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Over-enthusiastic train buffs continue to be a problem

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On Feb 14, three individuals got on the railway tracks between Katakami and Sango stations on JR West’s Yamato line, stopping the special train Asuka, which in turn disrupted the operation of 19 trains affecting 13,000 passengers. There were approximately 50 train buffs with cameras in hand.

JR West could not understand the reason why the incident that happened on this particular day, since the special train was in service seven times during the month. But according to one train fan, this was the only time the train was running with its head mark, which happens only once in several years.

A number of accidents occur because of these avid fans of the railway – whose hobby includes photographing, enjoying the train ride itself, and even an obsession with trains to be decommissioned.

For the most part, such folks are harmless, but there have been instances where enthusiasm turned into rowdiness. When securing a spot on the platform for photo shooting, these overzealous train fans can be a nuisance not only to regular passengers but also to the train and station crew. In fact, a man whose camera tripod fell onto the tracks was hit by the train and died in 2008. Theft of train parts is not uncommon either.

Travel writer Ryozo Kawashima predicts mayhem on March 12, when the “Blue Train” Hokuriku, an express sleeper train, will make its last trip from Ueno to Kanazawa. Having learned its lesson from the past, JR East is preparing to boost security at both stations. How effective this measure will be remains to be seen.

But beware railway fans – disruption of railway services can result in a prison sentence of up to two years and railway companies are entitled to seek damages of several million yen.

© Japan Today

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

16 Comments
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As punishment, they should make them buff the train until it is very shiny.

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jason6: you could flash 'em real quick as the train passed their spot. If you're tall enough, they wouldn't see your face, either!

:)

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Don't forget where the term "train-spotting" came from though.

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mnemosyne23: Thanks, I had a feeling it was some kind of JR symbol. Yes, why is it used once every several years and how did these guys know about it? Was JR dumb enough to make an announcement.

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I believe a "head mark" is the round identifier on the very front of a train. At least, according to the examples I've found on Wikimedia Commons, that appears to be what it is. My question then becomes, why is it such a rarity that this train runs with its head mark? Was that lost in the translation somewher?

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I know that trains are obviously a big part of Japan's transportation system, but I honestly don't get the mania surrounding them. I know that lots of people have obsessions, from Beanie Baby toys to beer cans, but Japan seems to have a monopoly on suicidally obsessed train fanatics. In the US we have trains -- not to the extent of Japan, perhaps, but there are nonetheless many train lines that criss-cross the country -- yet I never hear of this kind of otaku behavior towards trains anywhere in the States. There are PLENTY of train buffs -- I've known one or two -- and you can find a locomotive museum in just about every state, but this kind of mania is mind-boggling to me. I'm sure someone could write a very interesting doctoral thesis on the Japanese obsession with trains compared to other countries with commuter railways. I'd love to read that, actually.

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this was the only time the train was running with its head mark

paulinusa, i give up too - what on earth does that mean? anybody care to explain?

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i'd like to get a ticket for a ride on that blue train and then stand in the windows doing ridiculous poses to ruin their precious pictures.

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tkoind, the majority of Japanese look at these people with disdain. Everyone is entitled to their own interests and hobbies, but let's not disturb others eh?

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In the US people waste time on facebook, twitter and other time sinks as well, but at least it's not as weird.

No, just completely pointless: online poker and pimp fights. At least railfans get out into the fresh air and do things together on occasion.

"Mania" groups usually have their own ethics and rules. For example, people who explore abandoned buildings: "take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints".

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Remember that the vast majority of fans are lawabiding members. It's always a small group that makes it bad for everyone. For example one stupid foreigner does something stupid, all foreigners usually pay the price. Is that right? Same here, a few stupid fans do it, and all of us fans pay the price. Even in the railfan community here in Japan, many of us are upset at these stupid guys and their antics. The railfan magazines are publishing warnings now to please follow the rules.

For the most part, such folks are harmless, but there have been instances where enthusiasm turned into rowdiness.

The same goes for everything, even in football the vast majority of people are fine, but then a small group always has to destroy something or cause a riot it puts a bad image on the sport as a whole.

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yeah these otaku will bring he country down. Instead of producing anything of value, they waste their time on pointless hobbies and fetishes.

In the US people waste time on facebook, twitter and other time sinks as well, but at least it's not as weird.

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O.K.,I give up, what is a "head mark"? An insignia ?

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Nerds are always a problem.

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Obsessive compulsive behavior seems to be an epidemic in Japan. From stalkers to the 30-40 year old guys in Akiba and their teenage idols, this country has legions of people who are obsessed with some single thing.

Perhaps the cause is that people have lost connectivity to the real world, or perhaps feel unempowered to have lives beyond the granularity of a single set of obsessions.

In any case, it is becoming frightening that people are so obsessive.

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a man whose camera tripod fell onto the tracks was hit by the train and died in 2008.

I found this amusing. I pray for the tripod that fell onto the tracks and was hit by the train. It actually died. Amen.

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