The wizardry starts when rush hour ends.
A lot of things about life in Japan get exaggerated in travel and cultural guidebooks. Day-to-day etiquette isn’t really the minefield of potential offense that some make it out to be. Basic necessities aren’t actually cripplingly expensive, and the summer humidity, while unpleasant, isn’t really as bad as in many other Asian nations.
But yeah, the rush hour trains really are every bit as crowded as people say they are. During the peak commuting hours, not only is it next to impossible to find a seat, you’re lucky if you have enough space to stand without contorting your spine, hips, or ankles to unstable angles to fit your feet into whatever scarce amount of floor space is left. As a result, it’s a waste of space for the train cars to have many seats at these times, when the space they take up could provide a place for far more people to stand.
But on the other hand, some of those same trains that are tubes of compressed humanity during the morning and evening have relatively few passengers during the middle of the day. So for off-peak hours, rail operator Keihan Railways, which serviced the Kyoto, Osaka, and Shiga areas, came up with an extremely inventive way to expand its seating, as demonstrated in this video the company tweeted.
On Keihan’s 5000 Series trains, the carriage can be reconfigured by deactivating certain sets of its sliding doors. Since they’re no longer being used as portals, an extra bench seat, providing seating for a few more passengers, slides down from the ceiling.
Once fully lowered, the seat cushions rotate to a comfortable angle and lock into place.
Because of safety concerns, the seats of course aren’t raised and lowered at every stop. As a result being lucky enough to see the mechanism in motion is a happy event for train and machinery fans, like the uploader of this YouTube video.
Really, the whole thing is so cool, we’re wondering if we could rig up a similar system for our living room sofas.
Source, images: Twitter/@keihandensha