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Japan Transportation

Apology After Japanese Train Departs 20 Seconds Early (bbc.com) 215

Several readers share a BBC report: A rail company in Japan has apologised after one of its trains departed 20 seconds early. Management on the Tsukuba Express line between Tokyo and the city of Tsukuba say they "sincerely apologise for the inconvenience" caused. In a statement, the company said the train had been scheduled to leave at 9:44:40 local time but left at 9:44:20. Many social media users reacted to the company's apology with surprise. "Tokyo train company's apology for 20-second-early departure is one of the best things about Japan," a user wrote. The mistake happened because staff had not checked the timetable, the company statement said.
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Apology After Japanese Train Departs 20 Seconds Early

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  • by DontBeAMoran ( 4843879 ) on Thursday November 16, 2017 @02:17PM (#55564711)

    Is it a coincidence it happened only three days after Pocky Day? I think not!

  • Good and bad (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Tokyo train company's apology for 20-second-early departure is one of the best things about Japan

    And reinforces one of the worst things about Japan.

    This extreme fastidiousness is also why Japan's suicide rate is higher than the US homicide rate and suicide rate combined.

  • So how many posts until someone makes a harakiri joke?

  • by ClickOnThis ( 137803 ) on Thursday November 16, 2017 @02:20PM (#55564745) Journal

    ...the company announced that the train engineer will commit seppuku.

    [Just kidding ;-P]

  • Appology Accepted (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Thelasko ( 1196535 ) on Thursday November 16, 2017 @02:21PM (#55564757) Journal
    My company received an apology from a Japanese supplier because a shipment of parts were a week late after the 2011 earthquake. [wikipedia.org]

    Meanwhile other suppliers were apologetically late for no good reason.
    • Meanwhile other suppliers were apologetically late for no good reason.

      *unapologetically* late. stupid auto-correct...

    • by DontBeAMoran ( 4843879 ) on Thursday November 16, 2017 @02:37PM (#55564931)

      Hello,

      I represent a Canadian supplier which has no contract with you at the moment.

      We apologize for not being one of your suppliers.

      • by boudie2 ( 1134233 ) on Thursday November 16, 2017 @04:02PM (#55565549)
        As a Canadian I would like to apologize for the previous apology.
      • by FeelGood314 ( 2516288 ) on Thursday November 16, 2017 @04:33PM (#55565787)
        I'm Canadian, but I lived in Atlanta in the early 90s. This was when Atlanta was the violent crime capital of the USA. I found Canadian kids are more violent than their American counter parts. They tease, bully and particularly in sports resort to fighting far more often.

        The Canadian apology is part de-escalation, half social signalling (and part programmed reflex). When I apologies for someone else bumping into me I'm avoiding a fight and I'm showing confidence that I'm big enough not to be offended. Call me an idiot, I'm not going to take the bait and get a penalty. I will let you go first through the door to show I'm organized, and not in a rush. (yes, I'm guilty, I've been in a few Canadian standoffs) .

        In work, if something goes wrong, I'll take the blame and then work on the solution. This is doubly effective in some cultures as I'm remembered as the one who took charge and solved the problem and also saved someone else embarrassment.

        One last note. I did find the people of the American south the most friendly, open and genuine people I've ever met. They will always start a conversation and will tell you anything you want to know.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      My company received an apology from a Japanese supplier because a shipment of parts were a week late after the 2011 earthquake.

      No doubt, that is what Trump is referring to when he talks about other countries' unfair business practices. How can any US company be expected to compete with that kind of service?

    • ...Captain Needa.

  • by jfdavis668 ( 1414919 ) on Thursday November 16, 2017 @02:28PM (#55564825)
    I've ridden these trains. There are marks on the platform showing where the doors will be. There is a timer counting down until arrival. You can stand at the mark, and when the timer hits zero, step forward onto the train. It will be there with the door open right on that mark. Not even German trains are as punctual as Japanese trains.
    • I raved about how great the London Underground is to my wife's cousin when I was there, and she laughed at me.
      "Go to Berlin" she said, "that's a really great train service, cheap fast and clean".
      Japan's must be really awesome if it's better than that.
      • I raved about how great the London Underground is to my wife's cousin when I was there, and she laughed at me.

