their hands fall to their laps, open to a page half-read or email unfinished, as their head begins to nod. The question of what to do when the person sitting next to you on the train begins to

189 nod off in sleep, their head coming closer with each nod to resting snugly on your shoulder and the full weight of the upper torso increasingly leaning against you, is a common dilemma for the night commuter. It is a dilemma born of the conflictual character of the train car space and time.



In Man'in densha, Ichikawa Kon inserts a poster advertising his film in the single packed train (man'in densha) scene. It hangs at the center of the screen, just above the heads of the cramped commuters, serving as a satirical self-reference that implicates the involvement of the film in the conditions that it sets out to critique by alluding to the indivisible relation of mass transportation and mass media to conditions of mass production. Via the poster, train and cinema coalesce as vehicles of fiction as well as forces of the oppressive conditions of labor and urban life. The story of Densha otoko (The Train Man), in which a virtual community coalesces around a supposedly true romance sparked by an incident on a train in 2004, offers a contrasting vision of the train. Emerging from a discussion forum on Japan's reputed ni channeru sub-culture otaku website, Densha otoko became a national sensation and phenomenon in Japan subsequent to the publication of the web archive in book form by the prominent Shinchosha Publishing Company. Over the course of the next year and a half, it spurred a host of copycat stories, various anime and manga series, a popular television mini-drama, and finally a feature length film. Instead of cinema and train, Densha otoko appeals to the pairing of train and

191 Internet. In so doing, it undermines the hegemony of a modern visual regime instantiated in the commensurate experiences of train and cinema, relegating it to one possible type of interface. Densha otoko bespeaks an impulse to dislodge a set of relations mediated through the train in modernity: it suggests a desire to subordinate transportation to communication, and the logic of track with the promises of the Net, thus supplanting a scene of mass society, nation and physical labor with the figure of the discrete networked user and the possibility of a productive labor of communication. The transition from the film, Man'in densha, (discussed in Chapter Three) to the phenomenon, Densha otoko, marks a conceptual transformation, not a periodization or radical shift, for which the train is paradigmatic as a space and time that has been changed by the addition of new layers of experience as a result of technological developments. The train car, as it is discussed in the previous chapter, still exits, but at the same time it is infused with a fresh set of relations stemming primarily from the advent and ubiquity of third generation Internet cell phones, or keitai.1 Designed to be operated with one hand so as to leave the other hand free to grab the standing strap in the train, the keitai brings the discrete and discreet connectivity afforded by the Internet to the train, transforming the ambiguous solitude, alienation and silence inherent to the commuting experience into a time of virtual discourse. Insofar as the train is obviously only one location of keitai use, this relation between the two networks
Keitai are 3G cell phones with Internet access. Drawing from Ito Mizuko's argument in the introduction to "Technosocial Situations: Emergent Structuring of Mobile E-mail Use", I use the term keitai in my discussion in order to reflect the specificity of the object in contemporary Japan. As Ito notes, the term keitai, which refers to something portable, derives from the longer term keitai denwa (portable phone) and "is not so much about a new technical capability or freedom of motion [as in the United States or England] but about a snug and intimate technosocial tethering, a personal device supporting communications that are a constant, lightweight, and mundane presence in everyday life," Ibid., 1.

192 renders it an exemplary site. In other words, it is not simply that the train provides time for communication by virtue of its transitory character, but rather that the networks produce reciprocal desires and circumstances. With a connection to the Internet via a keitai network that is nearly ubiquitous throughout Japan, the keitai can be used for sending email, browsing the web, and uploading to and downloading from the web. Although keitai websites are lighter in data than regular websites so as to conform to the small screen and relatively slow network (compared to broadband), they exist within the regular Internet and are often integrated with regular Internet websites. But there is keitai specific media content, like the keitai novel (keitai shosetsu), which can only be purchased and downloaded via keitai. The keitai inflects the train and commuter experience with themes that often move in opposition to those associated with the urban train since the early twentieth century. Whereas the train propels national narratives and mediates between nation, family and work, the keitai stimulates petite fictions and establishes finite but incessant networks of detached intimacy. As inconspicuous social phenomena, keitai practices present a challenge for the ethnographer. Unlike cinema or the setting of the train, the social interaction and eventfulness that occurs through the keitai is removed to the space and time of a discrete connection and personal screen. Densha otoko offers a solution to this methodological dilemma: it instantiates an event and paradigm through which to look at the fusion of the train and Internet as well as the array of keitai practices that take place on the train. It makes apparent a mode of communication that marks keitai communication, and its themes of encounter, romance, petite fiction, labor and network move as well through keitai media. In

193 addition, in bringing the Internet together decisively with the train, Densha otoko situates these themes in relation to their initial technological network of possibility. Event Densha otoko was an unprecedented media event. It began as a two-month discussion on a ni channeru Internet Bulletin Board System (BBS) dedicated to single men bemoaning their lack of luck with women and became an unanticipated instant bestseller when it was published. 2 Mainstream weekly and monthly magazines featured articles scrutinizing its social implications and television shows capitalized on its themes and its peculiar language. Densha otoko is a tale of Internet encounter with its pretext in the analog network of the train and the romantic train encounter trope. 3 Train cars have provided a mise en scene for romantic encounter since the advent of the railroad. First in literature, and then in cinema, the train encounter is a classic motif that draws on the possibilities and risks surrounding mass transportation as an intensified site of the urban crowd. 4 Its premise is the train car as a paradigmatic space and time of urban life, one where strangers are brought

Translated into English, ni channeru means simply second channel. According to the site's founder, Nishimura Hiroyuki, the name is a reference to television's second channel, which in Kanto is an empty space of white noise in Japan's broadcast spectrum and an opening for other media such as videotape and game machines, see Fukushima Masayo, "REDESIGNING TOKYO: 2-Channel,"i?eaZ Tokyo 4,5 2005), (accessed October 2, 2005) (accessed October 2,2005).

Reinhold Martin insightfully suggests in "The Organizational Complex: Cybernetics, Space, Discourse," 107-08, that in requiring that the transmission of bodies always be supplemented with the transmission of signals, the railroad is an embodiment of an analog discourse network. In other words, the corporeal assumption behind inscriptions produced through analog media that makes the circulation of analog media objects equivalent to the circulation of bodies, is instantiated in the railroad as a mass transportation system whose function is contingent on a signaling network.

1 am summarizing Lynne Kirby's analysis of the railroad encounter in Parallel Tracks: The Railroad and Silent Cinema. Kirby reads classic railroad encounter theme and its significance as an idiom of urban life in the twentieth century.

194 together united only by their common subjection to the imperatives of mass production and consumption, along with an equal sense of alienation from traditional relations. Transitory in nature, the train car serves equally as a site of chance encounter, solitude and alienation. But the train encounter is ultimately only a vehicle for the Internet encounter in Densha otoko. As the writer and literary critic Okazaki Takeshi observes, the real story is in the encounter within the virtual community and the thousands of netizens who turn a typical romance into an unusual event. 5 Thus the railroad in Densha otoko becomes ancillary to Internet as themes of transportation become supplemental to motifs of communication. The thematic shift reflects a fusion of train and Internet in contemporary Japan that transforms the train car from a spatiotemporal construct dominated by visual practices (specifically reading and image viewing) into a space and time marked equally by communication. The central character in the story is a twenty-two-year-old, selfproclaimed otaku, which is a term that has become part of an international vocabulary and which the OED defines as "a person extremely knowledgeable about the minute details of a particular hobby.. .spec, one who is skilled in the use of computer technology and is considered by some to be poor at interacting with others." 6 In Japan, more specifically, the term otaku is embedded within a vast social discourse on Japanese youth that encompasses concerns over the

Takeshi Okazaki, "Bestoseraa: shinsatsushitsu (Bestseller: Examination Room)," Chuokoron 120, no. 2 (2005): 264-65. Okazaki points out that if Densha otoko had merely been the story of one young man's struggle to confess his love to a woman it would not have been interesting. It is the effect of the countless anonymous posters who rush to help Densha that lends the story its energy.

J. A Simpson, and E. S. C Weiner, Oxford English dictionary (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993).

195 alienating effects of technology and perceptions of a refusal among the younger generation to submit to conventional structures of labor and production - of either capital or children. Typically male, anywhere from early teens to middleage, the otaku is seen as harboring an obsession for anime and manga, choosing its world of fantasy infused with depictions of fantastic futures and technologies, exhilarating battles and idealized (impossibly proportioned) female heroines over reality. He commits his life labor to this world, piously collecting related paraphernalia and embellishing, translating, pirating, remixing and circulating anime within a network among other otaku, which comprises his only ostensible link to other human beings, and remains comfortably within the parameters of his fantasy domain. It is not just that the otaku is skilled with computer technology, but moreover the perception of an inherent commensurability between the ontology of the computer and otaku practices. 7 In the capacity it provides for manipulating, organizing and storing vast amounts of data, its support of complex fantasy games, and its role in the creation of a seamless and perpetual distributed network for file sharing and virtual communication among discretely situated otaku, the computer seems to have emerged in direct response to the desires of otaku practices. The arrest in 1989 of Miyazaki Tsutomu, whom the media referred to as the "otaku serial killer," for the molestation and murder of four young girls that was supposedly motivated by an obsession with depictions of pre-pubescent

The notion of a correspondence between cultural practices and the ontology of the computer is a phenomenon that Lev Manovitch associates with the experience of new media in The Language of New Media (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2002). For example, Manovitch explains that the underlying algorithm structure behind the narrative of the fantasy computer game leads the gamer to try and "build a mental model of the computer model" in order to decipher the game's narrative strategy, which suggests "the projection of the ontology of a computer onto culture itself," Ibid., 221-225.

female heroines in anime and manga, brought the otaku into the media spotlight as a social deviant and figure of apprehension. On the heels of these crimes, Taku Hachiro debuted as a popular otaku television character, with a strikingly unattractive appearance of greasy hair and pale complexion. While bolstering the negative image of the otaku propelled to the fore by Miyazaki Tsutomu, Taku Hachiro was instrumental in transforming the otaku into a target of ridicule. In contrast to these negative images, international interest in the otaku in academia and the media has been spurred by the perceived relation between otaku and anime and the ascension of the latter over the past two decades to the status of a recognized global commodity and item. Concurrently, this international attention has provided momentum in Japan to an otaku discourse, to which the Tokyo University Professor, Azuma Hiroki is prominent contributor. Asserting the notion of an inherent postmodern quality to otaku practices, Azuma cites the otaku's penchant for simulacra, online communication and file-sharing, exploitation of a database of characters and narratives in the production of a supplemental fanzine-like body of work, and the otaku's ostensible disregard for the conventions of the mainstream profitoriented culture industry. 8

Hiroki Azuma, Geemu teki riarizumu no tanjyo: Dobutsuka sum postomodanisumu 2 (The Birth of Game-like Realism: Animalizing Postmodernism 2). Azuma refers to Densha otoko only in passing, pointing to its origin in net communication and authorless form, in the context of a larger argument concerning the nature of the light novel. At the center of the light novel, Azuma explains, is a database from which producers of stories borrow characters and narrative components, which then informs. The structure resembles something of a Clifford Geertz's notion of culture as a shared culture text but updated for a digital age. It also breaks down the difference between producer and consumer. Azuma's discussion of postmodernism, which he seems to suggest is instantiated in a superlative form in contemporary Japan in a manner that recalls theories of Japanese uniqueness, posits that in contrast to the idea that postmodernism marks the end of the meta-narrative, there is an overwhelming desire for meta-narrative that creates an excess. The essence, consequently, of the light novel lies not in the story, but in the meta-narrative established through the database of characters.

Densha otoko begins with a posting on an evening in March of 2004, by an anonymous individual who describes himself only as a twenty-two-year-old Akiba-kei otaku with no experience with women. 9 He reports that he has just returned from browsing stores in Akihabara and intervened when a drunk began harassing a young woman on the train home. A struggle ensued, he writes, but was brought to a quick conclusion when a young salaryman and then train attendants came to his aid. With the drunk subdued, he and some other passengers were asked to file a police report at the next station, following which the young woman asked him for his address, saying that she wanted to send a gift of thanks for his courage. Bewildered to find himself being thanked by (an attractive) young woman for the first time in his life, he explains that he complied but rushed away, thus missing perhaps the chance of a lifetime. When a thank-you gift of a Hermes teacup set arrives from the young woman two days later, the otaku again appears on the ni channeru forum to report the exciting development and seek advice. Inspired by the event, the ni channeru members rise to the occasion. They designate the otaku, "Densha otoko" (the "train man") - or just "Densha" ("Train") - and the young woman, "Hermes," on account of her gift, which they interpret as a sign of her refined character and tastes, and they coach Densha in his courtship of Hermes. They hold council on how Densha should ask Hermes on a date when he calls to thank her for the gift, and they prepare him for the date with a list of conversation topics, links to clothing stores, hairstylists and restaurants, ultimately transforming him from an otaku into an apparently regular adult

An "Akiba-kei otaku" is an otaku who frequents the "Electric Town" neighborhood around Tokyo's Akihabara train station, which is famous for its concentration of technology-related establishments.

male. In return, Densha relays to the forum members the events of the date and each subsequent date thereafter for just over two months, drawing their envy as well as their continuous encouragement as he works up the courage to confess his love to Hermes. In the course of the BBS exchange, one of the ni channeru participants compiled the discussion threads into chapter-like sections, entitling them "Missions." He also removed a significant amount of irrelevant chatter that filled the time waiting for Densha's appearances and added plot teasers. The final text from two months of virtual dialogue comprised six "Missions" plus an epilogue "congratulations" chapter and was left open to the public on the ni channeru website. A few months later, Shinchosha, picked u p the story and published it in the webpage format almost entirely without revision and under the penname "Nakano Hitori," (^SHlfeA).10 The penname, which means "one among the group," is a reference to all of the anonymous ni channeru writer/contributors at the same time that emphasizes the challenge the story presents to authorial conventions. As a result of the positive media attention, Akiba-kei otaku practices gained legitimacy as a culture of their own, spurring sudden wide interest in Akihabara establishments supposedly favored by otaku, like the maid-cafe's (meido cafe) staffed by young female waitresses in elaborate maid costumes. In contrast to the previous negative images of the otaku in the media, Densha otoko presented the otaku as naive but ultimately courageous, genuine, gentle and attentive.11

10 11

Hitori Nakano, Densha otoko (Tokyo: Shinchosha, 2004).

The positive representation led to an interpretation of the story as a preface for possible national rejuvenation in the face of Japan's declining birthrate problem. The premise derived

199 Densha otoko was marketed as a "pure love story/' a genre that was extremely popular at the time, but derived its novelty as an expression of otaku culture and an otaku romance. The latter was particularly instrumental in providing the story its counter-intuitive twist deriving from an assumption that an otaku is incapable of developing normal relations with a woman, let alone an attractive one.12 For the reader, Densha otoko's otakuness is announced decisively by its text, specifically its use of Japanese characters and symbols in a manner that conveys attributes typically associated with otaku practices, such as technological proficiency, playfulness, and compulsive energy. 13 Shinchosha also added a glossary of terms to the publication, but hid it under the front cover in order to augment the text's esoteric nature and give the reader the sense of entering a cryptic otaku realm.14 The idea was to maintain the sense that the story was from a different and secret world. The story's otakuness is also

from the subtext of densha otoko whereby Hermes' maturity, relaxed and confident attitude and refined tastes, which are all alluded to in the choice of nickname, labels her as make inu, (a woman in her thirties who has chosen her career and the freedom of remaining single over marriage). Picking up on this theme, in the months following the Shinchosha publication, articles on Densha otoko in mainstream monthly and weekly magazines focused on this aspect, re-evaluating the attractiveness of otaku and their potential marriageability, see "Densha otoko ga bumu ni" (Densha otoko becomes a boom), Spa, December 13,2005, 91; Yohei Fukui, "Densha otoko ni naritai bokutachi" (We want to Become Densha otoko), Aera, February 2, 2005,12-17; Hiroki Uchiyama, "Densha otoko yomu onna no ren 'aijukudo" (The Level of Romantic Maturity of Women Who Read Densha otoko), Aera, November 22, 2004, 29-30. Conversely, some otaku saw this development in less positive light, criticizing the premise in the story whereby Densha eventually transforms into a typical man in order to secure Hermes' affections, see for example Yohei Fukui, "Densha otoko no iya onna ron" (The Densha otoko discourse on undesirable women), Aera, October 17, 2005,16-19. This assumption was accentuated in the television mini-series of Densha otoko in the casting of the well-known fashion model Ito Misaki as Hermes, and to a slightly lesser extent in the film, by casting the actress/model Nakatani Miki as Hermes. "Thomas Lamarre's work "An Introduction to Otaku Movement," EnterText V 4:1 (2004): 151-87, offers an excellent understanding of many of the characteristics aligned with otaku practices by what he identifies as an "otaku discourse." He points specifically to discussions highlighting the element of play and obsessive energy associated with anime viewing. According to the Shinchosha editor, searching for a word in the hidden glossary would be like performing a kossori kensaku (secret Internet search).
14 12

200 communicated in the numerous instances in which the ni channeru members express admiration and envy of Densha by likening his descriptions of dates with Hermes to an overwhelming armed assault, which conforms to popular conceptions of the otaku as obsessed with weapons and depictions of war in anime and manga. 15 Numerous semantic and phonetic wordplays, extensive character transpositions from Hiragana and Kanji into Hankaku (Katakana) moji, emoji (picture characters) and elaborate graphic art in symbols and characters in Densha otoko, present a challenge to the attempt to describe the text. To begin to understand the nuance in meaning and effect produced by the combination and array of textual permutations would require an extensive analysis that is outside the bounds of this chapter. In offering a brief description here of some of the outstanding features, the point is to foreground the manner in which much of the text emphasizes the digital medium through a performance at a graphic level. Many of the wordplays in Densha otoko operate by means of a kind of textual disfiguring that utilizes homonymic, or phonetically similar Kanji. One prevalent example is the use of character for "poison" ?$ (doku) together with "man" ^B (otoko) to mean "bachelor." In contrast to the standard combination for the word using the Kanji for "single" %${ (doku), with "person" #(shin), and "man" ^ (otoko), # ^ , conveys an element of comic cynicism in the implication that otaku are either poisoned by their lack of a (female) partner or alone


1 explore the depictions of war and military metaphors in Densha otoko in an essay that will appear in the Mechademia: War/Time Volume #4: (Fall 2009).

