national

Japanese public broadcaster issues apology for calling a train a 'train'

37 Comments
By Casey Baseel, SoraNews24

October 1 is going to be a big day for the Tadami train line, which runs from Fukushima Prefecture to Niigata Prefecture. Since being hit by heavy rainstorms in the summer of 2011, nearly the entire line, specifically the 88.4-kilometer section between Aizu-Wakamatsu and Tadami Stations, has been shut down. Repairs are finally nearing completion, though, and after a decade-plus wait, service is set to resume at the beginning of next month.

Rail operator JR East has already begun test runs ahead of the public reopening, and Japanese public broadcaster NHK was eager to share footage of the long-awaited return of rolling stock to the line, with NHK Fukushima posting this video to its official Twitter account...

Screen-Shot-2022-09-12-at-9.51.08.png

…along with this message.

“A test run event ahead of the Tadami Line’s reopening! It was a touching sight to see a train running on this section of the line, which has been shut down for 11 years.”

Seems pretty straightforward, right? And yet, NHK would soon have to issue a correction and an apology for an inaccuracy in the statement. Yes, that’s the Tadami Line in the video, and yes, it’s been shut own for 11 years. However, the vehicle shown is not “a train,” or at least not the kind of train NHK said it was.

The Japanese word that NHK used was densha, which might not seem it should cause any sort of commotion. If you’re studying Japanese, the first word your textbook is going to teach you for “train” is densha, and that’s also likely to be the first entry you’ll find for “train” in an English-to-Japanese dictionary. But while all densha are trains, not all trains are densha. Let’s take a look at the kanji characters densha is written with.

Screen-Shot-2022-09-12-at-9.52.15.png

We’ll start with the second character. 車 is read as sha and originally means “cart,” but in modern contexts can also mean “car,” both in terms of an automobile and a train car, so there’s no problem there. The first kanji, though, 電/den, means “electricity,” and so the word densha refers specifically to a train that runs on electricity.

The problem, though, is that the train seen running on the Tadami Line in NHK’s video isn’t electric. It’s diesel, and so it’s not a densha, but a ressha, a word that can be used for trains of any type.

▼ Densha (top) and ressha (bottom). Ressha’s kanji translate literally as “column car.”

Screen-Shot-2022-09-12-at-9.53.16.png

Shortly after posting the video, the thread was flooded with responses from rail fans rapidly pointing out the incorrect terminology.

“Densha?????

“So that’s a densha, huh?”

“Den…sha?”

“I don’t see any power lines for electricity.”

“Wow, what a cool DENSHA!”

“Such a lovely truck.”

“To us train otaku, this feels like disparaging treatment of a diesel train.”

“That’s not a densha. The difference is as big as the one between gyudon [beef bowls] and butadon [pork bowls].”

The next morning, NHK tweeted an apology.

Screen-Shot-2022-09-12-at-9.54.02.png

“In our tweet yesterday we should have used the word ressha, not densha. We apologize and offer this correction.”

In NHK’s defense, densha are by far the type of train the vast majority of Japanese people are most familiar with, as most commuter trains in urban/suburban areas are electric, and in casual conversation it’s not uncommon for people to use densha as a catch-all for trains in general. Still, densha is indeed the wrong term for the type of train shown in the video, and given the inherent interest rail otaku were going to have in the story, it’s not a shock that they’d needle NHK for the mistake.

Source: Twitter/@nhk_fukushima via Otakomu

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- Better know a train nerd: 36 different classifications for Japan’s “densha otaku”

-- Unexpectedly cute stowaway on JR train causes delays, smiles

-- J!NS and Japan Rail East collaborate to bring a small piece of train history to your face

© Japan Today

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

37 Comments
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Much Ado.

14 ( +15 / -1 )

exactly Michael.

First world problems

-1 ( +6 / -7 )

Much Ado.

I don't know, if it was an English mistake like saying Electric engine instead of Diesel engine, I'm sure even non train otaku would point it out to the moderator on JT.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

The Japanese apologize for everything. This is by far, one of the pettiest issues to apologize for that I've read for quite some time.

6 ( +12 / -6 )

Woe, woe, thrice woe, the end of civilisation is at hand!

3 ( +5 / -2 )

I always found the importance that the language gives to the different types of trains a reflection of the fascination many Japanese people have about these vehicles. For other things the naming has slowly lost some of its meaning, or the names shortened or modified for convenience, but for trains this is "serious business".

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Ressha 列車 is an overarching definition including Densha 電車. All cars running on the regular service railways in Japan are categorized as Ressa, and each is assigned a Ressa coded number.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

In Japanese language class, when learning "densha" as the word for train, I asked about this very point. The response was that "densha" was used for all trains, regardless of power source. It was just easier that way.

