It's true that Japanese trains are overcrowded but there's another side to the story. Most people in Japan like trains (some are even obsessed with trains).
Japanese trains are affordable and convenient. They've transformed Japanese culture in numerous ways. They have also dramatically improved quality of life in Japan.
NightlifeTrains allow people to go out at night without worrying about driving. Tokyo people both young and old have active social lives. Tokyo nightlife wouldn't be the same if everyone was driving home.
Health and FitnessTokyo commuters walk to the station in the morning and then walk to work. At lunch they walk to neighborhood restaurants. At night they walk to the station and walk to their home. Tokyo people walk (and ride bicycles) a great deal.
Free CommuteMost companies pay for employee train passes (a tax free benefit). Workers in Japan typically have zero costs related to their daily commute.
On Time CultureTrain schedules are so accurate that Tokyo workers are rarely late. When they're late for work (due to train delay) they can get an excuse slip from their train company.
ProfessionalismJapanese train company staff wear trim and tidy uniforms. They're known for their professionalism and customer service excellence.
(helpful train staff retrieving a hat from the tracks)
No Traffic JamsRiding the train is a community activity. Rather than being stuck in a car — Tokyo people are surrounded by people. Road rage, aggressive driving and traffic jams aren't a part of Tokyo commuting.
Reading and StudyingIt's possible to read or study on the most crowded of trains. Virtually all Tokyo commuters study, play games, sleep or access social networks during their daily commute.
SafetyTrain travel is far safer than traveling by car. For this reason, some Japanese companies don't allow employees to drive to work (contractual agreement). According to Japanese labor law companies are responsible if a employee is injured on the way to work.
Toronto vs Tokyo ~ Urban LandscapeOne train line can carry more people per day than a 10 lane highway. Tokyo's 121 train lines carry 14.6 billion passengers a year. Amazingly, Tokyo's highways are far smaller than a city like Toronto's. This despite the fact that Tokyo has a bigger population (35.6 million vs 5.5 million). If Tokyo wanted to carry 14.6 billion passengers per year by car — the city would need to build 100s of massive highways (not to mention the parking lots that would be required).
(Tokyo train tracks)
EnvironmentIt goes without saying that trains use less energy (per passenger kilometer) than cars. They also don't contribute to urban smog.
Tourism and BusinessJapan's excellent intercity bullet train system makes it easy to travel within Japan. This helps to fuel tourism and make Japanese business more efficient.
Train PartiesTourism by train is relaxing. It's common for friends to have a little party on shinkansen (bullet) trains.
Staff come by regularly with drinks and food for purchase. The most popular food item is always ekiben (train lunch boxes) — ekiben have a rich culinary tradition and often resemble fine food.
Cars as a HobbyMost urban Japanese workers own cars (in many cases expensive luxury models). It's common for Tokyo people to view cars as a hobby more than a necessity. Even diehard car lovers in Japan will admit that trains are a better way to commute and travel.