May 10

Get Out Of Work Free Card

This unassuming little piece of paper is pure gold. If your morning commute train is delayed for any reason at all – a carton of instant ramen noodles smashed on the tracks, torrential rain, an umbrella hopelessly fankling up one of the doors – rail company officials stand inside the ticket gates and hand these “late train excuses” to every exiting passenger.

The pass is printed with the name of the train line so scofflaws can’t cop one from the ever-delayed Chuo line even though they take the reliable Yamanote, and punched to show the date and the length of delay. If you’re as lucky as I was, you’ll get the maximum “over 120 minutes” punch, allowing you to saunter into the office (or, in my case, class) two hours late without affecting your all-important attendance record.

The flip side is that if you try to tell your boss that you’re late because of a problem on the train (instead of that you threw your alarm clock against the wall when it rang at 6:00), you’re toast if you don’t hand him one of these.

Read a novel set in Tokyo

A young woman dressed as a Gothic Lolita is found dead in a car with a pair of strangers. But the more Yumi Hata learns about her friend’s death, the more she’s convinced it was murder…read more