"Hey! This car is for us train geeks, not you regular passengers. Take a walk."
The occasion was Sunday, Jan 24, the final day before the old blue Model 209 passenger cars on the Keihin Tohoku/Negishi Line that runs between Ofuna, Kanagawa Prefecture and Omiya, Saitama Prefecture, were to be put into retirement.
It seems that a group of the railway fans out for a last, nostalgic ride attempted to commandeer cars on the train.
"Even though the train was just running as normal, the hobbyists rudely ordered regular passengers as if they had the run of the place," a reporter for a national daily tells Friday (July 2).
"I suppose they wanted a clean shot of the cars that wasn't cluttered with people, and were determined to get their way," a train spotter in his 40s explains.
As a result of the growing number of unpleasant incidents, Friday reports that these "densha otaku" (train geeks, aka trainspotters), once referred to affectionately as "Tettchan," have a new and less flattering name -- "tetsu-tori," an amalgamation of "tetsudo" (railway) and "toru," (to shoot or take a photo).
Friday lists a chronology of hobbyist-related mishaps, including one fatality, over the past decade. The numbers appear to be on the increase, with eight incidents occurring in the first five months of 2010 alone.
Last February, about 10 men clambered into a restricted area adjacent to the JR Kansai Line tracks to shoot the Asuka express, causing six train runs to be delayed and inconveniencing some 3,500 passengers.
The same month, about 1,500 "tetsu-tori" jammed into Tokyo Central Station to photograph the final run of the Model 500 series Nozomi Shinkansen limited express, requiring 200 security staff to be mobilized for crowd control. Several people were knocked down in the excitement that ensued when the train departed.
At an exhibit commemorating the retirement of the Hokuriku sleeper trains held at JR Toyama Station in March, two photo display panels were pilfered -- leading a wag to suggest tongue-in-cheek that the characters for "tetsu-tori," meaning to shoot trains, ought to be written with a different ideograph with the same pronunciation, but meaning to "rip off trains."
While fatalities among such hobbyists have been rare, in May of this year, a 47-year-old enthusiast lost his footing on a hillside above a tunnel while attempting to photograph the Joetsu Line in Gunma Prefecture and died from injuries incurred by the fall.
"In the old days, railway fans were well behaved, but more of them have become brazen, insensitive and selfish," remarks one of the more conscientious fans. "The notion of them shoving aside ordinary passengers is a huge problem. It's really vexing to see a small number giving the rest of us a bad reputation."
"The real pros at shooting trains get their work done without annoying others," railway maven and author Ryozo Kawashima tells Friday. "We want ordinary fans to emulate them. But due to the proliferation of the Internet, the hobby has lost its hierarchical structure.
"I think the problem may be due to the disappearance of true 'sempai' (seniors) who can educate the newcomers on proper forms of behavior that should be obvious," Kawashima adds.© Japan Today