Japanese do love their manga. We know this because on public transport, it's common to see commuters of all ages and both genders poring over the adventures of their favorite comic heroes. Why, even bus drivers read them.
Whoa! Did we say bus drivers??
J-Cast News (March 16) reports of an incident that earlier this month generated a big controversy on Twitter. It seems that while a bus was halted to allow passengers to board prior to departure, its driver sat behind the wheel and enjoyed a manga. A passenger on the bus snapped a photo of the driver and posted it on his Twitter account.
The photo, reflected in the rear-view mirror, clearly shows the driver, clad in uniform and necktie, holding a paperback-size comic book in both hands as he read it. It was first posted on Twitter on March 12.
While the bus company employing the driver claimed it could not verify the accuracy of the photo, it said that company policy prohibits drivers from carrying certain items aboard the buses, and that the driver was likely to be subject to "guidance," the least severe form of discipline.
The poster had apparently taken the photograph while the bus was still parked at the first stop on its route. He felt that as the driver was on duty, even though the bus was not yet in motion the driver should be cautioned.
The Twitter post attracted quite a few comments and a lively discussion ensued, with posters arguing both pro and con concerning the driver's action. Most agreed with the original poster, making remarks like "If passengers are on board, it shouldn't be done" or "It makes me feel unsafe while riding so I wish he'd stop doing it." Or "You can read comics in you drivers' break room, but not while you're on the bus." Or "There's something funny about him bringing the comic on board right from the start."
Among the minority who rose to the driver's defense were comments such as "Relaxing is permitted even while on duty" and "It's not as if he's reading while driving" and "Without the occasional break, he's less likely to drive safely."
Afterwards, for reasons unknown, the initial poster's Twitter account was deleted.
J-Cast News determined the name of the bus company and fired off some questions to its headquarters regarding the incident, which received the following response.
"We inquired to the local department but were not able to determine either on what day or where the photo was taken, and could not identify that particular bus. We operate several hundred vehicles in our fleet, and couldn't confirm which bus or driver was involved."
That having been said, the company spokesperson pointed out "With regard to employment, our work regulations state that drivers may not carry aboard items that are unnecessary to their operation of the vehicle. If we determine someone to be in violation, they will be cautioned. Our drivers are even required to leave their smartphones behind in their individual locker at work."
J-Cast News also fired off a question to the Safety Policy Department at the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, whose spokesperson remarked, "If the bus driver's act in fact occurred, then this is a problem in terms of morality in general."
The ministry spokesperson added, "When passengers are boarding a bus, drivers are regarded as being on duty, and we believe looking at manga is inappropriate. It may be that the ministry will be obliged to instruct bus operators to ascertain whether or not drivers are being given proper training."© Japan Today