Tokyo people take the train to work. Everything in the city runs by the train schedule: from nightlife to shift work.
Downtown vs SuburbsWhether it's a date or an after work party with friends: everyone needs to disappear before last train. People who reside downtown have a later last train than suburban people. Parties tend to fade out slowly with people's last trains.
Downtown people sometimes ignore their last train because a taxi home isn't too expensive. Suburb people might face a 25,000 yen taxi ride if they miss their last train. Tokyo taxis charge more after last train (11 pm). In a city of trains it's when taxis do the bulk of their business.
Suburban bars get customers from last trains — once safely in their own neighborhood many people feel like a night cap.
Changing of the GuardIt's a common scene in Tokyo entertainment districts such as Shibuya — a change in nightlife from old to new. Just as office workers are racing for their last train — university students are arriving for a night of clubbing.
Last Train Rush!There's always a rush for the last train. People look nervously at train schedules on their phones.
Last trains are usually crowded and filled with interesting characters.
Work Hard Play HardMany Tokyo office workers live by the motto work hard play hard. Some purposely skip their last train to brave the night. They stay out all night returning home on first train (about 5:30 AM) for a shower before work.
After work office parties often end with peer pressure to skip last trains and stay out (especially on Fridays). For this reason, many people disappear without staying goodbye.
(girl checks her train schedule as friends encourage her to join karaoke)
Office WorkersMost companies discourage workers from working past last train. Last trains are full of workaholics who stayed to the very last moment.
When office workers miss last train for valid business reasons most companies will reimburse employees for taxis or business hotels.
Shift WorkersShift work in Japan is organized around the train schedule. Many companies have a shift change about an hour before last train.
Restaurants and cafes may close an hour before last train to give staff a chance to get home.
Options for the StrandedTravelers should check the times of their last train. Generally, if your hotel is downtown 12 midnight is usually safe.
If you do miss your train, do as the locals do:
- take a cab home
- sleep in a cheap hotel (e.g. a capsule hotel)
- take a nap in an internet cafe (manga cafe)
- enjoy karaoke until your first train
- enjoy Tokyo nightlife until your first train