Home > Focus on Japan 2012 > Clobbered by Seibu

Clobbered by Seibu

July 7th, 2012

When I first moved to Hibarigaoka and up to the time we committed to living there, the train situation was sweet. The line we live on goes only as far as Ikebukuro (short of my work destination), but spurs off at an earlier station, Nerima, to link with the Fukutoshin and Yurakucho subway lines. The Fukutoshin is key for me; it goes directly to Shinjuku-Sanchome, the station where I work. Better yet, there were, I recall, six trains an hour which left my station and stopped in Shinjuku–non-stop locals and express runs. After years of transfers and extremely long walks to and from inconvenient stations, I finally had found a setup that seemed solid.

Just as we bought our new house, the 3/11 quake hit, and train service was disrupted; for a few months, the Seibu Ikebukuro Line stopped serving its connection to the Fukutoshin. During that time, I used my scooter to go to work.

By the time they restored normal service, I was disappointed: they had cut the number of direct trains between my station and Shinjuku down to four per hour–two express and two local runs. Still, there was a direct train every 15 minutes, which was not too bad, and not too different from previous times.

Last week, I came to the station as usual, and saw that the trains were all wrong. I initially assumed that there had been some disruption, and asked at the ticket office. Nope, I was told, the trains were right. The schedule had changed again.

They had cut the direct trains to Shinjuku down to two per hour. Both were express trains, whereas I usually prefer the local (I often use the station before the one at my work, as there’s a sandwich shop close to it, and the walk in to work is only slightly longer).

I was told that there was still a local to Shinjuku, but it left from a station down the line, and I would have to transfer.

Well, great.

I got an even greater shock, however, that evening: the trains coming back home were far worse.

The train lines are a bit complex. As I noted, the Seibu joins with two subway lines; those lines join with two other lines, the nexus more or less being a stop called Kotake-Mukaihara. From there, a small spur reaches out to a station called Nerima on the Seibu Line. This is why the direct trains are a blessing; I can jump on one train, hopefully get a seat, and ride it all the way home. If there are no seats at first, then there are sure to be openings at the transfer points.

When I left for home that night, I found no trains going directly to my line. So I took a train heading to the nexus, and got off to transfer there. It was an 8-minute wait for even a local train to my line, and an additional 12 minutes for the following local. Both stopped short of my station, no express trains within a reasonable time. I took the soonest local, and found myself at Nerima. There, I found that my train had an extra 7-minute wait, while another local to the exact same station would leave in one minute. So I transferred, but lost my seat. When I got to the final stop, one station before mine, it was another 6-minute wait for a train to take me one stop.

Usually it takes 30 minutes to get home. That night, it took more than an hour; four trains, waiting 15 minutes on crowded platforms for three transfers, all trains locals.

One of the reasons we chose our location, why we bought our house here, as I mentioned earlier, was because of the handy access on train lines. Now, a year later, it has been turned into a nightmare. And summer is just beginning. I do not look forward to an extra 15-20 minutes every night of sweating profusely in intense heat and humidity, waiting on a crowded platform for multiple transfers to crowded local trains with no seats.

I discovered my main problem: direct trains from work to home still exist, but there is a baffling 1-hour gap in the schedule with no direct trains in the 7:00 hour–smack in the middle of the times I usually leave work. So I will either have to rush out the door after class, or sit around and wait, and hope I can catch the one train at 7:57, or else wait half an hour for the next one. None of them, by the way, express trains–apparently, no more direct express trains–a few have express stretches on the Fukutoshin, but turn into local pumpkins on the Seibu Line. Kind of defeats the whole purpose of living at an express station.

I am definitely going to issue a complaint with the train company; this is ludicrous.

Not to mention, I am hardly the only one. I see people with physical disorders on the lines quite often; just that one hour-long trip home, a guy with bent legs, in obvious discomfort, was forced to stand and wait and walk and wait and stand some more; if I was annoyed, he was in pain.

