Yet another Japanese website-turned-book

Submitted for your approval: 万大 (YOROZU Hajime)'s 『通勤電車で座る技術』 (Tsuukin Densha de Suwaru Gijutsu). The title translates as "Techniques for Sitting Down on Commuter Trains", and that's exactly what's in here, apparently all collected from the archives of the mail magazine of the same name. (There's a blog too, but it mostly seems to be about the book itself these days.)

When I first saw it in the store, my inner Comic Book Guy groaned: oh, another collection of lame jokes about the irritations of modern life. Worst book ever. But, as usual, he was wrong. This book is serious and satisfying. Also, really well designed. It's worth buying for the graphics alone: charts, scales, and glorious 3D models of various trainal situations.

The techniques range from the very obvious -- "get your ticket out well before you arrive at the gate", "get a headstart on the others by taking the stairs instead of the escalator" -- to the more subtle: "if you're a man and you have to stand and wait for someone to get off before you can sit, don't wait by a seat with a lot of women, because since they are smaller than you the seat space they leave will probably be less than you would prefer". I had already figured some of them out, but not all, and I certainly hadn't developed the network of theory around them that this book has.

I found myself warming to Yorozu more and more as I read on. He isn't aiming for the cheap laughs, the tired jokes about how aggressive those old ladies can be or how pretending to be crazy can get you more personal space. He just wants commuting to be fun, so he approaches it as a huge, ever-changing puzzle rather than a hellish ordeal.

Indeed, as part of the "fun" thing, he specifically speaks out against pushiness and aggressive behaviour. Getting a seat by being more observant than the next guy is rewarding, but getting one by being more obnoxious is not. (The final chapter is even called "Letting others sit too is the ultimate technique!")

Also, although the motivation to read a book like this is ultimately self-centred, applying these techniques would mean paying a lot more active attention to your environment than people generally do. This involvement seems more important to him than the simple reward of sitting. I could draw an analogy to zen here, but I won't.

I also have to give it up for the best idea in here, "Sit Down Poker", in which you think of poker-hand-style names for the combination of people on the seat with you. For example, on a seven-person seat, seven men is "the Seven Samurai"; one man and six women is a "harem" ("but I have to admit, I've never been dealt this hand"); if everyone on the seat is bald, it's a royal flush.

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