Line Life: Why Are People in Japan Willing to Wait?

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Line Life: Why Are People in Japan Willing to Wait?

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How long would you be willing to wait in line? Thirty minutes? Maybe an hour?

Many people would consider waiting in line for even just an hour tiresome. But in Tokyo, countless restaurants, cafés, and attractions have extremely long lines. Some places are so popular that people are willing to wait over three hours just to have a taste!

One of the longest lines in Tokyo can be found at a restaurant in Harajuku, at “Eggs’n Things”. This Hawaii-based chain restaurant is known to have one of the longest lines in Tokyo. At peak hours, the line wraps around the corner of the block and can have a waiting time of over two hours.


Eggs ‘n Things in Harajuku / Photo by Ayaka

Also in Harajuku, is “Garrett Popcorn”. Maybe waiting for delicious pancakes made some sense, but how about for popcorn? This shop also has a long line with an average wait of one hour, but can be longer than three hours on busy days.

Even for ramen, which is usually considered a quick bite, it is common to see people lining up outside. In Shin-Koiwa, the ramen restaurant “Ittou”, which won third place on the Japanese food ranking site Tabelog in the ramen category, can have up to a three-hour wait as well.

In Japanese, there is even the phrase ‘gyouretsu no dekiru mise’, or restaurants that have long lines, to refer to these eateries. Many stores even use these long lines as part of their marketing strategy to attract more customers.

The new "Gyoretsu no Dekirumise"

The new “gyouretsu no dekiru mise”, Detective Conan collabo cafe at Harajuku Tokyu Plaza / Photo by Ayaka


The line goes forever… / Photo by Ayaka

In comparison to the large population, there are relatively few amusement parks in Japan. Therefore, attractions at large amusement parks like Disneyland, Fuji Q Highland near Mount Fuji, and Universal Studios Japan in Osaka, attract huge crowds from all around Japan. For Fuji Q Highland, the operation hours are limited to only about 9 hours a day, but popular rides like eejyanaika can have lines of over 3 hours. One-third of your time at the park would be spent in line for just one ride!

And at Comiket, the comic market event held twice a year in summer and winter, over half a million people gather and line up to meet their favorite artists, authors, cosplayers, etc. The summers in Japan are devastatingly hot, but that doesn’t stop fans from flocking to the event. But even if you were to arrive on the first train to the event site, you would have to wait an average of 5 hours to enter the event.

Comiket photo AC

Comiket photo AC

So why are people in Tokyo willing to wait so long? You would think that if a person saw a long line, they would decide to look for another place to go. On the contrary, many are popular FOR their long lines. Instead of discouraging customers, these long lines serve as an affirmation of the quality of the product. If everyone is waiting for hours, it must be good, right?

Even with the longest lines, Japan may also as well as have the politest lines. It is rare to ever see anybody complaining about the long lines, cutting lines, or reserving spots in lines. For example, in the United States, during holidays and sales like Black Friday, lines often descend into chaos with people fighting over the last items. But in Japan, the lines are generally orderly.

Why don’t the lines in Japan become chaotic like those in other places of the world? Perhaps in Japan, waiting in line is also considered to be part of the experience. It’s a time to chat up with friends, catch up on social media, or build anticipation towards your final goal whether it’s delicious food, an exhilarating ride, or your meeting your favorite artists.

So, why not challenge yourself to a long line in Japan? It may be worth the wait!

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Born in US, currently a student in Japan. Loves Japanese culture, both traditional and contemporary.

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