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Railway geeks wearing out their welcome

36 Comments

"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

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36 Comments
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Take a walk.”

Good thing I wasn't there. A geek would have been taking a "flight" down the tracks.

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Only in Japan, trainspotter bullies...LOL!

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“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.

I agree, I am seeing less of the sempai/kohai system here in Japan, especially in these kind of groups. In relation to these trainspotters, perhaps the speed of information and how readily available it is is perhaps a key in this day and age. Why would one need a sempai/kohai system to exist when one could just go online and talk to peers about it. I have met a few of these guys and I would say that most of them are fairly nice, if not a little protective of things they value.

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“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).

Why not call the police or security? And why on earth capitulate to such a ridiculous and selfish request? If they touch you it's assault.

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It's accidently an indictement of the sempai/kouhai system when he says this. People shouldn't need guidance to observe good manners; just as they ought to be able to use their initiative in the workplace and other situations were judgement is called for.

Far too much waiting for approval from others occurs in Japan, and it leeches the vigor of everyone from students to policitians.

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As a railfan, I generally avoid the large events such as a Last-Run or Workshop Open days because of the over the top nature of some fellow enthusiasts. They aren't good times to get great photo's anyway. But it seems the railways and authorities are paying more attention - last weekends running of a Steam Hauled special on the Aterazawa Line from Yamagata saw a couple of cops at Yamagata station near the Steam Locomotive while in the platform just in case any of the foamers went crazy.

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Drop the security, let nature take its course, and the problem will take care of itself.

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Has anyone considered an economic motive? If these guys are anything like card collectors and other collectors then there might very well quite a lucrative market out there for the right photographs, bits of trains, etc. It might be looking into.

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Just send some girls into the group and have them strike up a conversation. The trainspotters will shuffle away with their heads hanging low.

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Tettsudo yankii. Do they wear masks to hide their faces?

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yeah - only in Japan. If a trainspotter gets on your carriage in the UK you would probably want to get off without being asked due to the smell!!!!

Never did get train/plain/etc spotting - weird!

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Trainspotters doesnt need a senpai-kohai just to behave properly. They are not kids anymore. Its common sense to always act in good manner which most japanese (especially men) doesnt have. They tend to only practice or show good manners inside the office, but outside they are insensitive.

Notice when you are inside a train, they dont even say "sumimasen" when they pass through you, they just ram you off as if you are getting in their way, not even considering if you are woman, an old fellow, nor a pregnant woman.

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Thmegu

Just send some girls into the group and have them strike up a conversation. The trainspotters will shuffle away with their heads hanging low.

Great line - and very true....

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Never did get train/plain/etc spotting - weird!

Go back to your sports pages then.

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Friday lists a chronology of hobbyist-related mishaps, including one fatality, over the past decade.

Yesh, my grandpa liked trains too but this is just nuts.

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What a bunch of jerks, the ones ordering other passengers around. My father is a railfan, but he's not one of the mean ones. Most know how to respect other people in the midst of their activities.

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For more laughs, check out the videos on Youtube of densha otaku ijimeko.

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Go back to your sports pages then.

... typical nerd reply. If you don't like trains you must be someone who is slow and is only interested in sports.

I've never been able to understand the whole trainspotting thing either. It's just a TRAIN for gods sake!! I could understand if we lived in 1829, but it's just a bloody train!

By the way- I like sports, but I don't read sports pages.

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Hmmm nothing a punch to the face wouldn't stop... wooo I wish they said that to me.

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This is really a shame. I have several Japanese friends who are into trains, and they are extremely nice people; they would never cause trouble like this.

If some Densha Dork tells you to move or leave, tell them to F-off. Flannel shirts and velcro shoes aren't exactly intimidating. Besides you have every right to be there - more so than them, who are causing a disturbance.

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I have never understood the otaku mentality of the Japanese. But, I guess it takes all kinds to make a world.

Taka

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Well they are mostly harmless. They are not looking at porn or molesting children or pretending to do such. The railroads need to make a special "club" for them charging them a premium price. Then have "special cars" for them on events like this. Special waiting areas, escorts for them, etc. It would be a win win for all concerned.

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I'd have to agree with gogogo! A little motivational physical therapy (which might remove a few teeth in the process) and some encouragement exiting through the window would solve the geek problem!

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Japan has a capacity to take things to an extreme that I have not see anywhere else. It is often a good thing. Musicians I meet here are often masterful players who know their instruments, the music and technique to a degree I had never experienced before. Yet some who have this amazing technical and discipline understanding lack the very important factors of unique creative expression and passion.

The Train lovers seem to have this problem too. An obsession with detail and their focal point while managing to miss the key factors of safety and common sense behavior. But then we see this with so many hobbies and obsessions here.

I can't help but wonder if these mania approaches to things are not some manifestation of obsessive compulsive disorder. Especially when people ignore other aspects of life to be hyperfocused on one thing or activity. Maybe we are seeing a symptoms of a serious problem here.

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As a gaijin, I'd just stare blankly at the otaku and say, "Sumimasen. Nihongo o wakarimasen." Then ignore them. I'm built solidly enough that they probably wouldn't try to take it to the next level but if they did, THEN I might have to "get some exercise".

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Christ. I would have thought that everyone would have been glad to see the end of the old Keihin-Tohoku cars. They had to be at least ten years older than anything running anywhere in the Kanto region and it is one of the most heavily used lines. I guess the JR decided they couldn't continue to ignore trains that went deep into the wilds of DaSaitama.

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Why do train companies have to even announce the trains' retirement?

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Why do train companies have to even announce the trains' retirement?

Their PR staff have precious little as it is to justify their jobs!

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jeffrey wrote:

They had to be at least ten years older than anything running anywhere in the Kanto region and it is one of the most heavily used lines. I guess the JR decided they couldn't continue to ignore trains that went deep into the wilds of DaSaitama.

Are you serious? I believe JR Yokohama Line and Nambu Line have been using older rolling stock (trains) than Keihin-Tohoku Line. Also, Keihin-Tohoku Line combined with Negishi Line runs through more of Kanagawa-ken than it does through southeastern Saitama-ken. Deep into the wilds? Hahaha.

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1,500 “tetsu-tori” requiring 200 security staff? WOW.... 1 security guy in Japan can only handle 7.5 Japanese? Now that is efficiency.

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That's because they assume the majority aren't there to start trouble. Which is better: 1700 people at the station or 3000?

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I bet the rail lines don't complain when these densha otaku buy tickets, attend museums and go on excursions. Then they are welcomed.

I am sure they are becoming more "brazen and selfish", but the real problem is the entire world is doing the exact same.

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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.

I was there at Tokyo Station and don't recall seeing anyone being knocked down or requiring medical assistantce.

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.

Tragic ACCIDENT but it was just an accident, not like he was "pushed" off the cliff by another train fan.

But I understand the jist of the article. There's really a few groups of Train fans. Oldtimers like myself and newcomers who come in because of the media hype. Many rail magazines now print letters telling people to be courteous, however a lot of these new comers don't want to play by the rules, and give everyone else a bad name.

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dorks

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I'm all against people being rude and arrogant about their hobbies, but even this article admits these incidents aren't common and don't reflect most enthusiasts. It even reasons that these incidents are increasing because nowadays they happen more than once. Wow.

This is akin to saying that Japanese people are extremely violent and attack at random, merely by listing notable examples.

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I mean, a lot more people die riding a bike, driving a car, swimming in a pool, or even playing golf (literally). One person slipping off a cliff while taking photographs is nothing to get carried away over.

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