The Tsukuba Express Photo: Wikipedia/LERK
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Tokyo train company apologizes for 20-second-early departure

29 Comments
By Casey Baseel, SoraNews24

Japanese trains are awesome for a number of reasons, not the least of which is how amazingly punctual they are. But on Tuesday, a train on the Tokyo-area Metropolitan Intercity Railway Company’s Tsukuba Express line failed to stick to its timetable.

The line connects Akihabara in Tokyo with Tsukuba in Ibaraki Prefecture, and on weekday mornings there’s supposed to be a northbound train that leaves Minami Nagareyama Station at 9:44 a.m. However, the train instead left at 9:43:40, 20 seconds earlier than it’s supposed to.

Before the day was done, the Tsukuba Express management issued an official apology, posted to the company’s website.

sorryy.png

The statement reads:

On November 14, at approximately 9:44 a.m., a northbound Metropolitan Intercity Railway Company (main office in Tokyo, Chiyoda Ward, President & CEO Koichi Yugi) train left Minami Nagareyama Station roughly 20 seconds earlier than the time indicated on the timetable. We deeply apologize for the severe inconvenience imposed upon our customers.

It’s pretty common knowledge among Japanese people that Japan’s trains are far more precise and punctual than their overseas counterparts, so my coworker, SoraNews24 Japanese-language correspondent Mr. Sato, asked me for my take on this. “I’m Japanese, and even I think it’s excessive to make such a big deal out of a 20-second mistake, but as an American, how do you feel about it?”

At first, I sort of agreed with him. I doubt most people would even notice a 20-second difference, and with trains coming every four minutes on the Tsukuba Express line in the morning, does it really make much of a difference?

But then I thought about it a little more, and realized that because Japanese trains are usually so punctual, some people plan their rail commutes so that they arrive at the platform just as the cars are pulling up (plenty of people even synchronize their watches with the clock at their local station). It stands to reason, then, that at least a few people would miss a train if it left 20 seconds earlier than usual, and even if there’s another coming in four minutes, adding four minutes to that leg of their commute might cause them to miss other transfers on the way to their destinations, with the effect snowballing enough that they end up being late for work or school.

Four minutes times a few transfers could cause someone to be 15 minutes or so late, and while that’s not a huge difference, it’s still an inconvenience, and a potential embarrassment, for the people affected, and all because Metropolitan Intercity Railway Company didn’t deliver on its promise that the train would leave at 9:44, not 9:43:40. Even if that’s not the sort of mistake that absolutely demands an apology, there’s nothing wrong, and definitely something admirable, about taking a moment to say sorry for any problems that the early departure may have caused.

So yeah, if someone at Metropolitan Intercity Railway Company got reamed out by his boss for a 20-second screw-up, I feel for him, since I don’t think it’s worth getting that bent out of shape about. But at the same time, the fact that Japanese companies care so much about customer satisfaction, consistently try to look at things from the end-user’s point of view, and are willing to offer a sincere apology even for understandable inconveniences is, really, one of the most beautiful parts of Japanese society, and one of my favorite things about living here.

Source: Tsukuba Express

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

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© SoraNews24

©2018 GPlusMedia Inc.

29 Comments
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This is outrageous.  This country is going to the dogs.  Even Mussolini made the trains run on time!!!!

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

Honestly, I'm a little surprised. I'd think that in Japan, regularly arriving so close to "start" time would look bad. I figured it would look like a lack of dedication, similar to leaving soon after "ending" time.

Honestly, if a train leaving 20 seconds early makes you late for work, you should be leaving a little earlier.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

that whole department should be fired ,outrageous !

0 ( +4 / -4 )

It used to drive me mad when my local bus back in England left early. Twenty seconds, okay, but we had buses leaving fifteen minutes before they were due.

And we were living out in the sticks; you miss that bus and you’ve got an hour to wait for the next one, or a ninety-minute hike into town.

Stamp this out, now!!

6 ( +8 / -2 )

I think the whole premise behind this article is wrong. It's not a Japan thing, it's a railway thing. The trains in Japan are certainly more punctual when it comes to arrivals, but I'm fairly certain that even the least reliable railway companies in the world would apologise for a train which began to roll at 19:43 when the scheduled departure was 19:44. This is a cardinal sin for any railway. I've never experienced this once in my decades of riding the rails, even in developing countries. It's a big deal, even if it's just 20 seconds.

13 ( +13 / -0 )

kansai JR is frequently late...suicides.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

 I think the whole premise behind this article is wrong. It's not a Japan thing, it's a railway thing.

You are so right! Sad part is the people jump on the bandwagon of it being a "Japanese thing" when it works, and jump off when it a problem happens.

And believe me, it's obvious these folks have never heard of "Okinawa Time".

