In Japan, the last train of the night is the ultimate party pooper. In Tokyo, if you’re out enjoying the nightlife, the last train on any line is around 12:30 a.m., and if you need to make a transfer to get back to your hotel or apartment, you’ll probably need to shut your party down even sooner, often before the stroke of midnight.
Recently we got the additional buzzkill that the Yamanote loop, Tokyo’s most important and convenience rail line is going to be shutting down even sooner during an extended construction period. This week, though, came some happy news on the opposite end of the spectrum, as the 2020 Tokyo Olympics Organizing Committee has announced that during the Games trains in the city are going to be running much later than usual.
The last trains for the Yamanote Line (which is operated by Japan Railway) and a number of subway lines that crisscross downtown Tokyo won’t leave until sometime after two o’clock in the morning during the games, which are scheduled to run from July 24 to August 9, 2020.
A number of lines which run from downtown Tokyo out into the suburbs, including ones run by rail operators Tokyo, Seibu, Odakyu, Keiei, and Keikyu, are also looking into extending their last trains by 30 to 90 minutes during the period.
The intended purpose of the revised schedules is to give viewers extra time to make their way home from competition venues, but it should also be a boon to travelers and locals who want to keep drinking, dancing, or otherwise carousing a little longer without having to stay out all night or shell out for an expensive taxi ride.
But while that makes it sound like a win-win situation, there’s a chance that a later last train could actually be a win-win-lose scenario. So what’s that potential third, losing demographic? Overworked office employees.
Overtime in Japan is no joke. In many companies it’s not a question of if employees will have to put in overtime, but how much. For the staff of the busiest offices, the last train is actually their savior, since “I have to stop working now, because the last train I can take to go home is leaving” is one of the few reasons that are virtually always accepted for capping a day’s overtime in Japan.
So while sports fans and party people will be happy to have an extra hour or two of fun, for salary men and businesswomen the new schedule might just end up extending their already hellishly long work days.
Hopefully their bosses recognize the later last trains as what they’re supposed to be, though: a way to promote Olympic spirit, not pad companies’ bottom lines.