        "Go to Berlin" she said, "that's a really great train service, cheap fast and clean".

        Japan's must be really awesome if it's better than that.

        Ah just like in America where people praise the New York subway system for it's cleanliness and lack of tardiness my dear sir.

        • Ah just like in America where people praise the New York subway system for it's cleanliness and lack of tardiness my dear sir.

          The only problem we had travelling by train in the UK was on the privately run South-East service, which was an absolute shit-show.
          Pro-tip: Do not try to travel anywhere from Bank station at 5 o'clock during the week.

      • by jiriw ( 444695 )

        I've been to all three countries...

        Japanese precision > Deutsche Gründlichkeit > British punctuality.

        By the way, if you plan to visit/stay in multiple cities and are visiting as a tourist, I can recommend you to buy a Japanese Railpass for the weeks you want to travel. Do that BEFORE you go to Japan, as they are (usually) not sold within the country. The Railpass is valid for all normal JR rail lines, some JR ferries and many JR shinkansen (except for the fastest variants), either as a regional p

        • by jrumney ( 197329 )
          In Britain, there are never any delays unless there is some weather conditions causing it, like when its snowing, raining or the rails get too hot because the sun is shining, or the wind has blown leaves onto the track.
      • Japan's must be really awesome if it's better than that.

        What wowed me about the first time I used Tokyo network was despite all signs being in Japanese and all staff speaking Japanese, and me not understanding any of it, it was easier to move around the city than my own local system. Hong Kong and Singapore are also world class.
        Out of all the major global cities I've been to, the US is still stuck in the 1970's by comparison.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@@@world3...net> on Thursday November 16, 2017 @02:41PM (#55564961) Homepage Journal

      I watched a documentary about the drivers. They calculate there speed to make up for a single second of delay.

      • by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Thursday November 16, 2017 @03:36PM (#55565387)
        That's nothing! Japanese airlines flying from the US to Japan will go so quick you'll arrive the day before you left!
        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          I have to say that the food on Japanese airlines is substantially better than the British ones, but that could just be because British food is awful and for some reason British Airways insist on inflicting it on you.

          • I thought the digs at English cuisine were just jokes... until I went there last summer.

            Dear lord. Everything is boiled, bland, and mushy (unless it's supposed to be mushy, in which case it's lumpy and/or chewy)

    • The amazing thing to me is that system was in place when I was in Japan back in April 1999.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by redmasq ( 4395537 )
      Not all of the stations have the timer or the marks. For the "subway" ones in Tokyo, I had humored myself a bit by comparing to a timer. I never saw it more than a second off. There was slightly more variation in the shinkansen, but we left every stop within 5-6 seconds of the schedule time. While impressive, I was more impressed with the number of people that road them versus how ridiculously sparkling clean they were.
    • Not even German trains are as punctual as Japanese trains.

      German trains stopped being punctual AT LEAST 25 years ago. I remember the stories about my punctuality when I was a boy. Then I met my german wife, and both had great laughs at that notion as we traveled through her country.

    • by Ogive17 ( 691899 )
      I just got back from a trip to Japan.. I had my phone open and watched as the trains arrived and departed exactly on time, it was fantastic considering how many trains are moving through the large stations at any given time. Of course delays occur but I witnessed none in my 10 days there.

      Yes, they have lines for everyone to wait and be ready... and as soon as the doors open it's a free-for-all. I use my larger American frame to knock people out of the way in Japan when they decide to cut in at the la
    • In four years of riding the Ginza line, Tokyo's oldest subway, to work every morning I encountered a mechanical breakdown exactly once. There was a ten-minute delay in starting from the Shibuya terminal.

  • That's one explanation for this behavior . . . .

