Trains in Japan are renowned for achieving the almost impossible feat (in most countries) of running on time. And even if a train is a minute or two late, in Tokyo during the day they come and go so frequently that you're never waiting for more than about five minutes.
|Train delay certificate, Sobu Line, Tokyo, Japan.|
If you watch a Japanese train driver or the guard who rides at the back of the train, you will see that his (occasionally her) working life consists of formulaic phrases that must be loudly and clearly uttered (whether or not anyone is there to hear them), hand/arm gestures that must be made, flags waved and whistles blown: physical ways of ensuring that the right checks are being made and awareness of the right things is being maintained.
This strictly formulaic approach extends to everything, illustrated by this morning's westbound Sobu/Chuo line being subject to a delay. I was waiting at Asakusabashi station in Tokyo for the Sobu line train to Yotsuya. I arrived at the platform at about 9:10 a.m. A train promptly arrived, but once I got on, the doors remained open, and there was an announcement of a delay due to having to "remove something at Higashi-Nakano station."
I got onto the NHK News Web site, which has pretty much everything that happens locally, and found out that "what appeared to be a cloth" had to be removed from the power lines above the track between Shin-Okubo and Higashi-Nakano stations: a section of the JR Chuo Line that comes northward out of Shinjuku and curves westward.
A cloth on a power line making for a one-hour delay? Rules must be obeyed, and every one of them was no doubt afforded full compliance as the offending cloth-like object was carefully and deliberately removed.
Dealing with delays, as with everything else, is not done by halves, and when I arrived at Yotsuya station there was a little box of Delay Certificates (chien-shomeisho) in front of the manned ticket wicket, for me, and all others affected, to pick up and present to the boss at work as proof.
Delay Certificates, according to Wikipedia, are used only in Japan and Germany: about the only two countries where public transport delays are abnormal enough to warrant them.
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