Tokyo Wants People to Go to Work Earlier to Ease Train Crush

(Bloomberg) -- Being pushed onto already jam-packed trains during rush hour in Tokyo is never a pleasant experience for commuters. It only gets worse during the humid summer months.

That’s why Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike has launched the "Jisa Biz" campaign to combat overcrowding on trains in the run-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

As part of the initiative, which translates as "time-lag business," the roughly 740 participating companies including Pfizer Inc. and Microsoft Corp. provide more flexible hours including the option to work from home or remotely. Some of them even prepare breakfast at the office to encourage an earlier start.

Some metro operators are doing their part by adding more trains on weekday mornings for the campaign.

"This will be the second year we implement Jisa Biz with the catch phrase ’If mornings can change, every day can change,’" Koike said in a statement late last month when she announced the initiative which runs from July 9 to Aug. 10.

Tokyo’s "commuter hell" has eased since the peak days in the 1960s and 1970s when the congestion was so bad that window panes would crack due to the strain of bodies packed into the carriages. But commuters still have to push their way onto trains on many of the more crowded lines.

The "Jisa Biz" initiative comes as the central government has been encouraging more flexibility at the workplace, including working hours, to accommodate female workers as well as increase participation in the broader labor force.

The Tokyo metropolitan government ran a similar campaign last summer when about 260 companies and municipal offices took part.

But commuters say the impact on the morning congestion has been minimal at best.

Akira Monri, a 28-year-old app developer, says he hasn’t noticed much difference during his commute to central Tokyo.

"I’ve seen the posters but I’m not sure what hours we’re suppose to avoid to qualify as Jisa Biz."

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.