  • by viperidaenz ( 2515578 ) on Thursday November 16, 2017 @02:32PM (#55564867)

    No trains were running in the capital yesterday due to industrial action. The French and Korean companies that run them have been trying to claw back conditions from employment agreements they agreed to when they won the operating contract, so the workers went on strike after 6 months of failed negotiations.

    • No trains were running in the capital yesterday due to industrial action.

      Didn't NZ kill off all their trains other than Auckland-Wellington and Greymouth-Christchurch years ago?

      • Commuter trains. It's how 30,000 people get in an out of Wellington city every day, nearly 10% of the regions population.
        Those 30,000 people either worked from home yesterday or added to the traffic that has to crawl down 3 lanes of motorway.

        Thanks a lot Transdev.

  • by ErichTheRed ( 39327 ) on Thursday November 16, 2017 @02:32PM (#55564869)

    During normal operations, I did notice Japanese trains run to the second when I was there a while back. There's no similar sense of urgency here in the US.

    I don't know if a society so focused on punctuality is a good thing though...not being allowed to be late (or early) means that there's no room for error in other parts of one's life either. I imagine it's very difficult to come back from a personal failure in Japanese culture. In the US, it's certainly not impossible...I know tons of people who just weren't ready to grow up when they turned 18, and they either drifted or joined the military and grew up, then got their lives on track. That must be way harder in Japan if you can't even leave 20 seconds early without triggering an apology.

    • by UnknowingFool ( 672806 ) on Thursday November 16, 2017 @02:49PM (#55565027)
      It really is part of the culture. People rely on things to be on time. Now different parts of Europe have different standards. In Switzerland and Germany, if the train schedule says 15:13 departure, it leaves at 15:13 not 15:12 or 15:15. So you have to be on time to catch the train. In Italy, the trains are on time most of the time. That 15:13 train might be 15:14 or so.
      • Is that a tacit argument for bringing back il duce?

      • Here in the US, if I'm at the bus stop at 15:13, it probably left at 15:10 or 15:11. If I get there early, the bus won't get there until 15:20 or 15:25. Where's Mussolini when you need him?

      • by PCM2 ( 4486 )

        In Italy, the trains are on time most of the time. That 15:13 train might be 15:14 or so.

        Or they might just totally screw up, change the wrong sign on the platform, and a dozen people find themselves on an express train traveling the opposite direction from where they need to go. It happened to me, so you have a lot more faith in Italian trains than I do.

    • You are confusing the failures of the individuals with the failure of the society.

      Not giving people second chance, making their lives stressful to the point of driving them to suicide and other self destructive behavior is bad for the individuals. Society, like evolution, does not give a damn. There are enough people who do not need the second chance, it is worth the trade for the society.

    • by Gussington ( 4512999 ) on Thursday November 16, 2017 @07:19PM (#55566769)

      During normal operations, I did notice Japanese trains run to the second when I was there a while back. There's no similar sense of urgency here in the US.

      In Hong Kong there is no timetable. The trains run so frequently and reliably that you just turn up at a station a train is either there or will be in 2 minutes. That is how public transport should be done.

      • In Hong Kong there is no timetable.

        The entire country also has no train line longer than 40km, and the majority of the lines are a fraction of that length. The train network in HongKong is less complicated than the metro system of many cities, which also have no timetables.

    • If it leaves 20 seconds early, that means that I may have to wait on the platform for an hour (or whatever) til the next train, because I was going to be there on time. It's way worse than leaving 20 seconds late (which can be made up in transit).

      • by JanneM ( 7445 )

        The Shinkansen typically runs every 15-20 minutes or so. On the busiest lines (Tokyo-Osaka) at peak times there's a new train every five minutes. You just show up, get a ticket atthe vending machine and step on to the next train.

        Flying may be cheaper, but the trains are just so much faster and more convenient. I love them.

        • Okay, so 15-20 minutes late. And then that can make you miss another connection or something. My point is that 20 seconds early can be the difference in like 30 minutes in someone's life.

