Tokyo Scale of Crowdedness
"How was it?....  Oh, about a 3.5"
by Rick Kennedy

     It occurs to me that our ability to accommodate the urban ebb and flow would be greatly enhanced if we had a means to gauge the crowdedness of a situation with more precision than is now possible.  Something like the Beaufort scale for sea conditions or the Richter scale for earthquakes, for example, would be a useful descriptive tool.

     If we had such a scale, people trying to decide whether to take the Ginza Line or JR would be able to consult their station's traffic board, a digital display of the C.I. (Crowdedness Index) of each of Tokyo's subway and rail lines, and could make their decision on how to travel accordingly, based on their ability to tolerate crunch.

     I would like to propose the following logarithmic scale running from 1 (hardly crowded at all) to 7 (of a crowdedness not possible to exceed).  Detailed measurement specifications, information on copyright arrangements, and a brochure of testimonials from satisfied users are available on request from Push and Shove Enterprises, P.O. Box 16, Takadanobaba, Shinjuku-ku.

     Level 1:  Not more than seven people in view, the figure seven being drawn from an ancient Chinese manual of brush painting which holds that seven is the maximum number of anything which can be perceived at a glance as separate entities, anything over seven being perceived as vaguely numerous.  This level of crowdedness occurs, for example, in rural situations during non-holidays, in private rooms in the city, and between 1 and 5 in the morning on the streets of the more circumspect Tokyo neighborhoods.

     Level 2:  At this level, claustrophobics are susceptible to bouts of anxiety.  While walking, you must adapt by ducking aand bobbing like a halfback to the varying trajectories of others.  When not walking, you will touch someone if you stretch your arms out.  As, for example, in an elevator holding 10 people.  

     Level 3:  Ritual "Sumimasens" (Excuse me) are heard to be uttered at a rate of at least 6 per minute.  Arms pinned to side, briefcases clutched to breast.  Angle of hat, if askew, not correctible.  Shopping bag, if not juggled onto overhead rack, crushed.  Situation perceived to be "crowded" by non-Tokyo residents.

     Level 4:  A body of people whose intention it is to be in motion cannot move at all for at least 2 minutes at a time, and when it does move, must shuffle collectively.  As, for example, at Meiji Jingu Shrine on Jan. 1.

     Level 4.5:  At this level, it makes a difference what season of the year it is to those urban logisticians whose responsibility it is to calculate how many people can reasonably be expected to jam themselves into one car of the Yamanote Line:  in winter, because people wear overcoats, the count is lower than in summer, so more trains must be scheduled.

     Level 5:  When people talk or gently hum along with their Walkman, those adjacent can feel the vibration of their vocal cords, and their bodies throb in sympathetic vibration. When people try to exit a railway car, 15 percent of them can expect one of the following to occur:  watch torn off, coat button lost, hair or ear ornament lost, skirt twisted around back to front.  Situation perceived to be "crowded" by Tokyo residents, who may even remark on it in a jocular way.

     Level 6:  A floating sensation:  it is possible to lift your feet off the floor and be suspended in place.  When the car door opens and passengers tumble out, the car can be seen to rise at least 15 cm on its springs.

     Level 6.5:  Ribs crack.  Doors with windows set in rubber gaskets pop their windows.

     Level 6.7:  When people think, those adjacent can feel the vibrations of their brain waves.  At this level, Buddhist holy men and Zen saints begin to swear and roll their eyes.

     Level 7:  Souls merge.

- Provided courtesy of Della Konkin
- Published May 25, 1986 in "The Japan Times"

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