Japanese Train Leaves 20 Seconds Early. Cue the Abject Apologies.


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 Japanese Train Leaves 20 Seconds Early. Cue the Abject Apologies.

Passengers at a railway station in Tokyo. A train company apologized to customers after an express left a station early. Yes, you read that right.

TOKYO — It may have been the most profusely regretted 20 seconds in history.

Living up to Japans reputation for being precise as well as contrite, a train company in Tokyo delivered a formal apology on Tuesday because one of its trains left a station just 20 seconds early.

In a country where conductors will beg forgiveness when a train is even a minute late, the Metropolitan Intercity Railway Company posted an apology on its website Tuesday for “the severe inconvenience imposed upon our customers” when the No. 5255 Tsukuba Express train left Minami-Nagareyama station in Chiba, a suburban prefecture east of Tokyo, at 9:44:20 a.m., instead of as scheduled at 9:44:40 a.m.

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According to the statement, the train arrived at Minami-Nagareyama on time, at precisely 9:43:40 a.m. But when it came time to leave, the overeager crew closed the doors prematurely and pulled out of the station ahead of schedule. According to Metropolitan Intercity, no passengers missed the train or complained about the jump-start.

The effusive apology was in keeping with a culture where an ice cream company ran a television advertisement to express regret for raising the price of an ice cream bar by 10 yen last spring.

As foreign media began to cover the news Thursday, observers abroad expressed envy on Twitter at the trainspotting exactitude.

Absolutely love this.... #uk#britishrail something to strive for hey!!! BBC News - Apology after Japanese train departs 20 seconds early https://t.co/nbkWVaSttq

— Matt Ryland (@Matt_Ryland) November 16, 2017

Apology after Japanese train departs 20 seconds early.MTA in NY would have to hire a team of full time apologizers. https://t.co/uboUH3V0om

— Sarthak Sawarkar (@sarthaksawarkar) November 16, 2017

The Japanese were bemused by the foreign fascination.

“People overseas are half amazed and praised Japan but even Japanese would laugh at this,” a user with the handle @gaishi_black wrote on Twitter.

According to one article earlier this month on the Gendai Business website, Tsukuba Express, which carries 130 million passengers a year, markets its “safety and high speed.” The article listed what it described as “concerning” incidents from earlier in the year, including two cases of where trains stopped in the wrong position and an episode where customers were stuck in elevators at a station for 30 minutes.

Thursdays microscopically early train passed with no apparent impact other than a few laughs on social media, unlike a deadly crash in 2005 that killed more than 100 passengers when the train driver began speeding to make up for a lost 90 seconds in the schedule.

By: The New York Times

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