T.L. (Student Staff Leader)
Hey everyone, this is T.L. On November 5th my first original event, an ICC Theme Café, Let’s Re-explore The Charm of Railways with Waseda Railway Club, was held online. The event included quizzes, presentations from Waseda Railway Club about the railways near our campus and presentations from Chinese and Indian student supporters about the railways in their home countries. After that, participants joined the railway club members and international student supporters and had a talk about everything about railways they were interested in. In this article, I will explain the reason why I decided to hold this event and some of the thoughts I had after the event.
Why a Railway Themed Café?
Personally, I believe that the railway system in Japan, especially the city we are living in, Tokyo, is one of the most outstanding in the world. I can recall that I was totally shocked looking at the JR route map when I visited Tokyo as a tourist more than 10 years ago, but now I know that actually the JR route map is just a part of the whole railway system in Tokyo because there are lots of lines run by other companies. At that time in my hometown, Shanghai, the railway system was just starting to grow and people still suffered from crowded buses and traffic jams. However, in Tokyo, trains could take us to almost anywhere we want. With further study on Japanese culture and the language, I found that there is a group of people known as Railway Fans who are very knowledgeable about the effort railway companies made for each line. Hoping that more people can enjoy their daily rides by exploring the interesting parts of the line they are using, I decided to hold an event about railways. At the beginning, I was thinking about field trips such as visiting a railway museum or having an actual ride on some of the trains. But later I changed my mind to making an online event where participants can learn lots of details about railways in Japan and other countries and they can also share their own stories.
This event was not a big one compared to other ICC events, but according to the questionnaires we have received, it seems most of our participants really enjoyed it. As for me, I really appreciate the cooperation of Waseda Railway Club and the international student supporters. The club members are very knowledgeable, responsible and generous. They did lots of preparations so that their knowledge about railways and their experiences can be understood easily by a wide audience, from beginners to railway fans. The beautiful pictures of the railways taken by the members also gave the audience a visual experience of the charm of the railway. Our supporters told the audience their own railway journeys in their home country, which were interesting and full of surprises. Later, the presenters and audience were divided into breakout rooms for free talk. In my group, we asked one of the club members about his latest long-distance railway trip, his recommendation on the cheap one-day-pass tickets and so on. For me, the free talk was not only full of joy but also useful for my daily life. I sincerely hope that all of the participants also enjoyed their talk in their own groups just like me, and their interest in the railway was deepened through the event.
Some Thoughts on Railways and Modern Life
It seems that with the development of technology, our trains are getting faster. But there are also people taking those slow trains, not because of a lower ticket price, but for the time they spend on the train.
The longest railway trip I had was from my hometown Shanghai to Beijing, 10 years ago. It was a sleeper train and I spent more than 7 hours on the train with my parents and people we didn’t know. The reason why that trip was unforgettable is that I unexpectedly got along with strangers very well during the trip. I played with the kid staying next door. These days when I tell people that story, some react that I was very brave to talk to strangers on my journey, Suddenly I realized that was at the time when people were not so addicted to their electronic devices. It was normal to talk to and have fun with strangers on a long-distance train. These days, we are less patient with the time we spend on a journey. One of the things l learned from the railway club members was that for them taking a train is not just a way of travelling from one place to another, but the time they spend on the train is a joy. I think that is also an important part of the railway culture.
Why not spend some time on a train and let it take you to somewhere unknown?