Of course, what can you do? Sell the house and move to one on a different train line? No reason for Seibu to give a damn.

What I wonder about is whether this is a permanent change, or will it even get worse in the future? There is a planned extension where the Fukutoshin, at its far end in Shibuya, beyond my stop in Shinjuku, will hitch up with another line leading all the way to Yokohama. If that happens, then you could, conceivably, take one train all the way from Tokorozawa in Saitama to Yokohama in Kanagawa. Maybe when that happens, the schedule will change in my favor again–or maybe, the extension is what’s causing them, for some counter-intuitive reason, to cut the service I depend on.

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  1. Troy
    July 7th, 2012 at 13:57 | #1

    mebbe admit defeat on the ubwaysay and just take the yamanote or saikyo xfer at Ikebukuro?

    tho I see you’ve got that 15 minute walk from the 東口.

    Oh how I don’t miss Tokyo in the summer. For some reason I chose mid-August to make my initial arrival. Hoo boy, this California kid was /not/ ready for that steambox experience.

  2. Luis
    July 7th, 2012 at 14:08 | #2


    Yeah, it’s the walk that kills the Seibu-Fukutoshin transfer For some obscene reason, the Fukutoshin has it’s only exit a looooong walk away over on the west side. Seibu is on the farthest reach of the east side. Plus, the JR exit is an extra 10-minute walk distant from my work–that was another great thing about the Fukutoshin, it stops closer to my work than any other station save the Shinjuku subway line. So, 20-25 minutes extra walking vs. 15-20 standing on platforms, it’s not really a competition between them.

    BTW, did you get my email on SSDs? We’re making a school club DIY rig, and want to go SSD-only (no HDD), and I *figure* you don’t need a special chipset for that (since we’re not doing a RAID SSD cache), but just wanted to see if you knew differently. Thanks.

  3. Troy
    July 7th, 2012 at 14:15 | #3

    What I wonder about is whether this is a permanent change, or will it even get worse in the future?

    Here’s something interesting . . .

    For 平成6, ひばりケ丘駅 had 13,471 average daily riders.


    Tocho’s spreadsheet for 平成18~22年度 shows 12,332 average daily riders.


    Pretty crazy to see evidence of depopulation and/or fukeiki in that basic number.

    Tokyo is supposed to be growing!

  4. Troy
    July 7th, 2012 at 14:19 | #4

    No email from you . . .

    I have yet to actually go SSD but AFAIK current gen builds have no issues with SSD as the primary boot partition.

  5. Stuart
    July 10th, 2012 at 01:46 | #5

    If you take the local at 7:27 from Shinjuku-Sanchome towards Shakujij-Koen you should be able to transfer to the semi-express at Nerima without a wait.

  6. Luis
    July 10th, 2012 at 08:57 | #6

    Hmm–I had not even noticed the new “Shakuji” mark–trains had never gone there from Shinjuku before. I am used to seeing 小 for Kotesashi, 飯 for Hannou, and 清 for Kiyose. 保 for Hoya was new, and I only spotted it since it took me there once.

    The problem with the Shakuji and Hoya trains are that they are transfers. The Hoya train leaves a 6- to 8-minute wait for the next train. Assuming the 7:27 from Shinjuku gets to Shakuji after the Hoya train departs, then there should be no wait.

    Thanks, at least that’s an alternative… But the schedule in general still sucks big-time. I hate transfers; you have to search and test and then memorize, not to mention often to wait and then to lose your seat. Not a world-ending catastrophe, but still a kick in the shins relative to before.

  7. Stuart
    July 10th, 2012 at 10:18 | #7

    I agree the transfers suck. They are a little counter-intuitive to know which station to do it at. I think Nerima will be a good point. Hope it works out for you!

    I found on a random blog that it looks like the Ikebukuro Line service was reduced to be able to increase service on the Seibu-Shinjuku line and add more trains out to Haijima.

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