  • by Bodhammer ( 559311 ) on Thursday November 16, 2017 @02:37PM (#55564927)
    I wish my wife was that forgiving about 20 seconds.and my apology...
  • The professionalism here on slashdot is outstanding! On this date 11/16/2017 I shall always remember where and when I first heard this vital life changing news of a train departing 20 seconds early in my memories.

  • by mykepredko ( 40154 ) on Thursday November 16, 2017 @02:50PM (#55565035) Homepage

    As many people note, you can set your watch to arrivals/departures of trains in Japan - but I'm amazed at how much the Japanese take it for granted.

    They don't see it as anything special, this is a service, like always getting a dial tone when you pick up a phone in North America.

    I'm wondering how this could be translated to Canadian culture - I don't think the Toronto subway system (http://www.ttc.ca/) could ever get their collective heads wrapped around the idea that they MUST be on time, ALWAYS & FOREVER.

    • >I don't think the Toronto subway system (http://www.ttc.ca/) could ever get their collective heads wrapped around the idea that they MUST be on time

      It's also pretty popular in the GTA to jump in front of trains. Something like a dozen people a year jump in front of a TTC subway, and another dozen decide to use the GO train instead. That's an average of twice a month a rail line is stopped because of a suicide attempt.

      • by dk20 ( 914954 )

        Know what i love about the GO train.. their "service guarantee" with so many exemptions it is difficult to collect.
        Often they simply cancel the entire train and then dont issue refunds because cancelled trains cant be late???

        A week or so ago someone jumped in front of the GO train near guildwood. I left the train at my home statoins because they were communicating outright incorrect information on the train and figured it would be hours before it started moving again.

        I asked for a refund since i never took

  • Amagasaki rail crash (Score:5, Interesting)

    by supermachoman ( 2479416 ) on Thursday November 16, 2017 @02:58PM (#55565127)
    This is indicative of the kind of mindset that led to the tragic train crash of 2005. A train was running 90 seconds behind, and under tremendous pressure from his superiors, the operator sped the train up and ended up derailing it. If it weren't for the new automatic brake systems installed, this would likely happen again (because I see no change in the culture)

    Amagasaki rail crash [wikipedia.org]
    • He failed to make up for 90 seconds?

      Casey Jones was making up for 2 and a half hours of delay. On a steam locomotive. After a 12 hour shift.

      He did not make up for it. But at least he ended up on ballads for 100 years.

      You Es Yay! You Es Yay! You Es Yay! You Es Yay! You Es Yay! You Es Yay!

  • Privately-owned, competing railroads provide good service. Wow. Who knew...

    Meanwhile, government monopoly NJ Transit would not only can leave 1-2 minutes early sometimes (when they aren't 20 minutes late), they would kick a passenger off the train for pointing it out...

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 16, 2017 @04:36PM (#55565823)

      Sorry to blow away your whole point, but this railway is owned by a "company" which is actually owned by a number of Japanese governments.

      Metropolitan Intercity Railway Company ownership (all government bodies): Ibaraki Prefecture, Tokyo, Chiba Prefecture, Adachi Ward (Tokyo), City of Tsukuba, Saitama Prefecture

      No competition involved either on this route.

      Seems to be well-managed, in spite of this. But your whole premise is blown away, you don't know what you are talking about.

  • by JoeRobe ( 207552 ) on Thursday November 16, 2017 @04:07PM (#55565581) Homepage

    ...is that the rail company apologized even though nobody actually complained about it - now that's honesty!

  • I would not be surprised if the apology was a stunt by the railway PR department: a way of saying ''look how punctual we normally are''.

    • You would only say that if you have never been to Japan.

      All trains run on time. From all the different operators. Tokyo itself has an absolute myriad of train operators and the standard level of service is that all trains are on time, always.

  • by MoarSauce123 ( 3641185 ) on Thursday November 16, 2017 @05:29PM (#55566207)
    ...we can be happy to have a train come to town maybe once or twice a day. I gladly take 20 seconds early any time in exchange for a decent regional train service.
  • Trying to overtake us Canadians as the nice folks on this planet!

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