So, I am a bit surprised to read about this little train language kerfuffle.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

Densha = Electric Train

Ressha = Train

Problem solved, though was sucked in by this clickbait article.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

According to the interwebs, diesel trains may be 'kidousha'. Not sure if that refers to diesel locos or just diesel DMUs. A Kato catalogue may be of use.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Much Ado.

I disagree. The meanings are clear, and clearly different. The newsreader indeed made a mistake.

It is like when landlubbers call every gray painted naval vessel a "battleship" even when there are no actual battleships left in any navy and the ship being described as a "battleship" is a small frigate or corvette.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

NERDS!

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Brains of people who have nothing else to worry about...

0 ( +1 / -1 )

It's not a tank engine.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Well a little hard to tell from the photo but must modern Diesel powered railway engines are diesel/electric. The diesel engine drives a huge generator which supplies power to electric motor drive wheels.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I didn't actually know that.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Good of them to attempt to fix that since some trainophiles would have been confused. So that has cleaered up the confusion. Or, has it?

To add another spanner into the works there is the old 汽車Kisha. Hopefully it's not actually a 汽車 or they're in all kinds of trouble.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Slow news day?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This make sense....No wonder there is so much of challenge and confusion to accept electric car market in Japan.

Ji do sha... Self Moving car..Automatic Car.. Motor Car

Den sha...Electric CAR

Den ki Ji do sha... Electric Motor Car

: x

1 ( +1 / -0 )

One of the many issues with Japanese language in general

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I usually call them all “chu chu popa”.

NHK should spend more time apologing for the two women English translators who have terrible English during typhoons, nuclear disasters, earthquakes and war in Europe.

This article is a great Japanese lesson though.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

People often make a similar mistake in English, when they call an entire train a locomotive, when only the engine car powering the train is the locomotive.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

He should be cancelled.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

People often make a similar mistake in English, when they call an entire train a locomotive, when only the engine car powering the train is the locomotive.

I have never called a train a locomotive in my life. Nor have I heard anyone use the word ever.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Thomas was a tank engine.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Kumagaijin

People often make a similar mistake in English, when they call an entire train a locomotive, when only the engine car powering the train is the locomotive.

I prefer "iron horse", as long as we're using antiquated terms that nobody uses anymore.

Dango bong

I have never called a train a locomotive in my life. Nor have I heard anyone use the word ever.

Other than describing what Superman is more powerful than, neither have I.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

The Japanese apologize for everything. This is by far, one of the pettiest issues to apologize for that I've read for quite some time.

This could be a chicken and the egg thing in that the apology is driven, possibly pre-emptively, by the fume, the excessive offence taken by someone at such a petty thing. Any loss of pride from the pre-emptive or mostly superfluous apology is exceeded by the free publicity it generates for what this is, a promotional event. The media get handed a free story without having to go and report on something, so they're happy as well. Everyone wins. Well, everyone except the victims of whatever the media should be reporting on, and those of us seduced into wasting our time reading stories like this.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I'm surprised there was no dogeza.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Spend all day trying to be cute. What a waste

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It's a western idea that apologizing for a mistake has you worse off

Not in the UK it ain't. Get your apology in before the other bloke, and you're one up.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Cleo, hear, hear, apologies for jumping in on your comment.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Not at all english aspyrgend, after you!

Terribly sorry for making you feel you had to apologise.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I further apologise for the JT autocorrect, of course it's englisc aspyrgend, not english aspyrgend. I'm very, very sorry. Very sorry indeed.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I have never called a train a locomotive in my life. Nor have I heard anyone use the word ever.

No one cares bro.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I have never called a train a locomotive in my life. Nor have I heard anyone use the word ever.

Unless every car on the train is powered ( light rail trains and subways most have this feature ) the power unit/units is/are always referred to as locomotives. Some heavy freight trains require as many as five or even six locomotives to climb and descend mountain passes. On descent the electric motors on each axle become generators, effectively slowing the train, and the power generated is shed through a resistor grid on the roof of the locomotives. This is called dynamic braking and is the primary way trains control speed on long downhill grades.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Well a little hard to tell from the photo but must modern Diesel powered railway engines are diesel/electric. The diesel engine drives a huge generator which supplies power to electric motor drive wheels.

The locomotive in the photo is a small yard switcher, not a normal main line locomotive. But they only needed to pull a couple of cars for testing so a switcher is good enough and cheaper to run.

The Germans built and operated diesel hydraulic locomotives. Instead of the diesel engine spinning a big generator it spun a big hydraulic pump that powered each wheel through something like an automatic transmission torque converter on the axle. Restricting the opening for the hydraulic fluid allowed it to control braking on descents. Effective but very messy.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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