Thoughtless rail fans spoiling it for hobbyists


In Japan, railway mania comes in a variety of sizes and shapes. There's "tori-tetsu," a compound word made from "to take a photo" and "railway"; "nori-tetsu," which involves riding aboard specially configured trains; and then there's "ekiben-tetsu," making oneself an expert in the boxed meals served at stations around the archipelago.

In addition, reports Shukan Shincho (April 23), there's yet another type referred to as "bari-tetsu," which comes from "baribari" (energetic), but in this case meaning particularly enthusiastic train photography.

Sometimes the hobbyists get carried away, and on rare occasions wind up breaking the law. On March 24, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police arrested a male high school sophomore and sent a younger boy in middle school for guidance counseling after it was learned that last November, the two had pilfered a "kantera" (railway signal lantern) and electric megaphone from a Tokaido line train. "It was fun to keep it at home and switch it on and off," the young perpetrator told police.

On March 13, the Hokutosei overnight train linking Ueno with Sapporo made its final scheduled run. But JR will still operate special runs of the train on an ad hoc basis and in fact, in May alone, the Hokutosei will make 20 such special runs from Ueno to Sapporo.

That having been said, on March 13, a huge crowd of photographers turned out to shoot the "final" Hokutosei, converging on the station with expensive single-lens reflex cameras, tablet computers and camera-equipped smartphones. So many, in fact that 70 station staff, private security guards and police officers were required to control the crowd.

When the train pulled into the station at 6:45 a.m., the excitement reached its peak. Mixed in with the crowd of cameramen were enthusiasts armed with "jitori-bo" (selfie sticks). At 7 a.m., the stationmaster gave the signal and as the train began to pull away, nostalgic shouts of "Good-bye" and "Thanks for everything" could be heard from the crowd of fans.

The mobs of fans have been known to cause problems. In February 2010, a man attempting to take photos of a special train equipped with tatami mat seating that runs on the JR Biwako Line illegally entered a fenced-off area, forcing the driver of the train to slam on his emergency brakes. In June of the same year, a local government employee was arraigned on criminal charges for breaking into a restricted area to take photos from a tripod-mounted camera.

Fatalities during such events, while rare, have been known to happen. In January 2013, a man attempting to photograph the Narita Express at JR Shimbashi station was hit by a train and died of his injuries.

But the main concern seems to be the decline in fans' manners.

"I started photographing trains when I was a kid," a man in his 60s tells the magazine. "Even then, there were times when adults who didn't exercise caution might fall from the platform onto the tracks. If I got too close, an adult would warn me. Since railway fans weren't so numerous in the past, the environment was easier to instruct youngsters."

With the greater numbers, however, public manners worsened. "People from Kansai are obstinate; if somebody walks in front of them while they're shooting, they'll raise their voice and blurt out, 'Hey -- what do you think you're doing?' Some time ago, I took my son to see the final run of the Izumo express, but the platform was mobbed and my son was so upset he made up his mind never to go to such an event again. Anyway, people's manners are definitely in decline."

Ryozo Kawashima, a rail expert and author recalls that about 40 years ago, a campaign was started to instill manners and common sense among trainspotters.

"It didn't work," he sighs.

Isn't it time to put controls on the mobs of rude rail hobbyists, Shukan Shincho's reporter asked the spokesman for East Japan Railways.

"It hasn't come to the point that we've considered banning them from the premises," came the reply. "More than anything, we're hoping that people will mind their manners."

That may take some doing, the article concludes. These days, there's not much difference in behavior between Japan's rude "tori-tetsu" and soccer hooligans in Europe.

© Japan Today

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Ryozo Kawashima, a rail expert and author recalls that about 40 years ago, a campaign was started to instill manners and common sense among trainspotters.

If after 40 years they still haven't been able to come up with a viable way to stop the people who don't follow the rules or laws, maybe, just maybe one would think that it's time to change tactics.

How about taking photographs on a platform illegal? Toss some folks in jail? Fine the heck out of them and have them do public service cleaning station toilets?

Come on, if it's this big of a problem use the collective brain power and come up with a solution!

-6 ( +3 / -9 )

If I were walking on a platform and just happened to step in front of someone's camera view of an upcoming train (I would TRY not to do it knowingly, though if it were crowded I wouldn't care) and got shouted at by some geek I'd make it a point to go and literally stand right in front of his/her camera so they could get no shot at all. The trains can be crowded and the ride stressful enough without some over-the-top train enthusiast demand he or she get the perfect millionth shot at the expense of so many commuters.

If it's becoming that bad, the train companies need to do something. But the fact is they make a lot of money off these geeks, so they are hesitant. Despite the practices having cost lives and involved various illegal actions, if train employees see a person or group of people setting up shop on or around a platform they do absolutely nothing -- but walk towards a train station on Hallowe'en with a costume on and depending on the station you'll be told, by several hundred police, that you cannot enter (as there has been problems in the past). Do something!

1 ( +7 / -6 )

I swear Japanese hate making money. Build special platforms for these guys and charge them a little ticket fee with seasonal rates, special event rates, etc... Ban taking pictures on crowded platforms have special train runs on separate platforms or build special sections for taking pictures that are elevated or separate from actual riders. Train companies make more money, riders are happy, nerds getter better shots. Everyone is happy.

7 ( +10 / -3 )

Just ban train-spotting! End result: fewer virgins, higher birthrate.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

To hobbyists on a mission, people outside their group threaten their enjoyment, and manners go out the window.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

The majority of these guys are harmless. (But I'm fine with arresting people who endanger others or create a nuisance)

Idiots walking on the platform while looking at their phones are a bigger problem and should be stopped first.

If smoking can be banned in train stations, it can too.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

Harmless geeks. Follow them around and step on teh back of their shoes over and over again. They soon go away.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

@JapanGal --> or, they'll snap and attack ya, or worse throw you off a platform in the path of an oncoming train. Japan seems to be suffering from a weird run of strange assaults and murders these days.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Trainspotters are harmless anoraks. Go to any main train station in the UK and there they are, at the end of the platform, note books in hand. Apparently it's a form of autism.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Aizo Yurei, that's a great idea!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It's gotta be a sexual phallic thing. Women don't trainspot. Ever ask why?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It's gotta be a sexual phallic thing. Women don't trainspot.

The first sentence cannot logically be concluded from the second.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Danny, read about Tetsuko and female Japanese trainspotters.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

“It was fun to keep it at home and switch it on and off,” the young perpetrator told police.

Grade-A dork.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

All that is needed is to limit the number of people on a platform at any given time....

0 ( +0 / -0 )

There's certainly far worse hobbies than taking photos of trains.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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