Talk about finally. Yumi Matsutoya, one of the biggest Japanese artists and J-Pop stars of the last 50 years, and one of the longest holdouts, landed with her complete catalog on Apple Music Japan this Friday. Her profile is listed on the Apple Music US site (Yumi Matsutouya). The catalog isn’t up yet but looks like it should be coming soon.
Japanese metadata tags are the usual Apple mess: the artist name in English instead of Japanese on iTunes downloads but proper Japanese on Apple Music downloads. The once proud iTunes Music Store is such a vestigial appendage to Apple Music, Apple clearly wants to kill it off.
There are some notably omissions in the data collection startup list: only 20 of the 23 Tokyo wards are covered. Suginami-ku, Setagaya-ku and Nerima-ku are huge missing pieces along with the rest of the populous west Tokyo Chou line area (Mitaka, Tachikawa, etc.). Suginami-ku is one of the most important Tokyo districts, perhaps the most: whatever political party wins an election in Suginami wins Japan.
There are other big Apple Maps services that are missing in Japan: Indoor Maps were promised back at WWDC17 but have yet to appear, Traffic, Lane Guidance and Speed Limits are AWOL. Most of these services have been offered in Yahoo Japan Maps and Google Maps in Japan for years.
Even without their own data, Apple Maps Japan has made, (very) slow progress fixing some major data errors and holes. The Great Shibu Hot Spring Data Cutoff for example is finally fixed. This is how it looked 2 years ago:
Since Balaban doesn’t bother with Japanese translation or the Japanese market much his subscribers will have to settle for warmed over presentation slide blah instead of real market information and analysis.
Most rush hour train announcements , the real ones, are mundane. Occasionally they announce a short delay: somebody’s bag got stuck in a door or got sick and needed assistance. The worrisome ones are the emergency stops when somebody hits the platform panic button somewhere. Fortunately most of those clear in a reasonably short time. Then there is the dreaded “Jishin Jiko”, a jumper, a guarantee your train is going nowhere. December and March are usually the worst times of the year for those cases because that’s when the Yakuza call in delinquent loans.
The acid test of a real Tokyo commuter is how fast you think on your feet the moment a Jishin Jiko announcement comes over the PA system. You know it’s serious when people around you pull out their smartphones and start searching for alternate routes or make phone calls. On the Yamanote line the train crew usually parks at the closest station so people can get off. If you are lucky enough to get a smart train conductor, they offer detailed alternate route information.
When I got stuck on the Yamanote line at Shibuya station once the conductor quickly instructed, “the Yamanote outside (clockwise) loop is running, if you need to get to Ebisu, Meguro or Gotanda stations take the Saikyo line on platform 4 to Ozaki station and double back on the outside loop.” It took a little extra time but I made it to Gotanda station and was on my way.
Another time I was not so lucky, the entire Yamanote line was stopped but the Saikyo line was still running so I took it to Ozaki station. From there I walked to the nearest Tokyu Ikegami line station and was on my way again. 20 minutes lost but no trouble getting to the office in time.
The scariest stoppage was March 11, 2011 when every train and subway in Tokyo stopped running during the massive earthquake. Early the next morning, a Saturday, every train was packed with very tired people who didn’t make a sound as they slowly made their way back home. In the silence you could feel the shock and sadness. In a crush of people on a train you could almost hear a pin drop.