201 because they are poisoned. Another frequent textual occurrence uses the Kanji/Hiragana combination for "leak" Mtl (more) to mean "I," instead of the proper Kanji, Wi (ore).16 As the writer and critic Suzuki Atsufumi notes in an analysis of Densha otoko, it is impossible to know whether such word plays originated intentionally or were initially the result of typographical errors and script conversion misses (henkan misu) - a kind of typographical error produced when inputting Japanese phonetically via a QWERTY keyboard for a digital medium. 17 In either case, the combination foregrounds the real time temporality of the medium, linking the input of text with its transmission (rather than storage) and subsequent impossibility of revision. Hankaku moji accentuate another dimension of the digital medium. They appear as half-width characters and are technologically distinct in their use of one byte of data, rather than two bytes required for Kanji and Hiragana. Significantly, according to the editor in charge of Densha otoko at Shinchosha, prior to the publication, hankaku moji were exclusive to digital media, setting them outside the domain of official publishing markets and conventional print economy. 18 In Densha otoko, words typically written in Hiragana, like tz (kita),


The use of "more" instead of "ore" also suggests the combination of ore to monachan, which refers to the ni channeru character monachan to mean "me and monachan."

Atsufumi Suzuki, 'Densha otoko' wa dare nanoka: "netaka" sum komyunikeishon (Who is Densha otoko: Neta-ization Communication) (Tokyo: Chuokoron Shinsha, 2005), 19-20. According to the editor, when Shinchosha initially approached their publishing section with the idea for the Densha otoko book they were told that it would be impossible without developing new printing technology. However, this may not be entirely accurate. It seems more likely that the difficulty arose from the slight disparity in the character display among different web browsers and operating systems. In other words, a character, symbol or spacing input on one type of web browser sometimes appears different on another type of web browser. Because of the unconventional use of characters and symbols, combined with the inability to know what web browser and system a specific poster is using, it would be impossible to determine the original text and intention. Again, this is a problem particular to the digital medium.

202 or in Kanji as Mfz.' meaning "to come/' are regularly converted to the hankaku moji, "W." The permutation produces a certain affect of playful exuberance and is used especially when Densha returns to the forum following his dates with Hermes. It plays as well on the expression, "the train has come/arrived" (densha ga kita). Emoji created using digital Shift_JIS symbols and character, often together with hankaku moji, further embellish the text with affect as in the following example expressing irrepressible excitement at Densha's return from a date: % -(-_-)*(_- )*K- )*?K )*#(' )**K V)*#!!( V )*# !!!! Although it seems

likely that emoji have a precedent in manga, they are an unequivocal index of digital communication. Companions to the emoticon, they work to infuse the text with sentiment pictorially. On keitai and computer messaging programs, there is an established emoji lexicon that is converted automatically on input to emoticon, such as ":)" being converted to "}." Most of the emoji in Densha otoko, however, are unique configurations that lack an emoticon equivalent and a significant amount of conjecture is required for comprehension. In some cases in the online text of Densha otoko, the emoji are animated and move around the screen. The animated emoji acknowledges that the superlative form of the emoticon is the animated emoticon but expresses a refusal to submit to the conventions of codification. The Shift_JIS symbols and characters are also an essential part of the ASCII-type graphic art that fills Densha otoko. The types of graphic illustrations created with this technique are diverse and impressive, denoting a considerable investment of time and effort. Some are only loosely connected with the topic of

203 the conversation thread, appearing more as displays of technological proficiency than relevant expressions. There are also many that supplement the military metaphors used by the forum members to equate Densha's reports of his romantic exploits with a battle.
i 1 A..A

" - <.<> > y







Nakano hitori Densha otoko's otaku premise may have provided the initial allure but its force derived from the way in which it spoke to a generation in Japan accustomed to perpetual networked connectivity. It made sense in a world in which keitai and web correspondence embellished with kaomoji (emoticons) and emoji (picture characters), virtual social networks, blogging, keitai novels, keitai and Internet dating/introduction sites have become part of everyday life. For Japan in 2004, Densha otoko denoted a condition, not an identity, determined by a relation to a technological network. Its significance as such was emphasized by the author's pen-name, Nakano Hitori - one among [the group]. In the Japanese, "group" is implied, not specifically denoted, thus leaving both its character and social parameters vague. Nakano hitori, one among the group, is distinct from the sociological condition and circumstances surrounding Ichikawa Kon's depiction of man'in densha. Whereas the crowd bespeaks "intimate alienation," nakano hitori denotes a being-in-connectivity to a finite unit within the framework of a larger

204 network. 19 Whether in reference to ni channeru, the extraordinarily popular Internet social networking site in Japan, mixi, (comparable to "facebook"), or a circle of contacts with whom one frequently exchanges email by keitai or computer, the terms of connectivity are similar. The network renders space insignificant, insisting only that relations be maintained over time between the finite members via a trade in petite fictions, or what is called in Japanese, neta. Conventionally, a term that denotes material for a newsworthy story, neta presumes an audience and a telling. For Suzuki Atsufumi, neta finds its ideal media in Internet communication. 20 Distinctions between truth and falsehood are not relevant to neta, he argues. What is essential is rather its capacity to defer dialogic closure by generating a discussion in which the original neta evolves either by digression or embellishment. Consequently, Suzuki argues, neta loses its essence when it is committed to print. The capacity for the incident on the train - the primary neta of Densha otoko - to generate two months of discussion thread engaging thousands of users was thus the measure of its success. Although the publication of Densha otoko marked an end to one

The expression "intimate alienation" is borrowed from Fujii, "Intimate Alienation: Japanese Urban Rail and the Commodification of Urban Subjects". I discuss Fujii's argument in the previous chapter in the context of the history and social impact of urban railroad development in early twentieth century Japan. In Fujii's work, "intimate alienation" refers to the character of relations within a crowded train car in which commuters are forced into physical contact with one another but remain complete strangers. It denotes visual intimacy divorced of social intercourse within a space imbued with desire mediated by commodity spectacle logic.


Atsufumi Suzuki, 'Densha otoko' wa dare nanoka: "netaka" suru komyunikeishon (Who is Densha otoko: Neta-ization Communication), 148-80. Suzuki also suggests that the neta is inherently opposed to European notions of truth and reason by virtue of the insignificance it places on distinctions of truth and falsehood. Sounding somewhat like Azuma Hiroki, he posits the neta as a traditional form of Japanese expression that embraces the concept of the "colorless and transparent floating concept" (mushoku tomei fuyubutsu), which operates much like the notion of a floating signifier. I would argue, however, that there is no particular reason to subscribe to such cultural rhetoric, especially considering how the neta seems to be part of the Internet and cell phone texting practices in the United States and Europe. Thus I employ only Suzuki's points on the general characteristics of the neta.


dimension of the neta, the topic the story generated in the media marked the beginning of another. On mixi, which is completely integrated with the keitai Internet browser and a favorite destination among commuters, users upload their neta to their "mixi diary" (mikushii no nikki) on their profile page, or submit as a discussion seed in one of the many mixi communities organized around a common subject, hobby or concern that they can join. At times, discussion is the result not of a good neta but rather a logic of reciprocity that determines that if one hopes for a response from individuals within one's exclusive network, one must at times write responses to their diary entries. At other times, a diary entry is the equivalent of a ping in the network - a query dispatched to determine whether or not there is a connection. Amid strangers on the train, these communications take the shape of a whisper in the ear. With the inclusion of emoticons (kaomoji) and emoji, they produce a textual terrain on a keitai screen that is the commuter's private window. Every message received or diary entry commented on is not only an affirmation of an existence by virtue of the social network it indexes, but also a piece of reassuring intimacy generated in the discrete affiliation to a network. Nakano hitori is a relational schema that works toward supplanting the significance of kinship and company as well as the classic binaries of public /private, individual/social. It is why we never hear of Densha's family in Densha otoko, even though he presumably lives with them. Within the schema of nakano hitori, nation, moreover, is relegated to the equivalent of the network's operating software or administration. It is significant only as a general environment and the procedures that one has to go through in order to connect;

it is something one deals with as a function, not a source of narrative or framework for identity. Unlike in Ichikawa Kon's film Man'in densha, in which nation is a central coordinate in the construction of the train as a metaphor of labor and mass society, the relegation of the train as secondary to the Internet in Densha otoko presumes to render nation insignificant in relation to the ni channeru community. 21 Thus, whereas the fate of the central character of Man'in densha, Moroi, coalesces with nation's socioeconomic trajectory, Densha's life is supposedly his own to transform. Where entrance into society and adulthood for Moroi is synonymous with the challenges of labor, fatigue, unemployment, overcrowding and fighting for a seat on the crowded train, for Densha, adulthood involves conforming to conventional practices of consumption learning how to shop for fashionable clothing, dine at trendy restaurants and frequent a hairstylist. His journey is one of self-discovery in which the otaku network and Hermes, not the nation, are the definitive coordinates. Despite this impulse, Densha otoko is ultimately inseparable from the concerns of nation and labor just as the story is inextricably connected to the train. After all, it is the tale of "The Train Man," not the "Ni channeru Man." Digital Narratives: Labor In its equation of otaku with the train and Internet communication, Densha otoko introduces the promise of an alternative economy and society into the heart of what has been an idiomatic scene of conventional labor and modern urbanity. Its transformation of the train from a vehicle of transportation into a site of communication serves to re-conceptualize labor as a form of symbolic play and communication for which the otaku is an exemplary figure. For the

See the discussion of Ichikawa Kon's film, Man 'in densha in the previous chapter.

207 generation born or assimilated into a Japan online, Densha otoko suggested creativity and potential inherent to a way of being-in-connectivity, rather than contingent on compliance to conventional educational protocol and corporate structures. Against a constant discourse in the media voicing anxiety over Japan's declining economic power and the fading luster of its corporate ideology, Densha otoko was evidence of the intrinsic vitality of Japan's digital youth. Japan's economic and cultural power, it said, is not in the supposed immutable Samurai spirit driving its corporations, as in the era of the economic Bubble in the 1980s. It is located rather in the production of fictions and fantasies compelled by a combination of the alienating effects of technology and enabling forces of Internet communication. 22 As a commodity born of communication, Densha otoko evokes Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri use of the notion, "immaterial labour." Hardt and Negri posit that "immaterial labour" is the hegemonic mode of labor within the contemporary global economy and they align it, over the course of a their twovolume work Empire and Multitude, with the emergence of new and progressive socioeconomic possibilities.23 In Empire, they define "immaterial labour" as


The notion of an immutable Samurai-like spirit behind Japan's so-called postwar economic miracle, which imploded with the end of Japan's economic Bubble in the late 1980s, was a common trope in what was then a popular discourse on Japanese cultural uniqueness known as nihonjinron. Produced by a combined scholarly and media effort within Japan, Europe and America, this discourse is vast and interdisciplinary.
23 Michael Hardt, and Antonio Negri, Empire; Michael Hardt, and Antonio Negri, Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire. Hardt and Negri's argument develops from their reading of Gilles Deleuze and re-reading of Marx's theories on class and labor. The multitude is fundamentally a class concept, but an alternative to what Hardt and Negri see as the impasse between Marx's insistence on class and labor unity for the proletariat, and liberal arguments of an ineluctable plurality of social classes. The multitude, by contrast, rejects the either/or premise. It is "an irreducible multiplicity; the singular social differences that constitute the multitude must always be expressed and can never be flattened into sameness, unity, identity, or indifference." Or, in other words, it is "singularities that act in common," see Ibid., 103-115. Relying on Deleuze for their primary notion of an excess that cannot be assimilated by relations

208 particularly relevant to three spheres of economy: it encompasses the communication through which factory production occurs in conjunction with real time information from the market; the exchange of knowledge and information in the service sector and intellectual labor involving the manipulation of symbols (including computer programming); and finally, the production and manipulation of affects within conditions involving virtual or actual human contact. Networked communication via computers is a central component in all three instances, supporting a matrix of human interaction rooted in communicative labor. The progressive emergent possibilities that Hardt and Negri align with this economy stem from their reading of a certain excess, a "pure immanence," in human labor that remains inaccessible to capitalism's abstracting processes and an inexhaustible drive behind human creativity, in the wake of which capitalism's official markets follow. In Multitude, Hardt and Negri extend this concept of "pure immanence" into the network of communicative labor to posit the emergence of a progressive social form, "the multitude." Analogous in form to the non-hierarchical, distributed network of the Internet, the multitude is inherently antithetical to the institutional structures of nation states. Where the nation is restricted by parochial economic concerns and antagonism between classes, the multitude embraces a globally
of capital, as well as their non-binary approach, Hardt and Negri are ultimately encumbered by what Reinhold Martin convincingly argues is Delueze's failure to make the network of communication account for itself, Martin, "The Organizational Complex: Cybernetics, Space, Discourse," 107. In other words, they do not adequately address the material implications of digital communication or the role of the network as the subject and medium of their own work. Slavoj Zizek also offers criticism of their work, focusing on the manner in which their theory fails to move away from Marx's notion of dialectic materialism, which it claims to do, see Slavoj Zizek, "Rethinking Marxism: Have Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri Rewritten the Communist Manifesto for the Twenty-First Century,"Symposia vol. 13, no. 3/4 (2001), http: / / / faculty / zizek/ zizek-have-michael-hardt-antonio-negri-communistmanifesto.html (accessed October 25, 2008); Slavoj Zizek, "Objet a as Inherent Limit to Capitalism: on Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri,"Lacan.Com (2005), (accessed October 25, 2008).

209 oriented consciousness. In contrast to the homogenizing imperatives inherent to national discourses, the multitude incorporates diversity. But networked communicative labor does not necessarily lead to unequivocally positive results for Hardt and Negri. Communicative labor, they argue, also operates to establish a new form of what Michel Foucault identified as "biopower." For Foucault, biopower is effected through the disciplining of the body in accordance with institutionally based discursive regimes of power and knowledge. Hardt and Negri posit, however, that in the context of communicative labor, biopower is exerted not just through the body, but rather in an assimilation of the mind into networks of communication and organization. In their words, "Power is now exercised through machines that directly organize the brains (in communication systems, information networks, etc.) and bodies (in welfare systems, monitored activities, etc.) toward a state of autonomous alienation from the sense of life and the desire for creativity."24 The result is a system of biopower that appears far more devious than the modern apparatus to which Foucault referred. Whereas the disciplinary forms of the modern institution implied a forceful imposition of power from the outside, the current regime is indicative of a more extensive colonization of the subject, as the process of subjugation via communication requires a willful sense of cooperation with the system. Hardt and Negri's vision corresponds in a number of ways with a general discourse that has arisen since the advent of the Internet concerning the possibilities and risks inherent to computer-mediated-communication, or CMC. Pointing to the manifestation of this discourse in what he calls, the digital

Michael Hardt, and Antonio Negri, Empire, 23.

210 narrative, Robert Coyne identifies a tendency to posit the computer based information society as an alternative to conventional autocratic, centralized and hierarchical structures of control.25 He argues that optimistic instantiations (like Densha otoko) celebrate the virtual community as an unprecedented sociopolitical unity that harmoniously incorporates diversity. By contrast, less optimistic digital narratives point to the threat individuation effected by (CMC) and the danger of cybernetic-like systems of surveillance. In either case, the network is regularly foregrounded as the subject and the medium of the story. When Densha otoko presented the online ni channeru community as populated with sincere "netizens" devoted to helping a stranger in disregard for personal gain, it tapped into the promises implicit in the digital narrative and put the otaku at the center of a new kind of society and economic potential. The connection was not without a certain logic: as Thomas Lamarre observes, there is a correspondence between otaku practices and Hardt and Negri's conceptualiztion of a "pure immanence" manifested in communicative labor.26 Without going as far as to subscribe to Hardt and Negri's vision of the emergent multitude, Lamarre's discussion points to the complicated relation between otaku practices surrounding anime and manga and official markets. He notes how otaku blur the lines between production and consumption, flattening the productive hierarchies into a distributive field of visual information; they produce as they playfully consume in private space through obsessive dissection and distribution of images within a network that (although resolutely outside


Richard Coyne, Technoromanticism: Digital Narrative, Holism, and the Romance of the Real (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1999). Lamarre, "An Introduction to Otaku Movement".

