I Lined for the Notorious 100th Tokyo Station Suica

On December 20 Tokyo station has reached the age of 100 (1914~). This red brick structure train station is a symbol of Westernization and civilization of Japan. It was ranked 3rd busiest station by JR East serving about 400k people a day. This is a huge thing we should celebrate for. Even me, a foreigner to this country, I am so proud of their long standing history. Actually, JR East made a lot of things just for Tokyo Station since midyear. They even created an Anime to promote the station. [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0HGHsRwNd0 align=’center’] One of the biggest catch of theirs is the limited edition 100th anniversary Tokyo Station Suica card. Suica is an NFC card used for paying a train ticket, but now it can be used as a debit card in many stores all over Japan. The design for this event is very beautiful.

Suica card
Normal Suica card
100th Anniversary Tokyo Station Suica PR
100th Anniversary Tokyo Station Suica PR

Did I mention “LIMITED“? Yes, I did. Japanese people are the most patient people in the world, to me. If you could recall Comic Market which holds biannually, what will happen if someone sells a limited edition of something? This will.

People lining up to buy limited items from circles in Comic Market

MATH QUIZ The item is limited. There are 15,000 cards. One person can buy at most 3.

15,000 / 3 = 5,000

The most severe case (which would happen for sure) is there could be only 5,000 people buying this card. Thinking of the importance of the event, the number of people in Kanto region and popularity of trains in Japan (see Tetsu-ota 鉄おた and Tetsu-jo 鉄女), this number is a drop of water in an ocean. So this is how the story started. The card would be sold from 8AM on Dec 20 at Tokyo station’s Marunouchi South exit. The stake of this mission was high. People had started bidding for this card in Yahoo Auction. This was the price in the morning of Dec 19.

People had started lining up since the evening.

This caused disturbance to many people using Tokyo station. Actually, JR East posted a poster saying that lining up before the selling date is prohibited.

Despite of that warning, around midnight there were about 2,000 people lining up for it. Come to think of it, lining up in the evening of Dec 19 is prohibited. What if the line could stay until passing midnight? You can see this flaw. People from the evening stayed in the line passing midnight, and they were now legit to buy. Through out the evening, people made a line by themselves. There was no staff assisting the lining before the operation time. The station started operating again about 4:30. I am not sure how the line looked like that time.

I arrived there at 5:30. The line was very long starting from the selling booth at South exit to North exit, going down to Metro Marunouchi station and up to the ground, continuing toward a junction (soon became the sandwich).

At the time, the line had not reached the junction. There was only one staff showed “End of Line” sign at the junction to the North to make sure people who just came queuing correctly. People had to run North exit -> The junction -> The line. There was no other staffs in between the station and the junction. Yet, people didn’t cut the line in the middle. I was so amazed.

Final lining
Final lining

Around 7AM, there were 9,000 people lining for it. Although the sell started from 8AM, my line at the sandwich started moving at 9AM. I was lucky enough to walk down into Metro. It relieved me a lot after suffering coldness for 3 hours. It was a maze down there.

The line at the stair to Metro

The line moved slowly. But then, at 9:45 they repeatedly announced “the sell will soon be over (すぐ発売終了)”. 8,000 cards were sold. The line moved faster a bit. Everyone around me has so high of hope, even it was only the half way toward the selling booth.

At 10, they announced “the selling is suspended (発売中止)”. People around me were confused by the announcement. It could mean the selling would resume soon after some problems. Then, they clarified the previous announcement with a new one “the selling is suspended and is over (発売中止終了)”. My long suffering (4 hours and a half lining in cold) had finally over. People around me in Metro were still in the line but to walk back to the ground and went somewhere else.

However, the first scene I found after reaching the ground was chaos. People was shouting and cursing at train staffs showing a “End of Sale” sign.

The sell is over – said the sign

The matter was even worse near the selling booth at Marunouchi South exit. I observed there a bit just in time some people throwing a fence at the selling away.

Then, I walked away from the scene taking a train at Yurakucho station to get my brunch. My hungry meter was over 9,000. This is the end of my story.

The afternoon after the selling suspension, the auction price rose to 10 billion Yen!

And, this was the highest bid for today.

900k yen Suica
Rose to 900k Yen on Yahoo Auction – captured on Dec 23, 2014

On Dec 22, JR East announced that they are going to make this available for sale to anyone who wants it. They are going to sell through pre-ordering from both Internet and mail. The period will start in late January and will last for 2 weeks. I am so happy that I don’t have to line up to buy the card again.

If one wants to recall the memory of 100th anniversary Tokyo station, this is the perfect commemorative Suica card.

Moral of story

  • Twitter is the most reliable news source for any cultural event in Japan
  • Japanese people are so good at queuing. Don’t even there to challenge them. EVER!

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