9 ( +9 / -0 )

20 seconds before 9:44 is closer to 9:44 than 9:43, so I don't have much of a problem with that. Besides, I expect this railway company has posters up everywhere warning people not to rush the train while the doors are closing: those are the same people they would be apologising to. If they missed the train, tough luck.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

This a bigger deal than most think. As this article itself states, that 20 second early departure could mean missing it and catching the next train 4 minutes down the line, and missing your usual transfer, which then snowballs into even more delayed minutes. The train companies have one job

3 ( +5 / -2 )

I'd think that in Japan, regularly arriving so close to "start" time would look bad. I figured it would look like a lack of dedication, similar to leaving soon after "ending" time.

Not in my company. The place is empty until 8:58 am when everyone starts streaming in looking rushed and grumpy. Most days there are people arriving 5-10 minutes late because of 'train delays'

I started coming to work early, and the train experience is so much better when you arent crammed like sardines with people who are stressing about being 1 minute late (and thus being marked as absent for the AM).

In fact i highly recommend this for anyone - plan to arrive at least 15 minutes early. It lets you enjoy the journey much more!

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Anyway on my return to Australia the train was so late I missed two connecting buses - what was the problem again 20 seconds lol.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Storm in a teacup. That train wasn't even a rush hour service - I doubt passengers noticed.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Wish it happened in Australia

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Only in Japan! I don't think I've ever seen a train ever arrive early in the UK let alone leave early!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

*On November 14, at approximately 9:44 a.m...*

*...train left Minami Nagareyama Station roughly 20 seconds earlier than the time indicated on the timetable*

This is hilarious! These words do not belong in this article!

Talking about a 20 second difference and using words like “approximately” and “roughly”!

Back on subject though, I'm totally against the idea of a train leaving early, but 20 seconds is too strict!

As long as it's within the minute posted, it's fine! I never heard of a rule stating that public transport must to leave on the 59th second of the time posted!

If you are that strict, you will leave your house a minute earlier!

And if it's about your connection time, transit apps would not even suggest that as an option.

It is up to you to realize that you are taking a risk scheduling your plans down to the second!

Come on people!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Anyone who syncs his or her watch with a train arriving on a platform deserves whatever happens to their time after that logically speaking.

But whoever wrote this piece of “journalism” knows well people do not do that.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Japanese trains are awesome for a number of reasons, not the least of which is how amazingly punctual they are. But on Tuesday, a train on the Tokyo-are

Japan Fan boys please stop lying. Anyone who uses Saikyo Line and Den En Toshi line daily to commute to work and back would disagree with you.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Self-love article time. 'How great art we?'

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Goldeneagle and Mocheake

Exactly right!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I just returned home after two months in Japan, during which I was given a new watch that the gift-giver synchronized to JR's clock at one of the stations where we waited (five minutes) for our train. She's one of those people who don't show up for a train fifteen seconds before the doors close, but I've seen that on every train, including shinkansens.

As for the train leaving early, I haven't experienced that (according to the accuracy of my watch), but I did, several times experience a train leaving late by anywhere up to two minutes. Frankly, who cares? If you're that pressed for time, take a deep breath and change your stressful habit. It's far better, psychologically, to be early to work (and early to leave, by the way).

0 ( +0 / -0 )

They actually think this ''apology'' is enough to compensate for the trauma and stress that so many innocent people had to suffer!? Is this company going to ''apology'' to the families of the people that had to departure and consequently return home 20 seconds early!? Do they even care that the wives of these innocent working man were not prepared to serve their man 20 seconds early!? Of course not! Save your apologies! You've done enough harm.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I think it helps to have a little background about the Tsukuba Express- it's not a "regular" train line, really. There are no grade crossings, no branching tracks, no shared railways, no super express trains, and no complex transfers. The speeds are also a bit higher than standard JR (especially once you get into Ibaraki, around Moriya). And the fares are higher than JR, as well. Given these factors, I imagine that they typically feel like they have to hold themselves to a higher standard.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

TX - the only line I know where the announcements are in British English!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It used to drive me mad when my local bus back in England left early. Twenty seconds, okay, but we had buses leaving fifteen minutes before they were due.

Are you sure those weren't the previous buses leaving late? :-)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This story is now being covered on the BBC. Classic funny Japan story.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Love this culture of Japanese, feeling bad for doing something wrong even just a little thing.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This story is now being covered on the BBC. Classic funny Japan story.

It seems that British people themselves never can do and also they don't want punctuality. Japan is a little crazy about punctuality but I like it, though I ve been here for a long time.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Sounds like a case of :

It must have been a defective timepiece... but since it was Made in Japan we can't publicly admit that fact, since that will impact our Cross-holding in that Companies stock, so we will take the lesser evil, and play up to our impeccable time-keeping of not being late.

That said,

Trains in Japan, are delayed. just like elsewhere in the World, though perhaps not so severely... I've experienced that recently, but they're generally on-time(ish), which says a lot.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

You say, "It's outrageous."

In my country - Nepal, I stand up at the bus stop for an hour, in a hope the bus might come. I go on the bus 4 times a week and go by foot after waiting for an hour - to 2 hours of walk.

Thank to the owner of this train company. Lovely and very punctual.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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