211 official channels of production) regularly feeds new material into them. Their productive labor, albeit highly disciplined, cultivates a playfulness that places it in definitive opposition to the disciplinary forms of conventional labor exemplified particularly by the salaryman in Japan. Densha otoko is exemplary of some of the main points in Lamarre's argument. The communication among its otaku participants amounts to a playful but diligent form of labor, most notably in the continuous online presence and the production of complicated graphic expressions. In addition, the manner in which the final story was painstakingly edited from the lengthy online archive and left on the web for Shinchosha to discover and profit from, as well as prompting publishers to seek similar literary forms, concurs with the processes whereby mainstream market follows in the wake of otaku productivity. 27 At the same time, the caveat that Hardt and Negri offer on the potentially acute effect of communicative labor in assimilating subjects is also certainly relevant to Densha otoko, albeit in a way that becomes clearer when looking at it in relation to keitai communication. Unrefined Vitality: the keitai novel The otaku communicative labor embodied in Densha otoko has its counterpart in the keitai novel (keitai shosetsu). If the train is thematically present in Densha otoko as a pretext for Internet communication, it is equally in attendance for the keitai novel as a principle site of consumption and even

In relation to this point, it is worth mentioning that densha-cum-author Nakano Hitori's financial benefit from the publication and other versions of the story was criticized on ni channeru under the pretext that, following an otaku code, the author should have remained anonymous and uncompensated. The question of Densha's identity or whether the person who represented the thread for Shinchosha was the one who edited the online archives is an unsolved riddle. The editor at Shinchosha claims to have met the real Densha. She described him as simple, shy, very well mannered (reigi tadashii).

212 production - as in the case of one of the bestselling keitai novelists of 2007, who composed her work on her keitai during her commute, uploading a chapter at a time. Whereas Densha otoko and ni channeru is associated with male communicative labor on account of its explicit otaku relation - even though some of the participants state that they are female - the keitai novel is the domain of female communicative labor, as the majority of keitai authors and readers are women in their late teens and twenties. Along with established publishers, like Shinchosha, which was one of the first to develop the keitai novel as a literary product, there are numerous smaller electronic publishers and mixi-like websites offering keitai novels. Readers can either download the novel in its entirety from a keitai Internet browser or subscribe to have chapters transmitted daily before the morning commutes to keitai email accounts. Depending on the length and publisher, the price is typically between 300 to 500 yen.28 Part of the allure of the keitai novel, explained Nakagawa Mariko, the manager and editor at a small electronic publisher called Asayomu ("morning read"), stems from a combination of the economic recession and convenience. For readers used to serialized stories in magazines but who do not want to spend the 300 to 500 yen for only one installment amid other stories, the keitai novel is the perfect solution, providing the whole story for the same price. Similarly, unlike a magazine or book, there is nothing one has to remember to carry, other than the keitai, which is always at hand. As with Densha otoko, the story of the first keitai novel is something of a legend. The first keitai novel is said to be a story called Deep Love that appeared

Between 2004 and 2007, the exchange rate for 100 yen varied between 90 cents and $1.10.

in 2001. The main character is a teenage girl named Ayu who lives near Tokyo's Shibuya center and engages in enjokosai (assisted dating/prostitution). The trope of "pure love" also enters the story as the main character sacrifices herself for an unconsummated and impossible love, dying at the conclusion of AIDS.30 Its author, who takes the enigmatic penname, Yoshi, was supposedly driven by concern for the welfare of the Shibuya girls. But lacking the funds and credentials to publish, as well as wanting to reach the girls via a medium that had become central to their lives and enjokosai, Yoshi uploaded his work to a website where it could be accessed by keitai and then distributed the keitai browser address on a card to the girls he met on the streets.31 Similar to Densha otoko, the story became a phenomenal success subsequent to its publication in book form and adaptation for film. This success spurred Yoshi to write several more stories depicting the culture of Shibuya through the eyes of its various youth practitioners. If recording thresholds structured the perception of reality and literature in the era of analog media, bandwidth restrictions, processor speed and data transmission fees determine the nature of the world in the contemporary moment. 32 Initially, keitai technology limited transmissions to five hundred

29 30

Yoshi, Deep Love (Tokyo: Tosho Printing Company, 2003). Ayu is estranged from her family and lives with a boyfriend in the Shibuya area. Most of her profit from enjokosai goes to her parasitical boyfriend. Depicted as particularly beautiful and essentially pure-hearted, Ayu is a tragic figure whose fate follows classic urban tropes. Deprived of the secure bonds of familial relations and subjected to the greed and exploitation of Tokyo, she eventually finds momentary happiness before succumbing to her sickness.

The keitai has been a central device in the enjokosai phenomenon, allowing girls to be perpetually accessible and free agents.

In Gramophone, Film, Typewriter, Friedrich Kittler suggests, in conjunction with his central argument that the nature of a society's culture depends on its technologies of inscription and data storage media, that the recording threshold of particular storage media determine the character of the real. The argument builds from the idea that when photographs captured what

characters, which naturally constrained chapter content for writers. Since keitai service providers also charged users according to the data packets transmitted and received, the combination of using the keitai browser to find and download a novel or receive installments daily could quickly amount to a considerable monthly service fee, which discouraged would-be keitai novel readers. In 2004, the advent of new keitai technology that allowed a significant increase in the character limit - anywhere from 1000 to 3000 characters per transmission depending on the technology and service - together with the introduction of keitai service plans with unlimited or cheaper data packet fees, accompanied a proliferation of keitai novels and increase in readership. Not only did more keitai users begin reading keitai novels, but also more readers began writing their own keitai novels. Amidst these changes, a website called maho irando facilitated the proliferation of writers by offering a service that allowed keitai users to upload their weblogs directly into a keitai novel format. The site transformed the mixitype users into keitai novel writers, blurring any remaining distinction between neta, email, and literature, or reader, writer, consumer and producer. As with any literary genre, the variety of themes and writing styles among keitai novels make it difficult, if not impossible, to draw summary conclusions. One prominent feature of the genre, however, is its abundance of romance (renai) stories, which includes stories of encounter as well as betrayal and separation. In addition, a stylistic characteristic is writing that tends to be terse, disjointed, and unsophisticated. Consequently, that five of the bestselling
the naked human eye could not see and the gramophone recorded what the naked ear could not hear, the perception of reality became contingent on technological mediation. Consequently, the perception of reality was subject to the specific recording limit, meaning that as technology improved and was able to capture more data with each recording, reality also appeared to include more phenomenon

215 novels in 2007 were initially keitai novels, the top three of which were written by first time authors, was for some evidence of the depth to which Japanese fiction had fallen. For others, it was the sign of untold and untapped talent of Japan's younger generation. A demonstration of literary rigor in refined prose is not the point of the keitai novel. Rather, its allure rests in its capacity to convey a compositional spontaneity, in the context of which imperfections testify to writing that was transmitted without being subjected to editing. The effect recalls what Friedrich Kittler observes was an association between the gramophone and the Freudian unconscious in early twentieth-century discourse, one that derived from the gramophone's ability to capture sound, whether meaningful or in the form of "interruptions and paralalia, nonsensical words and puns" through which psychoanalysis determined the unconscious manifested itself.33 The difficulty of revising a text on small keitai screen, combined with the sense that messages are composed often in a state of semi-distraction while doing other things and are an expression of thoughts in real time, lends itself to the notion that the text is prone to unintentional and revealing errors. That the keitai text is never the result of an automatic process of inscription, however, creates an important

Ibid., 87. Paralalia is defined in the medical dictionary as a disorder of speech, especially the production of a vocal sound different from the one desired. Kittler's argument is based on the idea that before the technologies of automatic inscription of Discourse Networks 1900, sound (and image) could only be transcribed via the twenty-six letters of the alphabet. Thus noise and nonsensical expressions were not only beyond the expressive range of the alphabet, but also eliminated by the intervention of a conscience sublimated via social and censorial imperatives that made writing always an "unintentional" selection of meaning. The gramophone, with its automatic process of inscription, was the first media capable of recording sounds regardless of meaning, which it did in a particular relation to time. When the gramophone recorded sound as vibrations whose frequency (oscillation/second) determined pitch, Kittler explains, it captured coherent segments of time, in contrast to film, which captures segments of time in its twentyfour image frames per second. The decisive corollary that Kittler makes is to show that in the context of twentieth century discourses, the phonographic recording becomes associated with the Freudian unconscious and Lacanian Real on account of this capacity to capture real time together with its aural phenomenon.

216 difference. Rather than absenting human intervention, it foregrounds the presence of an unedited texting subject, which together with the decisive youthfulness betrayed by the simplicity of the themes, evokes the sense of revealing a cultural vitality liberated from the constraining forces of Japan's conventional institutions through the individually empowering effects of digital communication. Supposedly bypassing the traditional organs of national culture encrusted with layers of bureaucracy, greed and rigid protocol, the keitai novel promises to free the minds of Japan's youth, allowing its unsung talent to blossom. A keitai novel from 2004, entitled Rikon kinenbi (Divorce Anniversary) and comprising four short stories serialized over a one month period provides a good example. In the final installment, the author explains that she wrote the stories years before when she was twenty and unmarried, but only recently rediscovered them on a floppy disc and decided to submit them without revisions. The initial chapter of the first story, which concerns a woman who determines to leave her husband for reasons that are never made entirely clear, is indicative of style throughout the four stories:

I decided to say goodbye. I was going to leave in the near future anyway. I thought it'd be ok to wait for the time to come, but waiting time dragged on too long. My husband (otto) is a good man, perhaps too good. Not that you {anata) did mt. fcfcfcg*Bffc'i>*fcl*fc3l::fc, anything wrong, but I # s t fcfcfcfcfrfc LJg*i3f fcS> fcl*fc 3 lc exhausted myself thinking about you. oTi*3i*fry-e**i-cL*of=o I tried not to interfere with your life, and I suppose you did the same for me. I've grown tired caring. It's been nearly half a year since I started thinking about this. Nothing prevents my separating from you. Even after our marriage, I continued to work. I guess, I was thinking ahead of time, to secure a life. I haven't told him anything. If I don't come out with it, he'll never realize.

The text reads like an email glimpsed over the shoulder of a fellow commuter on manin densha. Shifting after the first paragraph from "my husband" (otto) to "you" (anata) the lines take on the character of an intimate and urgent message implicating the reader in a failed romance. The switch back to "him" in the last lines transforms the reader yet again to either close friend and confidant, or participant in an unfolding romantic drama. In the following chapter, the woman manages to tell her husband she wants to end their marriage and he departs amicably the next day, leaving her a warm letter that fills the content of three chapters. Without any significant resolution, the story ends with her phoning a male acquaintance and setting u p a date to meet.

218 Publication in book form is the mark of success for the keitai novel. Adaptation to cinema, as with Yoshi's Deep Love, is the penultimate accomplishment. The digital medium, it seems, is only the initial ground for the products of immaterial labor as an imperative for reverse media compatibility determines that a successful work appear in conventional media formats. Conceptually, this imperative is the equivalent of what makes the story of Densha otoko inseparable from the train and why inevitably, it too, had to be adapted for film. The train, in Densha otoko, is the narrative pretext as well as a medium of representation. It is what lends the disembodied communication of ni channeru its embodied and social setting and what makes it accessible to an audience. Although the product of discrete communication, Densha otoko, like the successful keitai novel, eventually conforms to conventional trajectories of mass media that are instantiated in the combination of cinema and train. Following from the discussion presented in the first chapter of this thesis, the dissemination of the message between components must eventually return to an iconic system of representation. The return to the train, to book and cinema, also suggests that immaterial labor is ultimately indivisible from experiences of material, embodied labor. The promise of the immaterial labor of the keitai novel or Densha otoko is commensurate with what Slavoj Zizek identifies as the attempt by Fascism to create a "capitalism without capitalism" by containing capitalism's excess.34 The


Zizek associates capitalism with an excess that derives from its elevation of a perversion to the principle of social life. Capitalism survives by constantly exceeding its own conditions, not through immanence in labor but rather through a compulsion that points to an analogous structure in the relation between the self and the Real and the formation of exchange value.

219 keitai novel offers something similar, but by exactly the opposite means. Through excess - the irreducible immanence in labor - it promises to secure a freedom from the conditions of capitalism manifested so viscerally and so clearly in the everyday occurrence of the packed commuter train. Densha otoko, mixi and the keitai novel support this dream of liberation by turning the banal and compulsory scene of the train into the possibility not only of unfettered individual expression and encounter, but also the chance for unprecedented monetary success. They impart to their readers the idea that the neta, or text composed in distracted engagement, can become an unprecedented national phenomenon. The catch is that the emancipation offered from the train is in the end a product of the train and the socio-economic conditions of which the train is a part. Transportation, that is, produces a desire for communication. The keitai novel, mixi and to some extent even email allow one to inhabit the transportation network corporeally while mentally jaunting through an alternative communication network. Similar to conventional reading material, it produces a way to be on the train without consciously being on the train. The keitai''s real time modality, however, enhances the reality of its alternative domain while adding to it an unprecedented allure of intimacy. Among the various forms of keitai communication for which their exemplary moment is in the train system, nothing brings together the elements of intimacy, petite fiction, and fantasy better than the keitai introduction site, or keitai deaikei saito.

Fascism, Zizek writes, "emerged as an attempt to master capitalism's excesses, to build a kind of capitalism without capitalism," see Slavoj Zizek, "The Ongoing "Soft Revolution"," Critical Inquiry 30.2, no. Winter (2004): 292-323.

220 Fictions of Encounter: Internet Dating Sites The keitai deaikei saito combines the sense of discrete affiliation of mixi or ni channeru with the fiction of the ketai novel and compulsion for connectivity that drives keitai emailing. Driven by the fiction of encounter, the space and time of the train is its paradigmatic moment. A site called "the commuter club" (tsukin kurabu) makes this apparent when it appeals to the repetitive trauma of commuter alienation to promote the intimacy through connectivity that it promises: Commuter club is a program designed to offer a wonderful encounter in the train for those commuting to work or school everyday. Isn't there
someone who you want to become acquainted with during your daily commute? If there is but you can't seem to approach them, or if for some reason there is no one you know and your commute would be so much more enjoyable if you had a partner for small talk, then this is the homepage to realize that dream. You can sign up right away. First time users should make sure to read the instructions and index carefully.

From the homepage, commuters select their train line along with their home station and departure time in order to find others sharing the same commute. Correspondence via the site's BBS is then ideally supposed to lead to a face-toface encounter, the two correspondents eventually determining in which train car to meet and how to identify one another. The caution advised in final lines signals a reality that is contradictory to the ideal (pure love) laid out in the description of the site. If the train produces an equal possibility of romance as it does crime, the same holds true within the virtual commute of digital media. Just signing u p for the commuter club BBS, which requires providing a keitai email address, means that within a few days one receives countless messages directly to one's keitai mail that while divergent in details follow a paradigmatic narrative. "Hi, this is Tomoe (27 yr. old) from the commuter club

221 site," begins a typical message, "I haven't been able to get out at all lately because of all kinds of trouble at work and so I thought I'd send you a message. Waiting to hear from you, bye." A message from someone calling her self, "Mari," takes a slightly less direct approach: I hope this mail isn't too sudden. Let me first introduce myself. My name is Mari, strange name, isn't it? I only recently discovered that in its origin it's connected to a kind of flower that means elegant woman. I'll be 23 this year. Because I failed the college entrance exams once, I'm still in school but a fourth year student this year. I'm hoping to travel some time soon, in part to do research for my graduation thesis. I'm thinking of going to various places in Japan but haven't decided yet where. Which reminds me, where do you live. I hope this message hasn't been an inconvenience for you... The tone mixes boldness, naivety, playfulness and sophistication. Mentioning that she only recently discovered the origin of her name suggests that she is in a phase of self-exploration, which lends the receiver of the message to believe that she may be eager to augment her search with sexual adventure. Not a regular shakaijin (member of the working society), but also not entirely fitting in with the other university students because of her late entrance, she is somewhat out of place in life. She thus presents herself as vulnerable and unsure about what awaits her in life. Her mention of the possibility of travel provides the final element of the fantasy, suggesting that the receiver may be invited to join her (or could persuade her to invite him) and conjuring images of evenings with her at a secluded hot spring resort {onsen) - all in the name of her research. But the essence of the fantastic power of the message derives from the manner in which it lends itself to the notion that it was composed specifically for the recipient, which is effected not only through the direct appeal to a "you" but also by the arrival of the message to a keitai - a device that is highly personal and always kept close to the body.

