[From March Issue 2010]
Japan’s train stations offer commuters many different conveniences, including public toilets. The word “toilet” has been adopted in Japanese, but the final “t” is silent. It is pronounced “toire.” In Japanese (romaji) “l” is generally replaced with “r.” You won’t find the signs of “男 men” or “女women,” at the entrance of most of toilets, however “men” and “women” pictographs are displayed. Some toilets have a Japanese sign written as “お手洗” (otearai: literally translated meaning “washing hands”).
In Japan there are two kinds of toilets which are quite different from one another; youshiki, which is shortened word for seiyou-shiki (洋式western-style) and washiki (和式Japanese-style). “Wa” (和) was the old name for Japan and is often used in comparison to western items such as “washoku” (和食Japanese food) “washitsu” (和室Japanese room) and “washi” (和紙 Japanese paper). Instead of “washiki,” you can say “nihonshiki” (日本式Japanese style).
Another convenient station facility is the “coin-locker,” in which for 300 yen (in the case of standard size) per day, you can store your luggage. In Japanese (romaji) “Koin-rockaa” is written with a “K” instead of a “C.”
If you’ve lost or forgotten something in a train, you can report it to “Lost and Found.” But, while most large stations do have one, some of the smaller stations don’t. In that case, you must say to the station clerk, “densha no naka ni wasuremono o shimasita” (I left something in the train). The clerk will then ask you the station you were at, what time you were on the train, and what item(s) you left behind. And while it may take some time to find your items, there is a good chance that you will get your lost property back.
Due to the popularity of cellular phones, public phones have recently started disappearing. However, station phones remain extremely convenient especially when you’ve forgotten your cellular phone, or if its battery runs out. Some public phones even let you make international calls. “Telephone” is commonly pronounced as “terehon” in Japanese. To make a phone call you need coins or a telephone card (available at most station kiosks).
At most stations you can find kiosks, where beverages, snacks, masks as well as newspapers and magazines (mostly in Japanese) are sold. Furthermore, plastic umbrellas are also available, usually costing only 500 yen. Some bigger stations also offer coffee shops and standing noodle shops for a quick bite. And these days, some stations even offer bakeries, bookstores, flower shops and full convenience stores.
Some station entrances and exits are named for directions, such as “East,” “West,” “South” and “North,” while other are named “Central Gate” and “Yaesu Gate” indicating locations. Subways usually have simpler names such as “Al” or “A2”.