Public transportation companies in Japan pride themselves on precision and punctuality. This is, after all, the country where a train leaving 20 seconds early is grounds for an official apology.
That said, rail and bus operators know they can’t expect such perfect precision from passengers. Some of them will make mistakes, which is why Nishi Tokyo Bus Co has decided to backstop passengers on the JR Chuo train line, which connects central Tokyo with the capital’s western outskirts, by running one extra bus on select nights that departs after the last express train of the night reaches its final stop.
The special bus is called the “Oversleeping Rescue Bus,” but the fact that it coincides with the height of company end-of-the-year drinking parties (called “bonenkai” in Japanese) is a pretty clear indication that Nishi Tokyo Bus expects most of its passengers to be people who got on the train liquored up, dozed off, and rode right past where they intended to get off.
Making things particularly problematic is that while the Chuo Line starts at Tokyo Station, in the heart of downtown, it ends all the way out at Takao Station, in the foothills of a mountainous region that lacks the cheap hotels and 24-hour-restaurants where Japanese revelers who can’t get home usually spend the night waiting for the first train.
So at 1:05 a.m. on Dec 9, 16, and 23 (for the benefit of those who’ve been out drinking on the Friday nights of Dec 8, 15, and 22), the Oversleeping Rescue Bus will leave from Takao Station’s north gate, serving as the final salvation for those who fell asleep on the last express train of the night, which leaves Tokyo Station at midnight and pulls into Takao at 12:55 a.m.). For 880 yen, the bus will carry passengers back to Hachioji Station (located east of Takao), arriving at 1:32. While Hachioji is still pretty far from downtown Tokyo, it’s the most developed neighborhood in the area, and has plenty of places where liquored up salarymen can find a bed, or a seat to loiter in, until morning.
This will be the Oversleeping Rescue Bus’ fourth year in operation, and Nishi Tokyo Bus says that last year 75 people made use of its services over three days, including 32 passengers on its busiest night. However, the company can’t do anything to protect you from a spouse who’s upset about your embarrassing screw-up, so picking up an “I’m sorry” present at Hachioji before you head home is probably a good idea.
Source: IT Media
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