222 Follow-up messages sent whether one replies or not, invariably explain how a combination of factors has led to a situation in which the woman is either alone or in need of help. The nature of the reply to such messages never matters. A reply demonstrates only that first, transmission has been received (i.e., the address is legitimate) and second, an interest in receiving further transmissions. In actuality, as revealed in investigative television programs probing the keitai deaikei saito phenomenon, the messages often emanate from something like the digital equivalent of sweat-shop-labor environments - rows of computer terminals packed into dingy offices. There is also no guarantee the sender of the message is even a woman, and absolutely no chance that if it is a woman she resembles the photograph that sometimes accompanies first contact since the images are from a repertoire of characters. More story-message than dialogue, the keitai deaikei saito message overlaps with the keitai novel transmitted in brief chapters to a mail address. To read a keitai novel and the mail from keitai deaikei saito is to engage in a fiction driven by the in-between moment of the commute. The difference is only the illusion of authenticity that is paramount to the rhetoric of the keitai deaikei saito site message and the connection between correspondence and capital that drives the site. The first messages like the one cited above are only decoys to entice the receiver to sign up for a site where he will be able to continue to correspond with the imaginary young woman by purchasing points. In contrast to the ideal of an actual meeting suggested by the "commuter club" site explanation, the object is not to meet in person but the pursuit of a fiction and fantasy through correspondence. An exchange of messages leads to more text, and a relationship defined in popular language as meeru-tomo, a "mail-friend," not to sexual

223 encounters. The users of keitai deaikei saito are not being deceived, as an article concerning the phenomenon in the Japan Times newspaper suggests, in view of the fact that while correspondence can never result in actual meeting, it can quickly produce an enormous invoice.35 They are engaged, rather, in a practice of cognizant fetishism for which the only aberration is in the acute manner in which it instantiates the truth of value under capitalism.36 If for the deaikei site company correspondence produces capital, for the commuter the appeal is in the creation of a secret network of discrete affiliation. Conclusion To ride the train is to be made to desire social interaction and to be repelled at the same time by thought of interaction. The Internet keitai fits perfectly into this schema by introducing the possibility of intimate discourse and countless fictions, especially of encounter, into the space and time of the train without disturbing the composition of the overall social environment. Train system and Internet thus appear as complimentary networks: the space and time of the train forces proximity to strangers without discourse, while keitai communication produces intimate discourse without proximity. This relation of reciprocity extends, moreover, to the train as a vehicle of labor. Transportation produces communication not as an alternative but as part of its economic

James McCoy, "Flirting With Whom? And At What Price? Fancy On-Screen Romance with a Cherry on Top," Japan Times, January 20, 2008. After providing several examples of decoy messages, which are similar to the ones I cite above from the "Commuter Club," the article explains that a single correspondence point can cost between 500 to 1000 yen (around $4.50$9.00). The article also quotes a former ketai deai site employee who tells of billing users for 600,000 yen a month, which is around $5,500. In addition, the article confirms that an actual meeting is never a possibility. It is important to mention that this type of fictional correspondence exists alongside actual institutionalized prostitution (fuzoku) that is confined to specific areas in the city, usually around the train station.

Borrowing from Zizek, again, we might say that the users of the keitai deaikei saito, "know what they are doing but just keep doing it."

224 structure. Densha otoko emphasizes this particularly through its insistence on maintaining the train at the center of its narrative, and in its title as well as in its trajectory through media formats from Internet to book, manga, anime and finally film. Based on the discussion of the relation between train and cinema that begins this chapter, the making of Densha into a film amounts to a return to cinema that reestablishes the conditions of mass transportation and mass media. In opening u p the space and time of the train to communication, the keitai and Internet provide a dimension for eventfulness that exists alongside the railroad. If the nature of the event within the train tends to be visual, the event within cyberspace is communicative. Encounter is one kind of event that merges these two dimensions of experience and the other, as we will see in the next chapter, is death.



Tension on the platform peaks as the train enters the station. It is a moment of uncertainty and anticipation. The train may either roll to a gentle stop at the end of the platform, as it usually does, or come to a sudden halt following the sickening "thud" of body against machine, screams, and the screech of the metal wheels on steel rail in a jinshinjiko (human accident). The popular use of such imprecise terminology is intentional and an attempt to gloss what is often an act that bespeaks decisively of intention: tobikomi jisatsu (suicide by jumping in front of the train). Since 1998 over 30,000 people have committed suicide every year in Japan, putting it near the top of the list of countries with the most suicides per year.1 The average age of victims has also dropped considerably to include a disproportionate number of juveniles. Statistically speaking, tobikomi jisatsu is not the most popular method of suicide in Japan. Far more people consistently choose to kill themselves by much less spectacular means. In 2005, for example, according to numbers published by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare 19,365 people hung themselves, 4,494 used gas, 2,333 jumped from a high place, 919 drowned 727 stabbed themselves with a sharp object and 666 people jumped
1 In Law in Everyday Japan: Sex, Sumo, Suicide, and Statutes (Chicago: University of Chicago, 2005), Mark D. West offers a helpful comparison in terms of population, explaining that the suicide rate in the United States was also over 30,000 in 2001. But the population base in the USA is nearly double that of Japan. He adds that although comparative statistics are inevitably flawed because of different systems of categorization used in each country, according to the World Health Organization, Japan's male suicide figures are among the highest in the world even while life expectancy is also high.

226 in front of trains. 2 Even with the consideration that many suicides on the train lines are ultimately categorized as accidents for various reasons that will be explained, the number is still not as high as it is for the other methods. 3 Suicide by jumping in front of the train may not be the most popular method for killing oneself in Japan but it occupies a central place in the social imaginary, no doubt in part for the chaos it creates. In Joseph Conrad's novel, The Secret Agent (1907), a Russian anarchist and agent provocateur schemes to undermine Western society and political economy by destroying the Greenwich Observatory. As Stephen Kern suggests, Conrad could not have picked a more eminent "anarchist objective" and "symbol of political authority" for an act of resistance to modernity than the center point for the computation of modern global time. 4 Considering the centrality of the train system in urban Japan as in institution of time and medium of social and economic order, what could be a more profound expression of discontent than bringing the system to a grinding halt and creating irreparable temporal disorder by throwing one's body into the apparatus? Tobikomi jisatsu is a decisively public act that impacts thousands of people at once. Since the 1990s, the number of incidents labeled jinshinjiko involving a

Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, "Heisei 17 nen: Jinko dotai chosa (2005: Vital statistics survey)," http: / / / toukei / data / 010 / 2005 / toukeihyou / 0005626 /10124461 / MC36000 0_001.html (accessed October 6, 2008).

According to the Ministry of Transportation, in 2004 there were 857 jinshinjiko on the on the railroads overall. Even if all of these accidents were suicides, which they are not, the number still does not top the other methods. Stephen Kern, The Culture of Time and Space 1880-1918,16.

227 person being hit by a train has risen steadily. 5 In Tokyo and Osaka, jinshinjiko regularly bring train service to halt for thirty to forty minutes, and sometimes for over an hour (depending on how badly the body is mangled in the train) with incalculable economic impact. Before train service can resume after such an event, the police must be called to examine the scene and determine cause of death (i.e. suicide, accident or even murder), and fire fighters are called to remove the body. Once both groups have finished, the rail and train infrastructure is inspected for damage that could lead to another accident. The most difficult task, however, involves recovering the daiya from what in railroad technological parlance is termed the "schedule disturbance." 6 Even before the police or fire fighters arrive, the stationmaster provides an estimate to the train central command of how long clean u p will take so that the time consuming activity of recalculating the daiya can begin. Naturally, the more crowded the train line at the time of the accident, the more it causes diagram disruption {daiya no midare) - meaning the more trains are cancelled and the longer it will take for the system to recover. Prior to the early 1990s, when re-calculation of the daiya was done without the aid of a computer, recovery sometimes took several hours. The necessity to reduce this time in light of the rise in the number of train suicides was, in part, a driving force behind the development of a state-of-theart computerized train traffic control system discussed in Chapter One.

Having said as much, the data is extremely difficult to find, which is something that will be dealt with later in the chapter. Overall, however, the train companies and statistics bureau acknowledge that number of incidents rose sharply in the 1990s and has leveled off since then, without however decreasing considerably.

See, for example, publications on railroad technology from the 2000 International Workshop on Autonomous Decentralized Systems, Kitahara et al., "Autonomous Decentralized Traffic Management System"; Matsumoto, "The Revolution of Railway System by Using Information Technology".

228 Such drastic and innovative technological measures followed an attempt to reduce the number of suicides by more traditional means. On December 1, 1995, Asahi Shimbun reported that on November 30, a group of fifty JR East stationmasters from four different areas between Tokyo and Sagamiko Station on the Chuo Line participated in a Shinto purification ritual (oharai) in an effort to reduce the rising number of suicides on the line.7 Gathering at different Shinto Shrines along the route, the stationmasters were led by shrine priests in a prayer for safety. As the stationmaster from Tachikawa was reported in saying, it was somewhat of a desperate measure to curb an unexplainable increase in incidents that year. Placing doubt on the effectiveness of the ritual, however, an article in the same newspaper nearly three weeks later on the December 19, reported that a woman had been injured apparently trying to jump in front of the train in Mitaka station on the afternoon of the previous day. 8 Despite the significant impact on the temporal continuum and economic solvency of the everyday suicides on the train lines cannot be reduced to mere expressions of resistance, since even in instances in which a note is left any suicide is a potentially multivalent act. As one author on the subject of suicide writes, "No act is more ambiguous than suicide, a riddle cast in the teeth of those who live on." 9

"Ekichosan "kamidanomi" jisatsu tsuzuki, kyuyo JR chuo sen Tokyo" (Stationmasters "Entreaty to Deities" Suicides Continue, Desperation on Tokyo's Chuo Line), Asahi Shimbun, December 1, 1995. "Oharai" is often translated as a Shinto Purification Ritual and carries the sense of appeasement of the spirits.

"Child sen de jinshinjiko 'oharai' koka nashi, Tokyo" (Human Accident on the Chuo Line "Entreaty to Deities" Useless, Tokyo)," Asahi Shimbun, December 19,1995.

Maurice Pinguet, Voluntary Death in Japan (Cambridge, UK; Cambridge, MA: Polity Press, 1993), 27. In the majority of train suicides, there is no suicide note. It is possible that this stems from a fear that the railroad will demand compensation from the bereaving family if the act can

The literature on suicide is vast and inconclusive, with the subject being discoursed over the course of centuries from within various social institutions and academic disciplines, each appropriating it into the rhetoric of its own principles. 10 Much of this literature argues that even when suicide is ostensibly a private act, its interpretation as a public gesture is inevitable, thus imbuing it with tones of resistance. Suicide, that is, speaks of social limits. That a member of society chooses the most definitive and desperate of all possible actions, rather than continue to endure life under the present conditions, points to the failure of a society's institutions and principle ideology. Immanuel Kant, for example, saw suicide as the penultimate of antisocial actions. He argued that it was an affront to the humanity in oneself by its exploitation of the body as a medium to an end, and that it amounted to a rejection of all that society upholds such that it could serve only to undermine confidence in the established system of values. 11 In the history of the discourse on suicide, Emile Durkheim's sociological study was seminal in reframing and formulating suicide vis-a-vis social

be decisively designated a suicide. The railroad's right to seek compensation is a topic to which I will return later in the chapter. I am drawing here on Edwin Shneidman's suggestion that, "The locus of conceptualization of suicide is set by the church, the government, books, mores, society, writers, and leading-edge intellectuals. It reflects the Zeitgeist: the commonly held beliefs that are 'in the air'," see Edwin S Shneidman, Comprehending Suicide: Landmarks in 20th-century Suicidology (Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2001), 8. Immanuel Kant, Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals, trans. Thomas K Abott (Indianpolis; New York: Bobbs-Merrill Co, 1949), 140. Kant writes that "under the head of necessary duty to oneself: He who contemplates suicide should ask himself whether his action can be consistent with the idea of humanity as an end in itself. If he destroys himself in order to escape from painful circumstances, he uses a person merely as a mean to maintain a tolerable condition up to the end of life. But a man is not a thing, that is to say, something which can be used merely as means, but must in all his actions be always considered as an end in himself. I cannot, therefore, dispose in any way of a man in my own person so as to mutilate him, to damage or kill him."
11 10

conditions, as opposed to arguing its ethical and religious implications, or focusing strictly on its individual psychological determinants. Under the premise that society is composed of individuals and that those individuals are the result of a group of collective attributes, Durkheim identifies three types of suicide that are indicative of an excess or deficiency in the economy of this relation: egoistic, altruistic and anomic suicide.12 He also spends the first chapter refuting the notion of an emulative, or contagious factor behind suicide, which it can be argued needs to be reconsidered in light of technological developments since Durkheim's era, in particular electronic mass-media. Contagion, in Durkheim's argument, implies true imitation as it assumes no cognitive process occurring between one's visual encounter with the representation of an act and one's performance of a similar act - like a yawn, for example. 13 But is this not precisely the source of anxiety for many critics of contemporary mass media, who argue that real time communication technology precludes the possibility of

Emile Durkheim, Suicide: A Study in Sociology, trans. John A. Spaulding (New York: Free Press, 1966). Egoistic suicide is the result of excessive individualism, when a weakened collective force no longer has the power to interpellate the individual into the social, leaving him or her to live by his or her rules and desires. Altruistic suicide reflects an inverse condition, when the individual succumbs to the rules or pressure of the collective, which Durkheim associates with "primitive" societies ("primitive" meaning organic, as opposed to mechanical, according to Durkheim's central theory on social evolution) in which the concept of the individual has not fully developed. Finally, anomic suicide is most indicative of the modern condition and is associated, among other things, with the disruption of social relations brought on by sudden changes in society as well as the insatiable desires instilled by the modern market economy, Ibid., 132. It is also worth mentioning in "Halbwachs and Durkheim: A Test of Two Theories of Suicide," The British journal of Sociology 41, no. 2 (1990): 225-43, Robert Travis suggests that the outcome of anomie and egoism are similar for Durkheim in that both presume the individual's estrangement from society and onset of loneliness.


Durkheim's final refutation against imitation is not that it does not produce suicides, but rather, that it cannot produce them where there is not already a "social predisposition" to the act. What exactly constitutes a "social predisposition" is another equally difficult question to answer.

231 cognitive intervention between transmission and reception? 14 Moreover, as we will see throughout the following chapter, fear of "contagion" has been an operative factor in determining how information concerning suicide on the train lines is circulated and handled in Japanese society.15 The point is not to offer a Durkheimian reading, or for that matter any specific theorization of train suicides. Durkheim is simply the starting point as his work provides the initial theoretical reference in much of the literature concerning suicide.16 While referring to this literature at points, this chapter attempts to understand train suicides in regards to the centrality of the train system in urban Japan as an institution of time and order and fixture in everyday life. It does not seek to determine why suicides occur as often as they do on the train lines in Tokyo and Osaka, but rather how and via what media their occurrence is recounted. It seeks, moreover, to understand how a society


1 am thinking in particular of Paul Virilio's theses in Open Sky; Politics of the Very Worst: An Interview by Philippe Petit. See as well Jean Baudrillard, The Ecstasy of Communication (Brooklyn, N.Y.: Autonomedia, 1988).

In The Enigma of Suicide (New York: Summit Books, 1991), George Colt tells of a suicide fad in 1930s Japan that offers another precedent for the consideration of the role of contagion through the media. Colt describes how in 1933 when 21 year-old female student from a school in Tokyo leapt into the Mihara-Yama volcano on Oshima Island, the sensationalization of her death in the media provoked a copy-cat craze that led to 804 males and 140 females throwing themselves into the volcano between 1933 and 1935. Also, Takahashi Yoshitomo points to the influence of mass media in a spike in the number of suicides in 1986. He explains that the sensationalization of an incident in which a junior high school student committed suicide as a result of bullying (ijime) led to numerous copycat incidents. In the same year, following the tremendous attention mass media devoted the popular singer and idoru, Okada Yukiko's suicide by jumping from a building, over thirty of her fans followed suit within a two week period, see Yoshitomo Takahashi, Chukonen jisatsu: Sono jittai to yobo no tameni (Middle and Old Age Suicide: How to Prevent that Reality) (Tokyo: Mimatsu, 2003), 17-18. While drawing from Durkheim, much of this literature is also critical of Durkheim's assumptions and attempts to adapt his theories to the conditions of different eras and cultures. An important critique of Durkheim was offered by a contemporary of Durkheim, Maurice Halbwachs, who developed a social psychological theory of suicide that takes into account the impact on the individual's psyche of conditions of social estrangement and instability. For a good summary of the difference between the two thinkers, see Travis, "Halbwachs and Durkheim: A Test of Two Theories of Suicide".

232 has come to contain the disruptiveness of train suicides at a logistic and emotional level. Despite a perception propagated via cinema in Europe and North America, and through the canonization of the works of modern Japanese authors who eventually killed themselves, suicide is not readily accepted as a fact of life in Japan. It is apprehended as a serious problem among private, religious and government institutions. In concurrence with the doctrines motivating such institutions and organizations in other countries, suicide is understood to reflect economic, social, and psychological crises.17 With this in mind, this chapter rejects a body of literature that attempts to explain suicide in Japan in terms of the specificity of social pressures and traditional social mores unique to Japanese culture. Positing such notions as the persistence of a Japanese bushido warrior ethic, or the impenetrability of Japanese society for the Westerner, this literature takes its premise from the once popular nihonjinron discourse.18 In contrast to these works, this chapter takes its cue from such sources as Mark West's fascinating examination of the link between the rise of

One of Japan's preeminent experts and activists addressing suicide is Yukiko Nishihara, who authored Jisatsu suru watashi wo douka tomete (Please stop me from committing suicide) (Tokyo: Kadokawa Shoten, 2003). Nishihara was responsible for establishing a suicide telephone life-line service in Osaka and Tokyo. With ties to the Christian Church in Japan, her work is at times influenced by progressive social-religious doctrines. But it is mostly motivated by a concern for individuals and society, rather than religious notions concerning the fate of a suicide in the afterlife. After reading her work, I met with Nishihara in Tokyo in a church in which she has an office. A lively woman in her 70s with a Kansai accent, Nishihara talked with conviction concerning the similarities between the determinants of suicide in Japan, Europe and the United States.


For examples of such theories of a uniqueness of Japanese suicide, see Mamoru Iga, The Thorn in the Chrysanthemum: Suicide and Economic Success in Modern Japan (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986); Maurice Pinguet, Voluntary Death in Japan. Shneidman's introduction of a section from Iga's work in Sheidman, Comprehending Suicide, is particularly bewildering for its reliance on by-gone nihonjinron rhetoric. Other examples can be found in Norman L Farberow, Suicide in Different Cultures (Baltimore: University Park Press, 1975); Lee A Headley, Suicide in Asia and the Near East (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983).


suicide and debt in Japan since the 1990s, and Yoshimoto Takahashi's attempt to debunk many of the stereotypical assumptions about suicide in Japan.19 Although suicides occur on most train and subway lines throughout Tokyo and Osaka, the in this chapter discussion is confined mostly to events on Tokyo's JR East Chuo Line. Because suicides on the Chuo Line have frequently outnumbered incidents on any other line, it is the line most often referenced in discussions and representations of jinshinjiko; it is also the line that has served as a testing ground for counter measures implemented on other lines and by other railroad companies. 20 That the Chuo Line provides a paradigm is thus a premise on which the discussion builds. Beginning with the description of an actual jinshinjiko that took place at a local station on the Chuo Line in August of 2004, the chapter moves out across the train system and through the various forums in which the problem of suicide on train lines is discussed and represented. One Fine August Day at the Train Station
No one stands round to stare. It is nobody else's affair It couldn't be called ungentle But how thoroughly departmental. Robert Frost, Departmental

"If you are jumping from a platform," explains a website devoted to themes of the morbid, "choose a station the Express does not stop at as the chance of fatality is much lower if the train is decelerating. If you misjudge the timing you can be bounced off the front of the train or jump to far and end u p on the other side of the tracks. So take your time. As long as the train is within

Yoshitomo Takahashi, Chukonen jisatsu: Sono jittai to yobo no tameni (Middle and Old Age Suicide: How to Prevent that Reality); Mark D West, Law in Everyday Japan: Sex, Sumo, Suicide, and Statutes. For example, the Chuo Line was the first to receive the ATOS technology in 1996.


234 100 meters of the station, the emergency brake isn't going to stop it in time. Also, there have been incidents in which briefcases or other items have flown back and hit someone on the platform." It is possible that the man who jumped in front of the Chuo Rapid at Higashi-Koganei Station at 7:42 during the morning rush on August 19, 2004, read the advice on the website before walking to the station that morning. His black nylon briefcase, a fashionable sporty type with a padded section for a notebook computer, lay abandoned at the far end of the platform where the train had entered from the direction of Kokubunji. The train had been moving very fast at the time of impact, even though it was supposed to stop at the station. The driver had not even managed to sound the horn, no doubt devoting all his efforts instead to braking before the body became impossibly tangled in the wheels. It had all happened so fast that the event barely had time to register with the crowd on the platform. Aside from a few reserved screams and gasps of astonishment, there was not a great deal of commotion. Because of the number of people on the platform, those towards the middle and the far end could not see immediately what had happened. But they figured it out soon enough from the splotches of blood on the front of the train, which had come to a halt one quarter of the way into the station. Most turned away, murmuring only "mata ka\?" (again!?) in a tone that bespoke of exasperation and bewilderment. Others said only "yaa, kimochi waruii" (disgusting), before flipping open their keitai to inform whoever expected their arrival that, once again, they would be late. Only a few made their way toward the train, which packed in typical rush-hour fashion, remained with its doors shut, its passengers pressed up against the windows, visibly irritated but quiet.

235 As explained in previous chapters, railroads are complex systems composed of numerous dependent sub-systems. Its vast scale, the density of its infrastructure and enormous number of passengers, magnifies the complexity of Tokyo's urban train system. As increased complexity only increases the chances of malfunction, each crucial system has at least one back-up system - each crucial system, that is, except for the track. A combination of restrictions, including real estate ownership and prices, construction costs and anticipated inevitable disruption to service during construction has made the addition of track a complicated problem. The result is that the track is the system's Achilles' heel and any obstruction brings the trains to a standstill.21 Moments after the train had come to a sudden stop at Higashi-Koganei Station, emergency beacons began flashing on the electric poles lining the track and all traffic between Tachikawa and Tokyo ceased 110,000 were immediately stranded at stations or on trains. There was something decisively anti-climactic about the scene. The crowd's quick response to the change in circumstances announced a general familiarity with the conditions such that the incident was denied the power to transform into event. People seemed simply unperturbed. "We're used to it," (mo nareta kara) explained a young woman, one of the few people waiting on the platform willing to say more than a word or two to me. "It happens a lot on the Chuo Line and its extremely inconvenient. I wish they would stop." Those for whom an alternative line from a nearby station was an option, crowded quietly

With the increase in the number of jinshinjinko in the 1990s, JR East added switch tracks around some stations and where possible, short bypass sections. In 2004, a major construction project was also begun to raise the tracks from the ground level on the Chuo Line and to increase the number of tracks. The project is expected to take ten years to complete.

236 back u p the stairs to stand in line for taxis that began streaming to the station. A long line of customers waiting for reimbursement for their tickets also formed in front of the railroad service counter and a station attendant stood at either side of the electric ticket gates distributing "Proof of Delay" slips (chien shomeisho) to whomever requested. A standard form with spaces for the name of the station, time and date to be filled in, the slips that were being passed out were only stamped with the date and the station name at the bottom. With the train stopped, even with the steady arrival and departure of taxis, the flow of passengers into the station expecting to board a train was greatly disproportionate to the flow of passengers out of the station and in no time at all the stairs, platform and areas around the ticket gates were packed with irritable but mostly quiet and compliant commuters. Those with no alternative transportation option waited silently on the platform for the police and fire firefighters, who had arrived in a hail of sirens, to finish their work. Without a rope or tarp to block off the scene of the accident, anyone could approach the edge of the platform to watch the group of five fire fighters pull the corpse from under the opposite side of the train. But no one did. Instead, most stood queued at the designated areas, doing what they would do had they been on the train: reading the newspaper, writing messages or playing games on their keitai, or just standing plugged into headphones listening to music. Every couple of minutes an announcement over the station public address system explained that because of a jinshinjiko at 7:42 in the morning service was interrupted and that new information would be forthcoming. In the meantime, patience was requested and apologies given for the inconvenience.


s SE W H
Bgm D * *>tCT 0 W li

Proof of Delay Slip From August 19th

There is no aura of romance or beauty in death by train. The designation among railroad employees of a body recovered from a jinshinjiko as maguro (tuna) is the antithesis of euphemism, evoking the image of a chunk of tuna meat split open in the market to display the deep red flesh. Since Higashi Koganei Station was being expanded at the time of the accident as part of a longterm construction project to raise the Chuo Line and increase the number of tracks, the platform on the opposite side of the tracks was a temporary structure that had yet to be opened for use. The firefighters took advantage of the clear space to lay out the body, which had been covered in a white cloth as it was retrieved from under the train. Only a small shock of black hair on one end and black dress shoes on the other were visible under the thin white blanket stained at spots with blood. Their work finished, a railroad employee brought them the black briefcase that the jumper had left on the platform and they sat down a few meters away from the body to wait for the police, who were busy taking notes in little notepads, to finish their inspection. In the meantime, a grey-haired station employee made a few trips back and forth from the station to the train carrying


two small tin pails of water, which he splash on the front of the train in what seemed a half-hearted effort to remove the blood. At 8:26, exactly 44 minutes after the system had come to a sudden halt, and after the driver of the train and stationmaster agreed that aside from some stubborn blood stains there had been no serious damage to the train, service was resumed. The corpse, in the meantime, remained stretched out under the white sheet on the opposite platform waiting for whomever it was that was responsible to arrive and remove it. If the passengers who had been stuck inside the train the whole time were relieved to be moving again, they did not show it. Once the train advanced completely into the station, stopping as always exactly at the designated line at the far end of the platform, the doors opened and the majority remained on board. There was little room for the overwhelming mass of commuters that had gathered on the platform during the suspension of service, but whoever could, squeezed in among the thick mass of bodies. As always, everything was performed without a single word spoken, aside from an occasional, "sumimasen" (excuse me), uttered almost imperceptibly as if with the intention to conserve breath. From Higashi Koganei to the next station, Musashi Sakai the silence was unbroken. No complaint of the unbearable circumstances being trapped in a motionless train for three-quarters of an hour - nor exclamation of the ill-luck of the circumstances, or even joke was offered. At Musashi-Sakai, and most likely all the stations on the line, the scene was similar to the one at Higashi-Koganei: platforms dangerously overcrowded with exasperated but quiet and compliant commuters waiting for a train with enough room to squeeze on, station attendants issuing updates and instructions through

239 small megaphones, and platform information boards that no longer displayed the arrival and departure times but only destinations. With the rails no longer blocked, trains arrived at the station one after another and although each was only able to take on a small number of new passengers, within a half an hour platforms began to clear. Back at HigashiKoganei Station, a man who looked to be in his late 20s, wearing a white button down shirt and dress slacks but no tie and jacket, leaned against the back wall of the platform reading a pocket-size novel. As trains entered and stopped, he looked u p from the text just long enough to survey the crowd before returning to his reading. "I'm waiting for the trains to empty," he explained when I asked why he did not board. Perhaps because he was not in a hurry, nor seemingly irritated by being late to work at the accounting firm in Yostuya where he said he was employed, he was willing to talk about the events of the morning. He that his name was Shimabukuro and that everyone in his office almost expected him to be late once or twice a week now because of the problems on the Chuo Line. "If its not a jinshinjiko, then its signal trouble or something else with this line," he added, albeit in a tone that seemed devoid of the kind of frustration one might expect under such circumstances. When I asked why he thought someone would choose to jump in front of the train, especially at the height of the morning rush, he answered without reflecting on the questions for more than a second or two. They do it during this time in order to elicit an appeal to their own existence, probably because they want to create annoyance" (jibun no sonzai wo apeeru suru tame ni, anojikan ni suru. sore ni, meiwaku wo kaketai kamo). Its always salarymen, and its when they just snap, when they can't take it anymore after failing no matter how much they try and try. There was another accident not too long ago at this station, same thing, same situation, but the guy jumped from the far end in front of the Special

240 Rapid (Chud tokkai). There might be more jinshinjiko in the summer than in the winter, I'm not sure but its possible. At first when I came to the city I thought that the way people just go on as if nothing happened was cold (tsumetai), but then I realized that they are just used to it. Now the whole schedule is shot for the rest of the day, after all that careful calculation. No point in trying to check it from your keitai, maybe not even until they can restart tomorrow morning. The conversation ended with Shimabukuro pointing to the opposite platform where some fire fighters led by a police official had loaded the body onto a stretcher and were carrying it toward the exit while another firefighter followed carrying the briefcase. "Look," Shimabukuro said, "that's the guy's briefcase." His articulation of the obvious was helpful. The perception of suicide as an appeal to one's own existence corresponds with the commonplace understanding of the act, especially in instances of failed attempts, as a cry for attention or help.22 But an act that implores recognition from family, friends or lovers is on a different scale than an action that seeks attention from an entire population of commuters, the majority of whom one has never even seen and others with whom one has shared only silence day after day in a packed train. What does it mean, moreover, to elicit an appeal to one's existence by throwing oneself in front of a mass of speeding metal, into the sharp and unforgiving steel wheels of the apparatus? The question requires a leap of imagination to place oneself in the position that one can never occupy in order to answer. The body is torn to pieces, dismembered with the flesh split open like a maguro in the market. Yet the destruction of the body, its consumption by the


This is a theme that Nishihara Yukiko revisits repeatedly in her work and in discussions. From her description of cases in Japan and through references to case work in Europe, she emphasizes that there is a pattern whereby an individual commonly exhibits signs that are in a sense pleas for intervention before taking their own life. The trauma of suicide for families or friends is then enfolded in the retrospective recognition of those signs.

241 machine, resonates through the rails and lines of transportation effecting what no single individual could possibly do - bring time and an enormous sector of the economy of one of the world's largest cities to a halt. The death cannot be ignored, and yet ostensibly it is. For the socially estranged, or even for that matter the urbanite who contends with the demands of everyday life (home loans, education fees for children, living costs), Tokyo is a city whose neon lights and exuberant streets exude a sensual warmth that draws one in. The city, however, inevitably turns its back on the individual, for its allure is akin to the "glamour" that Siegfried Kracauer ties to the haze of desires that inundate the lives of the urban worker, entrenching them further in the pursuit of a glamour that is the instrument of the misery from which it promises freedom.23 Can one think of a moment of greater harmony with the city than when the body, dismembered, radiates out and touches the lives of thousands of people for an extended duration? Tobikomi jisatsu becomes an act of anticorporeality that produces what only a network can produce, a corporeality that exceeds the restrictions of space and time. Unlike the suicide of Mishima Yukio, who was thinking in terms of representation and the spectacle of media when he sliced his stomach open on national television, the action of throwing oneself under the train bespeaks the medium itself, the materiality of the network. Ripples As is always the case with train delays following jinshinjiko, the incident on August 19 at Higashi Koganei Station received a few lines in all the major

1 am thinking particularly of the last chapter, "Shelter for the Homeless" in Siegfried Kracauer, The Salaried Masses: Duty and Distraction in Weimar Germany. For Kracauer, glamour is the mechanism of enslavement within capitalism, trapping people into an illusion that they can achieve a life free of labor yet blessed with consumption.

242 online newspaper within hours as well as in the evening print editions. At 9:13 in the morning, Asahi Shimbun reported, "around 7:42 there was a 'human accident' at Higashi-Koganei Station. As a result, trains on the Chuo Line between Tokyo and Takao Stations were cancelled to adjust the schedule and service resumed at 8:26."24 Mainichi Shimbun chose to be slightly less ambiguous, reporting at 12 in the afternoon in its online edition that around 7:40 a.m., A man jumped from the platform (dansei ga tobikomi) at Higashi-Koganei Station in front of the Tokyo bound Chuo rapid and was killed (shibo shita). As a result, service to and from Tokyo was suspended for 44 minutes, causing the cancellation of 40 trains and a delay of 44 minutes for 47 trains. Occurring during the morning rush, the delay effected 110,000 people."*5 Only Urano Hideki's website reported that the man who jumped was thirty years old and described the event as a tobikomi jisatsu - suicide by jumping [in front of the train]. 26 A thirty-five year-old salaryman accountant with a strong sense of social justice and aspirations for city council, Urano maintains a precise account of the number and types of accidents on the Chuo Line since 2003.27 Over dinner at the Royal Host family restaurant next to Musashi-Koganei Station (one station before Higashi-Koganei on the Chuo Line), Urano explained his motivation behind the site as stemming from the fact that JR East seems to purposely make such information hard to find, which he connected to their

"JR Chuo sen Tokyo-Takao kan ga ichijifutsii, unten saikai" (JR Chuo Line Between Tokyo-Takao Temporary Interruption, Service Resumes), Asahi Shimbun, August 19, 2004.

"Jinshinjiko asa no ]R Child sen 11 mon nin ni eikyo" {Jinshinjiko on the Morning Chuo Line 110,000 People Effected), Mainichi Shimbun, August 19, 2004.


Urano Hideki, "JR Chuo sen jinshinjiko chien joho (JR Chuo Line jinshinjiko and Delay Information)," .html#toukei (accessed October 6, 2008).

When I met with him in 2004, he had made several unsuccessful attempts in local elections to become a councilman for Mitaka city. In 2007, at the time of writing this chapter, however, he had finally succeeded in being elected, which he announced on his webpage along with the declaration that after winning a seat on the council he went to work as usual the next day.


general lack of providing important information to their customers. "If s strange, if you think about it," he pointed out, "on every koban (police box usually located at busy intersections) there is sign displaying how many people were killed or injured that month in accidents in the area. It's supposed to raise public awareness. Why doesn't JR [East] do the same thing for the Chuo Line?" Urano maintains a clean-cut appearance and has a youthful energy in his eyes. He has a small apartment near Musashi Kogenei Station and lives what he describes as a typical salaryman lifestyle, working late most nights of the week and grabbing a cheap dinner at fast-food places that cater to single salarymen, like Yoshinoya. Occasionally he treats himself to beer and yakitori (chicken skewers). Originally from Nakatsu, in Kyushu, he came to Tokyo to study politics and law at a Toritsu University but ended u p working in the accounting section of a publishing firm specializing in texts concerning pachinko and horse racing (Byakuya shobo). He had just recently received certification to work as a social insurance and labor consultant (shakai hoken romushi), for which he had studied for over a year while commuting to work in Takadanobaba via the Chuo Line. Urano's site is impressive, displaying a meticulous devotion that goes far beyond hobby and might even be called obsession. The Chuo Line is for him a cause. It is indicative of fundamental failures of government in Japan and the negligence of big companies in toward consumers. The site provides a careful record of every major event (accident, technological malfunction, construction delay, and so on) from the beginning of 2003 to the present (2007). The information appears in several different graph formats, summarized by station, month and year. According to the website, for example, in 2003 there were 43


accidents, 30 of which involved deaths. Broken down into days, this amounted to an accident every 8.5 days and a death every 12.2 days. In 2004, there were 30 accidents including 23 deaths, which breaks down to an accident every 12.2 days and a death every 15.9 days. Finally, in 2005, there were 32 accidents involving 18 deaths, amounting to an accident every 11.4 days and a death every 20.3 days. Most of the deaths are recorded as "suicide" (jisatsu). In cases where there is uncertainty, Urano adds question marks and or an alternative explanation, for example, tachiiri (entered the track area), followed by a question mark. Mediating Correspondence The language used to report tobikomi jisatsu in the newspapers makes it the most widely publicized but least acknowledged method of suicide in Japan. Perfunctory reports of the time of jinshinjiko and its impact on the system, such as the articles from Asahi and Mainichi Shimbun cited above, appear in newspapers daily. The terminology is uniform, stating simply, as in the first article, that there was a "human accident" (jinshinjiko ga ari) and describing the effect for commuters and the system. Alternatively, as in the latter article, the phrase "jumped into the train and died" (densha ni tobikomi, shibo shita) or sometimes, "entered the tracks" (senro ni tachiiri) is used. 28 What is absent in these expressions is the word, "suicide," and a corresponding reference to intention. Interestingly, prior to the 1990s it was not uncommon for newspapers to write, using the verb form, that an individual had committed suicide by jumping in front of a train (densha ni tobikomi jisatsu shita), or to refer to the possibility that an action resulting in a death was a suicide. The phrase

It is worth mentioning that ni-channeru has its own particular language for train suicides, preferring to highlight the grotesque aspect onomatopoetically with the term gumochuiin.


"jinshinjiko" began to be used to refer to incidents involving a person entering the track area and being hit by a train only from 1991. Before that, it is used to describe incidents resulting in injury from some kind of mishap, for example a suitcase falling from a luggage rack. The rather abrupt tendency to eschew mention of suicide follows an increase in railroad related "human accidents" in the 1990s and suggests a concern to limit the possibility of the phenomenon becoming a fad. Thus, on one hand there seems to be recognition of a possible connection between the incidents and the role the media may play in that connection. On the other hand, the term "accident," as in "human accident," emphasizes the element of contingency, which bespeaks a desire to deny precisely this connection, or the sociality of the phenomenon - which, as we will see later, is a critique that is articulated in the film Suicide Club (2002) (jisatsu saakuru). There have been articles in newspapers and magazines concerning suicides on the train lines that were more than simple reports of an incident. In view of the frequency with which such events disrupt train service and life, however, such articles are few. In most instances, a rash of incidents precipitated journalistic interest. Habituation, that is, became temporally unsustainable, as in 1998 when a spike in the number of jinshinjiko prompted Mainichi Shimbun and the monthly magazine Aera to publish special, albeit brief, reports. The former carried two articles, the first entitled "Gachan! The Train Stops!" {gacchan densha ga tomatta!).29 Focusing specifically on the sudden rise in incidents on the Chuo Line in comparison to other lines, it tells of increasing frustration among

Otsuki Eiji, "Gachan densha ga tomattal (Thud the trains stops!)/' Mainichi Shimbun, March 2,1998, 70.

246 passengers. "Chuo Line commuters leave home everyday just praying that the Chuo Line will not stop that day/' writes the author, "and it's the same for me. If I can make it to work on time I consider it a lucky day." The second article, on the same page, points specifically to the problem of suicides on the Chuo Line but in a manner indicative of an actual event by omitting the subject from its title, "What's the Draw of the Chuo Line?"30 Starting with the statistics, it states that already by March of 1998, the date of the article, there had been twenty-five jinshinjiko on the Chuo Line, nineteen of which were confirmed suicides.31 The inconvenience of these events and their impact as logistical challenges for the railroad is the central focus of both of these articles. Even the second article, which suggests in its title that it may venture into speculations on the causes behind jinshinjiko, offers only statistics. In contrast to the focus on statistics in Mainichi Shimbun, an article in Aera questions the possible socio-economic determinants that led four men, all in their early fifties, to jump in front of a train on Labor Thanksgiving day in 1998.32 Although none of the four men left a suicide note, the article cites psychiatric sources to posit that the men most likely suffered from loneliness brought on by

30 Izumi Tsukamoto, "Naze Chuo sen ni shiichu suru no ka (What's the Draw of the Chuo Line?)," Mainichi Shimbun, March 2,1998, 70. 31 Before this it states that in 1995 there were 48 jinshinjiko on the Chuo Line, 33 of which were recognized as suicides, and in 1996, there were 35 accidents, 23 recognized as suicides. The article also provides some other interesting facts from the time such as that there are roughly 1270 trains daily that travel the 53.1 kilometers between Tokyo and Takao Station and the line transports roughly 128,000 commuters per hour toward Tokyo during the morning rush, compared to 90,000 on the Yamanote Line.

Tarou Satou, "Gojyu sai [shoro utsu] no norikirikata" (How to Get Over 50 Year-old Middle Age Depression)," Aera, December 7,1998, 61.

247 work related conditions. 33 Of the four men, two were dressed in suits despite the fact that they did not have steady employment and it was a working holiday. The article wavers, however, between attributing the problem to Japan's recession and seeing it as a typical expression of mid-life crisis. For example, citing more psychiatric sources, it suggests that at the age of fifty men begin to question their compatibility with their work, to feel estranged from their work colleagues and troubled by human relations. 34 They begin to look for colleagues with whom they can be frank and share a sense of solidarity but with the business world hit hard with insolvency, mergers and restructuring, the work environment no longer offers the conditions for such human relationships. It suggests as well that at around fifty years of age, men begin to reflect on their position at work while their children depart to live their own lives, leaving the men with only their wives to whom they can talk. Despite the sudden freedom from the children, financial concerns such as their children's university education or housing loans, leave them with no money for fun. The article ends with a counselor who specializes in depressed mid-age salarymen suggesting that since it is hard to maintain one's pride and high sense of self-worth when such pressures build up, one should be ready to compromise by lowering one's

The emphasis in the article on the effects of estrangement, life cycle related transitions and severe changes in socio-economic structures as significant determinants behind suicide concur with Durkheim's formulation of anomic suicide as well as Halbwachs' hypothesis on the impact on the psyche of sudden changes in the social environment. In Durkheim's thesis, anomic suicide is divided into four subcategory distinctions: 1) Anomie as a result of intermittent failures by traditional institutions to provide structure for individual lives, 2) Anomie as a result of slow but persistent erosion of traditional social values - which he identifies as a general phenomenon of modernity, 3) Anomie as a result of sudden changes in the individual's domestic sphere and, 4) Anomie as a result of pressures within the domestic sphere caused by institutional norms.

The article also compares the situation with adolescence, when a child is trying to move out from under the tutelage of the parents to develop their own set of values and relations with the world.

248 expectations concerning standard of living. In general, the argument recalls Durkheim's thesis on anomic suicide, but it also foregrounds the middle-aged salaryman as the primary victim of train suicides. In so doing, it leaves the nonsalaryman victim statistically unaccounted, thus ignoring as well other possible determinants behind suicide. Hesitant Data Every year the Japan Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport publishes railroad accident statistics in a report entitled "Conditions Concerning the Occurrence of Railroad Accidents." There is no specific category for tobikomi jisatsu, only a break down of various kinds oijinshogai - "human injury." Other statistics on suicide are available from the Ministry of Health and Welfare and from the National Police Agency.35 The former does have a category for tobikomi jisatsu, but does not specify whether death occurred from a train or another kind of vehicle. The latter offers a wealth of data concerning the age and profession of the victims, but not the means of death, other than specifying suicide. According to data from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, in 2003 there were 339 "human damage" incidents on all the railroads in Japan, which is then broken down to 201 accidents on JR rails and 138 on so-called private rails.36 Of the 339 incidents, 330 are indicated as having


It is worth pointing out here that statistics published in 1998 make this clear, denoting the category as "jumping or laying down in front of a moving vehicle" while subsequent to that date the statistics state simply "jumping in [front of]" (tobikomi) see, Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, "Heisei 10 nen: Jinko dotai tokei (1998: Population Vital Statistics), http: / / / toukei/data /010/1998/ toukeihyou/0002716/t0048838/mc360 0 01.html (accessed October 6, 2008). "Heisei 15 nendo tetsudo jiko nado no hassei jyokyo ni tsuite" (Conditions Concerning the Occurrence of Railroad Accidents in 2003), Ministy of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, (accessed October 6, 2008). The designation of railroad companies other than JR as "private" has been a misnomer since 1987

249 resulted in death, but there is no separate chart for JR and private companies. The types of "human damage" incidents, however, are divided into two main categories, each with sub-categories, along with two other categories without subcategories, "injury on the tracks" (senro shogai) and "derailment" (resha dasseri). The two main categories appear to differentiate between deaths that occurred in the station area and those that occurred at railroad crossings. The former is divided into four different categories: "contact/collision [with the train] on the platform" (ho-mu de sesshoku), "falling from the platform" Qioomu kara tenraku), "entering the track area" (senronai tachi iri), and "other" (sono to). The majority of deaths are the result of someone "entering the track area," (161 cases), and the category with the second largest number "is falling from the platform," (21 cases). After that, 5 people died from "contact/collision [with the train] on the platform" and 6 people from "other." The latter (death that occurred at the railroad crossings) is divided into three categories: "car" (jidosha), "two wheel or light vehicle" (ni rin shya, keishyaryo) and "pedestrian" (hokosha). Except for in 2005, when 107 people were killed in the Amagasaki derailment, "entering the track area" and "pedestrian," are consistently the categories with the highest number of deaths. The point is not the data itself but the ambiguity of the presentation. Why, for example, is "human accident" (jinshinjiko) - which is already abstruse in its designation of the nature of an event - translated into "human injury" jinshinshogaP. The term seems only to defer to an even greater degree the possibility of a death by turning accident into injury. The categories are equally
when Japan National Rail was privatized and became Japan Rail (JR). Despite the change, people still commonly use the distinction, "private rail" to refer to anything that is not JR.

250 ambiguous. In the case of station related incidents, while "falling from the platform" denotes the possibility of accident or suicide, the phrase "entering the tracks" seems to suggest only one possibility. Yet, articulation of that possibility is again deferred. Moreover, for railroad crossing accidents, there are no verbs to denote an action, only things and types of locomotion (car, pedestrian etc.). Granted, it can be argued that in many instances there is considerable ambiguity concerning the intention of the accident victim. There is, however, absolutely no discernable intention by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport to clarify matters. Rather, the information leaves much to the imagination, especially the highly obscure category of "other." 37 It is important to note that the only reference to suicide appears in the 2005 data for types of "obstructions to transportation" (yuso shogai), rather than in the accident data. The final line in the summary of changes over the years in the number of events leading to obstruction of transportation states that "within the number of obstructions from causes external to the system, suicides decreased by seven (1.3%) for a total of 543 incidents. 38 One needs to pause for a moment to consider the semantics of the sentence and the implications. Despite the reference to the number of suicides, there is still no data provided. What it says is that the number of incidents of obstruction was 543, and that within that sum the number of suicides decreased. But it does not tell say how many suicides there were. More

In 2004, there were 324 deaths on railroad and in the year 2005, there were 444 deaths (including the victims of the Amagasaki derailment). Before that, the figures that stand out since 928 people died in train related accidents inl975 are 574 people in 1980, 430 people in 1992. Throughout the 1990s, the number was consistently over 300. See http:/ / .html

In Japanese it reads: g l ^ f l S < D 5 *>, B \Z J; 5 * & ^ ' # t e # M S i J * 7 # ( 1 . 3 % ) M > 5 4 3{$

251 importantly, the fact that the Ministry is able to say that there was a decrease in the number of suicides indicates without question that the information is indeed compiled - but not published. In contrast to the bureaucratic reserve on the subject of railroad suicides and the uncanny silence that marks the actual scene of jinshinjiko, the Internet is alive with a robust discourse. Urano's website is only one example, albeit unique in terms of the gravity with which it treats the problem. Entering the search terms, tobikomu jisatsu or densha no jinshinjiko brings u p innumerable sites referencing or discussing the topic.39 The same impulse that turns a railroad encounter into an Internet encounter in the story Densha otoko, which is discussed in the previous chapter, operates, it seems, as well in instances of gruesome death. Silent Discourse: Correspondences "I finished work and thought I'd have a chance to get home early," begins a real-time "Diary of a fellow fassenger during a Chuo Line jinshinjiko" posted on the website of a person who defines themselves in their profile as, "the type of person who gets caught up in work, gets a little aggressive when drinking, eternally young and in danger of becoming a typical oyaji salaryman with a receding hairline." Uploaded from a keitai from inside the train to the author's Internet site, the diary's real-time format bespeaks of the networked interior of

For example, a discussion on ni-channeru begins with a call for people to submit descriptions of their experience of jinshinjiko, but interestingly requests that they refrain from posting grotesque images (guro eizo nado ha go enryo kudasai), see ni channeru kako, "gumochu...jinshinjiko...maguro," (accessed October 7, 2008). Another popular site of for discussion of the topic is on the virtual social network, mixi ( The numbers of sites dealing with the topic are far too numerous to cover here.


252 the train and a logic connecting the Internet with trains and death, which is a topic to which I will return in the final part of the chapter. Arriving at the train station, the author debates whether to take the Chuo Rapid for Takao or wait for the next Chuo Rapid that will only go as far as Tachikawa, thinking that the latter might be less crowded. He elects to take the first train to save time, only to have his plans disrupted by a jinshinjiko moreover, his second experience: 09/02 22:02 Just past Mitaka Station, heading toward Musashi-Sakai Station, in the middle of nowhere the train motor, the fan, completely stops and with a loud GAKON! we roll to a quiet stop. Such an unpleasant way of stopping! Silence...(shin).... Attention Passengers, this is an announcement. This train has been involved in a human accident near the railroad crossing. At present repair is underway. We expect however that it will be some time before we can resume operation. We apologize for the inconvenience and ask for you patience.' I knew it, a body (jinshin)\ I knew because it's not my first time. And the way the train stops is different. Ahhh, disgusting (kimochi waruii). That I happened to ride this train just sucks (saiaku da). There's no way to spend the time and I'm gonna be standing here for 30 minutes... Over the course of the next 64 minutes and eight real-time diary entries until the train starts moving again at 23:06, the author's mood goes from slightly frustrated to highly irritate. He declares at one point, "I don't know if it was a suicide or not but there's definitely no reason to try to save the bastard (sono yatsu tsuku hitsuyo nashi!)....and if he's still alive, its gonna take a lot more time... will someone just send him off to the next world! (shoganai, jyobutsu shite kurel)" Without the fans running the air inside the train car becomes stale and damp and at some point even power to the lights is cut, leaving the passengers in the dark. In the meantime, a woman becomes ill under the conditions and the conductor's announcements, meant to calm the passengers with the latest information, have a completely opposite effect. Wondering what is taking so long and imaging that they might still be searching around for the victim's


fingers, the author exclaims "Just leave it for the birds to eat!" The diary ends with service resuming and the train arriving finally at Musashi-Sakai. The conductor comes to assist the woman who became ill and the author wonders if he is not just putting himself in danger of being beaten by the irritable passengers. "But really/' he writes, overcome it seems by a sympathy that contradicts his previous mood, "the conductor who had to pick u p each piece of flesh hasn't committed any crime" (nikuhen katazuke made yatta shyasho ni sumi ha nai). Another website devoted to everyday topics addresses the question of why the Chuo Line has the highest number of jinshinjiko.40 The author begins with the preface explaining that the column draws not only from the stock of ideas in his own head but also from an extensive review of the topic on the Internet and discussions with individuals. The writing adopts a rhetorical strategy, making a claim and then proving why that claim is false. After refuting popular notions that the straight layout of the line, or the sound of the warning bells at the railroad crossing are responsible for the high number of instances of suicides, the author settles on the idea that the orange color of the train is likely the most significant determinant. Despite following a fairly careful logic in refuting the previous arguments, his conclusion relies on a tautology: There are many suicides on the Chuo Line and the Chuo Line trains are orange, therefore orange is a color that naturally invites suicides.41

Column hiroryuron: senryuron, "Child sen jinshinjiko no genin no hanashi{\)" (A Discussion of the Causes Behind jinshinjiko on the Chuo Line (1)) http: / / /mochisachi/museum/15 hiroryuron/ 012 chuosen / pagel.html (accessed October 7, 2008).

The author reaches this conclusion by taking the fact that one sees few orange cars on the road as proof that orange cars invite accidents. He writes that of all the colors, orange is the most

254 The questionable logic and frustration expressed in online writings concerning tobikomi jisatsu is of second importance to the impulse to post on the Internet that these writings demonstrate.
"You have to be careful on the days that you can see Mount Fuji," begins the first story, called "Chuo Line" in a manga entitled, Fujisan. The manga offers a rare depiction of jinshinjiko in its first frames. On the prelude page to the story the look of a woman standing on the platform catches the eyes of a new and young driver on the Chuo Line as enters the station. "Its just a matter of time before someone jumps in front of the train," the driver says, repeating what the transport->255


Moreover, that impulse seems to be in direct contradiction with the overwhelming silence that surrounds an actual event. People want to

talk about the event, even though they do not seem to want to talk about it when it happens, or face-to-face. The online discussions bespeak of a necessity to address the problem of suicide in functional and rational terms, or just to vent frustration, which could be interpreted as a desire to talk through a traumatic experience. However, talking is deferred to the space of the digital medium, where it takes the form of a conversation with one's self under the premise that others are watching/reading and ultimately raises a question that has no definitive answer: Why do people post and blog? It is worth noting, also, that

amenable to collision as it is softer and warmer than other colors and suggests that silver be used instead since it seems hard and painful. He also determines that since the front of the train has a large glass section, it appears as a dark abyss to potential jumpers rather than a hard surface. Interestingly, the new model of trains for the Chuo Line that JR East began deploying in late 2005 could be said to have followed the authors suggestion to the letter. The Chuo Line's orange color is reduced to a single strip around a stainless body and the front glass section appears much brighter on the new trains.

manager told him, "Especially on clear days." In a single frame devoted to Mount Fuji, the next page establishes the connection seeing the mountain and train suicides. On the following page it happens with the stunned look of the driver, a hand reaching for the break, the shadow of a body leaping across the front of the train and the sounds of train wheels screeching, kyu, kyu, kyu... In the next frames from the inside of the train cab, the face of the jumper is captured in a single frozen moment of time, grinning eerily as it passes the driver's window and the driver collapses in shock over the controls. Practiced crews arrive on the scene and the clean begins as passengers mill about on the platform.

while talk is deferred from the space of the event, it is not deferred temporally - at least in the case of the first example cited above. The majority of the chatter on the Internet concerning tobikomi jisatsu is m u c h simpler t h a n U r a n o ' s website a n d t h e examples



f * , , i

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it*- .

offered above. In m o s t cases, the p h e n o m e n o n is a source of o v e r w h e l m i n g bewilderment and

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The story goes on to follow the woman in the first scene as she struggles to deal with the trauma of losing a brother in a motorcycle accident.

frustration. "If y o u are going to commit suicide, d o it in a place that d o e s n o t effect u s all," is the general tone. A n d , "It's really b o t h e r s o m e so w o u l d y o u just stop" (meiwaku dakara, yamete hoshii), is the most c o m m o n expression. A l t h o u g h Japanese lacks the p r o n o u n "you," it is a s s u m e d in the context such that one w o n d e r s to w h o m these requests are directed. Is it to the potential j u m p e r s ? If so, the p r e m i s e is that they are constantly connected to the Internet a n d will surely find the message. Finally, it is i m p o r t a n t to mention that despite the a m o u n t of discussion on the w e b , there are n o images of jinshinjiko o n any of the sites. 42 Considering


One site even apologies for having posted pictures, explaining that they were removed after a short time, Fuboo's Home Page, "Jinshinjiko shashin keisai nit suite" (Concerning jinshinjiko

256 the economy of images that do circulate on the Internet, the absence is difficult to understand. 43 It is not that images cannot be found, but rather that they cannot be found on the Internet (or newspapers). 44 Interestingly, despite the frequency of incidents and their extremely gruesome nature, there are also no popular ghost stories surrounding tobikomi jisatsu - even while there are often such stories surrounding suicides in other places. One can only wonder if the lack of photographic representation is not in some way connected to the absence of spirit hauntings. The only popular representation of suicide on train lines is in fact in the film, Suicide Club. TR East JR East has its central headquarters in a commanding twenty-eight story building on the South Terrace of the Shinjuku JR East Station. The lobby entrance is a magnificent cavern of marble with unusually high ceilings and enormous panes of glass on the front side that provide a view of the area around the tracks and station. Like the grand train stations of the early twentieth century, the architecture is imposing and humbling at the same time. Once past an initial reception desk, manned by two young and attractive women whose
Pictures), http: / / /SilkRoad / 7723 / fuboo/fuboosouko/jikp.html (accessed October 7, 2008).

The situation recalls Andrea Arai's discussion in "The "Wild Child" of the 1990s Japan", concerning Shonen A, whose crimes Arai describes as being "produced in lurid detail everywhere but pictured nowhere." Arai points out that this lack of representation was in compliance with the legal prohibition of disseminating images of a juvenile offender. Her argument, however, suggests that the lack of images can also be linked to anxiety over the nature of the child that the youth's crimes precipitated and the operation of a repression necessary for the child's discursive constitution as a Japanese subject.

Examples are not easy to find but there are photographs of railroad workers cleaning blood off the platform and train in a collection of particularly violent, or explicit scenes from around Toyko's Kabuki-cho, see Kaoru Nakata and Ikko Kagari, Gekisatsu!! sutoriito sukuppu (Intense shots!! Street Scoop) (Tokyo: Futami, 2005). Another example is the manga book Akira Saso, Fujisan (Tokyo: Shogakukan, 2002). Although it does not contain photographs, it starts with the depiction of someone jumping in front of a train.

257 precise honorific language and gestures bespeaks long hours of training, I was directed to a second reception desk, manned again by two young women, on the mezzanine where the elevators are located. Access to the elevators is controlled by electronic turn-styles (jidokaisatsu), exactly the same kind that are used in the train stations throughout the country. Professing an interest in tobikomi jisastsu does not open doors in the JR East administration. But persistence pays off, and a member of the public relations department eventually agreed to meet me and discuss the topic for one hour - at four in the afternoon on a Friday, one hour before the proper end of the business week and when the majority of employees on the department's fourteenth floor were away attending an explanation seminar for potential new employees. In an enormous conference room and over two small cups of green tea served by another young woman, Masuya Kazufumi, a public relations representative in his mid-thirties, did his best to explain JR East's struggle with the tremendous disruption created by jinshinjiko. Masuya began with the practical concerns, explaining that in every station and on every railroad crossing there is a button called reshya bogo musen sochi that immediately shuts down the system in the event of an emergency. "After an accident it is important to confirm that no debris from the vehicle has entered the tracks and that there is no possibility of there being a second or third accident. It's a little difficult to talk about," he went on, "but it is sometimes necessary to use a car jack to lift the train in order to pull the body out from underneath."

258 Masuya was uncertain of the origin of the term, jinshinjiko (A Jf^-^fc), but he suggested that it was most likely been chosen for its abstract nature as well as its brevity and conformity to the four-character format commonly used for technical and administrative terms. "It would be impossible/' he surmised somewhat jokingly, "for the conductor or station manager to announce something like 'we are currently pulling the legs and arms out from underneath the train so please be patient.'" Concerning measures deployed to prevent individuals from jumping in front of the trains, Masuya confirmed that JR East had tried a number of different strategies. For example, illumination on the platform was increased and lights added on the far ends of the platform where there had been none before. "When people are in the dark they tend to brood over things (omoitsumeru) and tend to become pessimistic about life (jinsei wo hikan shiyasui)," explained Mausya. JR East also placed gigantic mirrors on the walls opposite the platforms at main stations on the Yamanote Line, which Masuya said was supposed to make the individual think for a moment - or reflect, literally and cognitively - before doing something rash. Most important, in 1997 JR East began installing the advanced autonomous decentralized transport train operation control system (ATOS) in order to facilitate a quicker recovery from schedule disruptions. The Chuo Line was the first to receive the new technology. In contrast to the technological and infrastructure related measures, when a driver, or other railroad employees, has been involved in a tobikomi jisatsu, the tradition at JR East is to take the individuals out for a night of drinking. The company does offer a hotline for employees to address psychological problems

259 if they want to, but there is no precedent for encouraging individuals who have been exposed to an incident of suicide on the train to seek help. There are drivers who have of course experienced more than one event, and they are always ready to take the newest member of the jinshinjiko club out for a drink. It was true, Masuya admitted, that JR East intended to seek compensation for lost profit from the family of the deceased in a jinshinjiko, but added that the circumstances were always decided case-by-case. If, for example, an accident involved a company vehicle at a railroad crossing, then JR East would bill the company for damages to the train and lost profit during the time that service had to suspended. If the accident involved a private citizen at a train station, then JR East might send out a bill, "tatemae toshite" (as part of protocol). But, he emphasized, they do not really expect payment because no one has the capacity to pay such an enormous sum. If the family is really in debt, they might not even send the bill, simply out of consideration for their hardship. Conversely, if the bereaved family receives a large insurance policy claim, JR East might ask for compensation for the tickets they had to reimburse or provide for alternative transportation, and for repairs to the train. The imperative for the family to pay, said Masuya, is not really a question of legality but of their ability to pay or not. Masuya's understanding of the matter contradicted, however, what Urano had said. According to Urano, the railroad had absolutely no legal grounds to demand payment. Nevertheless, they tried most of the time to get at least something. Concerning why the Chuo Line had more incidents of tobikotni jisatsu than other lines, Masuya claimed that the information was misleading. "It only seems that there are more because the Chuo Line is one of the busiest and it

260 affects a lot of people," he said. "Actually, I think that there are only 20 or 30 incidents of tobikomi every year on the Chuo Line, which is probably the same as on other lines." Masuya admitted, however, that statistics were hard to find and left it at that. My hour was up. Suicide Club The 2002 Japanese horror, thriller, mystery film, Suicide Club (Jisatsu saakuru) does in its first scene what the Japanese media has refused - represent tobikomi jistatsu.45 As the title suggests, however, Suicide Club concerns not just tobikomi jisatsu but suicide as a phenomenon in general. The film debuted at a time when stories of group suicide (shudan jisatsu), involving strangers who met via Internet sites devoted to facilitating such introductions, appeared regularly in the papers alongside articles citing the country's persistent production of over 30,000 suicides per year, with the number of juvenile victims increasing each year. Suicide Club may not be just about railroad tobikomi jisatsu but the film begins with such an incident - on a horrific scale - and returns to the train repeatedly throughout the story as the quintessential site and apparatus through which to articulate a central theme on urban alienation and a desire for tangible, social bonds. This compulsion to return to the railroad is prefigured in the film's opening shot - even before the credits - of train track passing beneath a moving train. Reenacting a definitive moment in the evolution of mass-mediated society when a camera was first attached to a train, the image recalls the initial radical displacement of a stationary corporeally bound vision.46 It was the onset of a

45 46

Jisatsu saakuru, Film, directed by Sion Sono (2002; Tokyo: Kadokawa-Daiei Pictures).

This is a moment that has been discussed by a number of thinkers in the context of the link between railroad and cinema. See for example the discussion of Tom Gunning's article, "An

261 mechanized vision from which there was no return and a moment that marked a decisive destabilization in the epistemological integrity of the autonomous subject - a moment that carried a sense of both new possibilities and loss. Suicide Club incorporates both dimensions. Suicide Club unequivocally condemns mass-media for the degraded state of social relations and rise in the number of suicides among young Japanese. Intrinsic to this theme is also a conventional critique of capitalism and its concomitant malaise of urban estrangement, which is announced, for example, in the first quarter of the film in a scene in which the camera pans over the exhausted, dead and lonely expressions of commuters in a train. At the same time, Suicide Club embraces media, particularly the Internet and keitai, as it embraces the possibility that death, not enticed by mass-media but rather driven by the desire for real connection, engenders inseparable bonds. But perhaps because the sociality of the Internet is plagued by concerns over the thinness of the relations it establishes, Suicide Club insists on the remainder of a tangible embodiment of that connection. The film's pronouncement of these themes begins by transforming the train - the paradigmatic vehicle of urban alienation and profit driven economy - into a stage for mass suicide. Between credit inter-titles, the film's opening scene shifts back and forth between shots of an approaching Tokyo bound Chuo Rapid train and Shinjuku station on a typical weekday evening where fifty-four high school girls from eighteen different schools gather on the Chuo Line platform. The girls are dressed in variations of the high school uniform of white shirt and blue skirt.
Aesthetics of Attraction: Early Film and the (In)credulous Spectator," in Lynne Kirby, Parallel Tracks: The Railroad and Silent Cinema, 45-47. In terms of its implications for the subject and corporeally bound vision, it falls into the trajectory that Virilio lays out in The Vision Machine.

262 Dispersed on the platform in groups of two and three, they are engaged in rambunctious conversation with only sporadic words discernable against the background youthful chatter. It is the kind of scene one sees almost every day and on any platform with absolutely nothing peculiar about it. But with the platform chime followed by the announcement of the arrival of Tokyo bound Chuo Rapid train, the girls move as if programmed to respond in unison, to the edge of the platform. They line u p before simultaneously taking one step in front of the yellow line and taking hold of each other's hand. The soundtrack switches to a light dance melody and the camera cuts back to the approaching train before panning across the human chain of high school girls, their faces suddenly blank with eyes gazing straight ahead. Swinging their arms together and with a loud and vigorous cheer, "one, two three!" the girls leap all at once before the oncoming Chuo Rapid train as it enters the station. The ensuing carnage is conveyed in the embellished slasher-horror film style of split second close-ups on body parts being crushed by the train, screams, gruesome sound effects and a prodigious amount of blood that bursts through train windows and covers the station crowd and platform. At the end of it all, an unidentifiable figure leaves a white sports bag on the platform, which we learn later contains ten centimeter strips of skin from hundreds of different people all stitched carefully into one

263 long roll. What remains of the girls, we also learn, is a mass of melded body parts. Suicide Club presses the relation between the Internet and train system in Japan to an extreme when immediately following the film's macabre first scene we see a computer screen on which fifty-four red circles suddenly appear on an Internet site amidst enthusiastic clapping. Along with such banal data, as schedules, routes and system status, in Suicide Club the Internet disseminates the kind of data Japan's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport only partially reveals - the suicide count.47 The clapping is part of the next scene, which is a television broadcast of a performance of the girl-band, "Desert," comprised of five twelve and a half year-old girls.48 Wearing long nightgownlike dresses with different numbers stitched on them, they perform a complicated choreography with the exaggerated enthusiasm typical of Japan's tightly structured media events as they sing the catchy tune, Mail me, hurry and hit the send key Can't you see I've waited patiently. Mail me, to my phone or PC, I'm ready to tell you that I'm standing by. Mail me, I want to let you know as friends go, yours is the best hello Mail me, I'm sure you never knew how I feel about you. This is real. I need to hear from you right now or I will die. Part of what makes Suicide Circle a difficult film to grasp is its numerous subplots, which seem not so much connected by a causal logic as loosely bound by an uncertain link to the girl-band "Desert" and an Internet site claiming to

47 In a manner that bespeaks not of a real-time logic but rather an inverse temporal relation between the Internet and reality, the circles, we eventually learn, are a running record of suicides that appear before the actual death. 48

The film plays with the homonymic aspects of the word "desert." "Desert" is written in Katakana and pronounced "dezaato." But it is also appears in the subtitles of the film either as "Desert" or "Dessert." In the book, Jisatsu saakuru it is written in the Kanji for "desert," in English as "Dessert," and Katakana as "dezaato."

264 want to stop the suicides. Along with the mass suicide in the first scene, there are two other suicides, which occur simultaneously in other parts of the city at the same time. There are also others we only hear about, such as over twohundred school girls jumping from Osaka Castle, and others we see, like a group of students jumping off a high school roof. The latter is clearly a copy-cat incident spurred by the media coverage of other suicides and, in context with the film's critique of mass-media, ultimately a hollow gesture. Similarly, what seems to be only a plot diversion concerning a blond-hair gang leader seeking fame by entrapping female victims through a fake "suicide club" website is also a reference to mass-media's complicity in producing criminals who feed off its attention. In contrast to the suicides incited simply by the mass-media, the other suicides, such as in the first scene, are orchestrated and connected to the website where the deaths are recorded and the rolls of skin left at the scenes. The relation between the phenomena, however, is never clearly stated but rather intimated. It is this abstruseness, moreover, that imbues the film with its horrifically uncanny affect while lending it a sense of authenticity. How is it, we want to know, that fifty-four school girls who seem otherwise totally normal and healthy suddenly choose to dive all at once before an oncoming train? What is the connection between the girls and to what are they connected that could have such an overpowering influence on them? The question is the same as that which is posited by the Aera magazine article concerning the four salarymen who jumped in front of the train on the same day, and it is the question that surrounds every incident of tobikomi jisatsu. In what can be interpreted as a critique of the repression surrounding tobikomi jisatsu and suicide in Japan in

265 general, the police investigating the mass suicide at Shinjuku in Suicide Club insist at first in denying the possibility that the deaths are somehow connected by designating the event an "accident" (jiko) rather than "incident" (jiken). What makes this stance particularly ridiculous is the fact that investigators discover that a ten-centimeter section of skin has been removed from each of the bodies recovered from the scene. In the guise of a mystery thriller, the film's plot essentially follows two main characters whose search for answers concerning the suicides takes them in similar directions. The first, character, a police detective named Kuroda, fails and commits suicide himself when he discovers that his son has killed himself. The second character, a high school girl named Mitsuko, whose boyfriend nearly kills her when he jumps from a roof and accidentally hits her as she is passing by on the street, succeeds in so far as she realizes the connection that eluded Kuroda. The film, we might say, is all about figuring out the connections. It rejects, however, the notion of instrumental, rational connections as inauthentic in favor of the possibility of indefinable, ethereal connections enabled through digital communication but substantiated nevertheless by tangible symbols (the skin stitched together). What Kuroda and Mitsuko both discover is that the suicides are linked somehow with a group of children. Mitsuko realizes, moreover, that the children move in the orbit of the girl-band "Desert" and that the band is propagating the message "suicide," which it embeds via a keitai code in its posters. The impression given is that these children are able to manipulate electronic devices, as evidenced by phones that ring and computers that start u p perfectly on cue when Mitsuko is searching through her dead boyfriend's room.

266 When the children do make contact, first with Kuroda via phone and then with Mitsuko backstage before a "Desert" concert, their speeches are enigmatic statements on the intrinsic and empathetic connection between human beings in life and death, and the necessity for a connection to oneself - for which suicide is the ultimate expression. "What's your connection to you?" a child asks Kuroda over the phone when Kuroda discovers of his own child's suicide. The child continues: Do you understand? I understand our connection. I understand your connection to your wife. I understand your connection to your children. But as for your connection to yourself... If you die, will you lose the connection to yourself? Even if you die, your connection to your wife will remain. So will your connection with your children. But if you die, will you lose the connection to yourself? Will you love on? Are you connected to yourself? (anata wa, anata no
kankeisha desuka)

Another child's voice comes on the line and asks. Why couldn't you feel the pain of others as you would your own? Why couldn't you bear the pain of others as you would your own? You are the criminal. You could only think of yourself. You are scum! (gesu yawl). Scum! Standing before an audience of children backstage before the Desert concert, Mitsuko is similarly questioned. The children ask, "Why did you come? Did you come to repair your connection with yourself ? Or did you come to sever that connection? Are you now severed from yourself?" When Mitsuko insists, "I'm me and I'm connected to myself," the children applaud her before continuing with their questions and riddles. Subsequently, Mitsuko is led to a room where the children remove a strip of skin from her and other girls' backs with a hand wood planer. The skin is stitched into a roll.

267 Through these details, we are led to believe that the children are brainwashing people and programming them to commit suicide upon receiving a call to their keitai announced with a "Desert" ringtone. Thus at the end of the film, when Mitsuko receives a call to her keitai, along with a group of other high school girls in whose midst she is descending the stairs to the Chuo Line platform at Shinjuku station, we are prepared for another horrific scene of tobikomi jisatsu. Only, she does not jump, but rather boards the train without incident along with the other girls. The ending is ambiguous as the message concerning suicide and social bonds. Are we to believe that Mitsuko will in due course commit suicide or that she has realized her connection to others and a will to live? Likewise, what does the skin taken from her back and stitched into the chain with the others signify, imminent death or the realization of tangible human bonds? In this context, a final message from "Desert," delivered with the closing credits is equally abstruse. "Live as you please," the band members declare and sing a goodbye with the lyrics:
Little did we know, how little do we ever really know. Everyday we are pressing the keys that execute a million commands. If only you would say what is exactly on your mind and tell me how your really feel. Maybe I can lend a helping hand. Scary it's true. But loads of fun too. When will you open up and hug me. For each and everyone. Light yourself with life. Light yourself with love. Light yourself with memories. All it takes is just a little heart and courage on your part.

Connections Suicide, whether tobikomu jisatsu on a train line or some other form, inevitably spurs questions that can never be unequivocally answered. In this sense, the film Suicide Club provides a fitting conclusion to the discussion of tobikomu jisatsu as it brings together a number of the scenes and discourses

268 raised throughout the chapter in a manner that at times points to clear determinants behind the act, and at other time presents only a more perplexing puzzle. What is clear in the film is a critique of mass media. In contrast to the magazine articles mentioned earlier concerning the four men who jumped in front of trains on Labor Thanksgiving Day in 1998, Suicide Club suggests that the high number of suicides among children and middle-aged salarymen is not a result of general psychological vulnerability among those two age groups but rather their vulnerability to a combination of influence from the media and consumer marketing strategies. Children and middle-aged men are equally the target of consumer campaigns cultivating unbounded desires. No longer focusing pressure on parents to buy for their children, market strategies aim directly at the children-cum-consumer, encouraging them to attain by any means toys and brand-name goods. Similarly, as mentioned in chapter three, the middle-aged salaryman is a prime target for various dubious loan companies advertising a means for the fulfillment of impossible desires. The power of the media in this context, is its power to turn suggestion into action. But children are not the only victims in Suicide Club. Moreover, it is not clear whether they are even victims or the agents for a type of human connection mediated via digital technologies that seems to evade the adult world in the film. On one hand, the children's enigmatic speeches suggest a fundamental sense of estrangement, not only between people but of the self, the blame for which the film lays at the feet of mass media and the conditions of urban life. On the other hand, Suicide Club offers an almost celebratory take on the possibilities inherent to a kind of alternative finite network, which recalls ni channeru and the condition of nakano hitori discussed in relation to Densha otoko

269 in chapter four. While the "Desert" performances on television broadcasts fall into the film's critique of mass media, the esoteric and unofficial keitai and Internet network connected to the group is celebrated as providing the condition of possibility for unprecedented intimacy among strangers. This intimacy becomes embodied - literally - in the roles of skin and the group suicides that relay the sense of being equivalent to a sexual orgy rather than horrific mass death. As in Densha otoko, train and Internet come together in Suicide Club and in reality, as mutually supportive networks. If Densha otoko supplants conventional modern themes of transportation motifs of communication, Suicide Club displaces the notion of suicide as the exemplary anti-social act with the representation of it as the ultimate social experience. What distinguishes this from representations of group suicide in the past is the role attributed to the network, which is presented as transforming a terminal and desperate act into ecstasy and play. Perhaps this is what the young man I spoke with following the tobikotnu jisatsu at Higashi Koganei Station, Shimabukuro, meant when suggested that jumping in front of a rush hour train might be a means "to invoke appeal to one's own existence." Ultimately, one may be counted as just another jinshinjiko, for which the only remainder is a banal "Proof of Delay" slip with the date and station stamped on it. But at least one counted.



"Tokyo doesn't so much sleep as pause to allow crucial repairs to its infrastructure." William Gibson, Pattern Recognition.

The last trains of the day depart Shinjuku Station between midnight and one in the morning. Up until the last moments, the station is the scene of bustling activity with the typical evening crowd of university students, salarymen, salarywomen and part-timers pouring in from the maze of nighttime entertainment and service establishments in the area. With faces flush from food and drink, they part company at the ticket gates with exuberant goodbyes or deferential bows. Just before midnight the energy of scene builds to a crescendo as the main part of the evening crowd, mindful of the approaching system deadline and not wanting to take any chances, makes its way home. Slowly, the evening begins to wind down as final calls for each train line go out over the station public address system and one by one the electronic information boards over the ticket gate entrance begin to go dark. Even before the last trains are announced and the station entrances shuttered, cleaning crews in yellow jump suits take the floor. Pushing floor buffers, mops and brooms they fan out into the crowds. Around the same time, night maintenance and construction crews begin arriving. Dressed in work overalls crisscrossed with reflective safety tape and yellow hardhats, they stand to the side, savoring the warmth of a canned coffee between their hands and chatting as they wait for the rest of their crew to arrive and the night's work to

271 begin. Occasionally their gaze follows the figure of a young woman gallantly attempting to run in high heels in the effort not to miss her train. The men never whistle or call out. Their world and her world lie at opposite ends of the spectrum of the everyday. If she manages to reach her train on time, somewhere in the city a hot bath, warm apartment and night of sleep awaits her. For the work crews, the night is just beginning. When the last trains have departed, they will set u p rows of powerful incandescent lights, giving their work sites an eerie science fiction-like glow, and they will labor until the trains begin to run again with the first light of the morning. By the beginning of the rush hours at seven in the morning, the only trace of their labor will be large, heavy metal sheets covering wholes in the ground or blue tarps stretched across an unfinished edifice. For most commuters, to miss the last train means is to be stranded in the city until the system restarts just after 4:30 a.m. Naturally, taxis operate all night but the fare for anything more than a short trip is prohibitive, especially with the additional nighttime charge. One can always find those unlucky commuters who lost track of the time at twenty-four chain restaurants around the station, like Denny's or Royal Host, dozing off every now and then as they sit waiting for morning over a plate of half-eaten sandwiches and coffee. Others find respite at a manga cafe (manga kissa) or Internet cafe, where for a reasonable sum they can sit in a private booth until morning. For the most part the city after the last train is quiet and deserted. Certain areas, however, like Shinjuku's kabukicho remain busy enclaves within this silence. With its bright neon lights and streets that grow more lively as late night shifts into early morning, it attracts a certain after-the-last-train crowd and

272 sector of the urban population. The ones who venture into this area, sometimes night after night or at least once a week, are not unlucky commuters who missed the last train but individuals seeking the promise of escape in a world that appears outside the normative practices of the day. For those who labor there words like convenient, profitable or impasse, rather than promise or escape, best define this world. The last train marks a conclusion that is not an end or arrival. It is the beginning of an interval during which systems are reset and repaired. For the majority of commuters, the interval offers a reprieve in the recursive cycle of the everyday, a time to recharge and perhaps relax before the tasks of another day begin. The last train simultaneously insists on the impossibility of closure and the inevitability of a repetition with difference. It is thus an appropriate scene for which to begin a conclusion for this dissertation.

In this dissertation I have attempted to present and analyze events, practices and phenomena surrounding a technology that is so much part of the daily routine in Tokyo and Osaka that for the most part what is remarkable about it goes unnoticed by its users. That the trains will run on time, that they are always unbearably crowded during rush hours, that women are often the victims of a type of sexual assault on the train, along with a host of precepts regulating behavior on the train, are a matter of course for the commuters in these cities. Throughout the chapters, a main theme has been that these particular characteristics of the commuter train network derive from a combination of technological and social conditions rooted in the historical circumstances surrounding the development of modernity and capitalism in


Japan. Explaining these particular characteristics has thus demanded at points a history of the technology of the train network, with an emphasis on both the social influences and repercussions of technological changes. In the context of this history, my argument has pointed on one hand to continuity in the culture surrounding commuting in Japan prior to and following World War Two. The economic boom and concomitant surge in urban population in the years following the war, I argued, simply intensified many practices and characteristics of commuting that had developed earlier in the century. As a result of the unprecedented pressure, the technology and social structure of the commuter train network encountered limits. On the other hand, I suggested that the introduction of new digital communication devices, specifically Internet capable cell phones, or keitai, have brought a new layer of practices and precepts to the commuting experience. The perpetual connectivity that these devices afford, I argued, transform the train car from a site of reading and spectacle into to a space and time of communication. This change brings into play a relation between train and Internet in contemporary Japan that supersedes the correlation between cinema and train that figured prominently in twentieth industrial societies. In discussing the struggle with the technological and social limits within the commuter train network in the postwar, my argument focused on the significance of the daiya. The daiya, I argued, is central to what distinguishes the commuter train network in Japan from commuter train networks in other metropolises throughout the world. Its preeminent importance arises from the daily necessity for the train system to operate beyond its structural means and transport the number of commuters that it must for the city to function. In


Chapter One I examined the composition of the daiya from two parts, the principal and actual daiya, and the labor that is required to maintain the equilibrium between them. The daiya, I showed, relates to the tempo of activity in the city and the technological integrity of the train system. While in principle it is framed by the temporal order dictated by the progression of clock time, it is not bound to that order, as is a typical train schedule. By virtue of its particular two-part composition, the daiya allows the train system to operate within certain flexible temporal parameters while remaining punctual. This system, I argue, suggests a structure of indefinite limits that is embodied most clearly in the scene and experience of the packed train, man'in densha. In Chapter Three, I considered how man'in densha is possible from both a technological and social perspective: I asked how does the train company manage to operate a train line with less than a two-minute headway between trains, and how do commuters not only endure the unendurable conditions of man'in densha, but also how have they have come to actively cooperate in the creation of such conditions. The relation between the technological and the social that emerges from my analysis of man'in densha is one of reciprocity that instantiates what I identify throughout the dissertation as the technosocial. Consequently, in answering the question how man'in densha is possible, I move back and forth between social and technological determinants, arguing that man'in densha is embedded in a structure of indefinite limits that exceeds the immediate spatiotemporal parameters of the commuter train network. I link this order to the geopolitical conditions following the Second World War and also identify an analog structure of indefinite limits in the system of credit and debt in capitalist economy.


The structure of indefinite limits encountered its limits in my discussions of a commuter train accident in Chapter Two and train suicides in Chapter Five. While treating the commuter train accident as an event with far reaching ramifications, encompassing ideas concerning the character of labor and responsibility of nation, my argument attempted to show the ultimate inevitability of the accident. My description of the events leading up the accident suggested that the it was the result of the train company's belief that it could rationalize indefinitely train operation through computerization in order to increase its profit and that the commuter population would fall in line with the increased tempo of the system. In other words, the accident was the effect of an increasing incongruity between the technological and social components comprising the daiya, a split between the technological integrity of the train system and the tempo of commuter bodies. This split, articulated first in the derailment, became further announced in a crisis of trust in which the train company could not recover its relationship with the commuter community. The crisis, I argued, by lack of nation as an organizing signifier through which the community could comprehend the loss inflicted by the accident. In Chapter Five, train suicides emerged as part of the fallout of the illusion cultivated during the bubble economy of the 1980s of the possibility for the creation of value without limit. These events, I emphasized, inject chaos into the meticulously planned train schedule and the rhythm of commerce, bringing train lines to a grinding halt and leaving commuters trapped inside packed trains for hours. I showed that while commuters greet train suicides with uncanny silence, the events nevertheless spur a vibrant, and often real time, online discourse.

276 Reflecting the manner in which suicides tend to present more riddles than answers, my discussion of train suicides left many questions unanswered. In particular, it left unresolved questions concerning the link between train suicides, the status of the body, and Internet based communication that I alluded to in the analysis of the film Jisatsu saakaru. Although the film leaves no doubt that these things are indeed linked, it does not explicate a causal relation nor pass judgment concerning the character of the relation. The indeterminacy that marks these relations appears as well in phenomena deriving from the connection between the train and the Internet that I discussed in other chapters. Each of the chapters in this dissertation elaborated in some way on practices born of the connection in contemporary Japan between the commuter train and the Internet. I focused in particular on instances in which this connection produced divergent webs of relations, exploiting subculture websites and Internet cell phone-based social networks. This is especially the case for the story and event of Densha otoko, presented in Chapter Four. Such practices can be interpreted as instances of excess, irreducible to technological determinism. That is, they are born of the imbricated connectivity of the train and Internet but ultimately exceed the functional imperatives of either network. In exploring these practices, I attempted to examine phenomena, such as the keitai shosetsu, concerning which there has been no, or only limited, analysis elsewhere. Due to the relatively recent nature of these phenomena, my analysis no doubt suffered from a lack of historical perspective. We have yet to see, that is, how many of these practices will develop and thus some of their inherent relations with other media, as well as their social effects, which will no doubt become clearer with the passage of time. In my approach to these practices, I treated the train and

277 Internet as embodying the convergence of two foundational modern networks that are informed, nonetheless, by dissimilar principles. While the railroad correlates with industrial society and routinized labor, the Internet corresponds to the transnational dissemination of information and the uncoupling of the bonds among space, time, labor and value. My argument suggested, in general, that the connection between train and Internet exemplifies the convergence between the twentieth and the twenty-first centuries, particularly as a meeting of tempos. The tempo of the train corresponds with the routine of daily labor (interspersed with consumer and entertainment practices) that emerged with the industrial revolution and reached its developmental maturity in the second half of the twentieth century. By contrast, the ceaseless connectivity of the Internet propels a lifestyle marked by perpetual communication activity with unidentifiable boundaries between spaces and times of labor, rest, and play. As anticipated by the above approach, my discussion of practices involving the connection between the train and Internet led to questions concerning the status of the train as a site of contemporary labor. In my analysis of man'in densha in Chapter Three, I emphasized that the commuter train remains embedded in a system of routinized daily labor that has not fundamentally changed since the 1950s. In Chapter Four, however, I argued that phenomena that bring together then train and Internet, such as Densha otoko or keitai shosetsu, suggests a desire to subordinate transportation to communication, and the logic of track with the promises of the Net, thus supplanting a scene of mass society, nation and physical labor with the figure of the discrete networked user and the possibility of a productive labor of communication. Whether or not

278 the connection between train and Internet indeed presents a new paradigm of labor is a matter that I left open.


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