Apology after Japanese train departs 20 seconds early


A rail company in Japan has apologised after one of its trains departed 20 seconds early.

Management on the Tsukuba Express line between Tokyo and the city of Tsukuba say they “sincerely apologise for the inconvenience” caused.

I’m not only impressed by the apology (even if it seems a little unnecessary) but also by the train scheduling.

In a statement, the company said the train had been scheduled to leave at 9:44:40 local time but left at 9:44:20.

They time their schedules not just to the minute but to the second. That’s incredible.

  • It is. And the bullet trains open the doors at the exact spot marked on the platform. Very impressive.

    • James Hughes

      And people get quite upset if someone stops the door to squeeze in too. Glaring looks.

  • Janak Parekh

    This is a deep cultural thing. Conductors, bus operators, etc. are literally looking at their watches, synced to the second. To be off by 20 seconds is pretty substantial.

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  • Paulo Clayton

    In an old episode of Top Gear where Hammond & May race Clarkson in the bullet train vs. the Nissan GT-R, Hammond rolls through a bunch of facts about the Japanese train transit system: 87% of trains are on time, but for them, being late is anything over 1 minute behind the scheduled time. By contrast, in the UK, a train isn’t late until it’s 10 minutes behind the scheduled time. If trains are late, you get a free rail journey and a pass to give to your employer to explain why you’re late.

    • James Hughes

      Same in the US, minus the apologetic part of course.

  • James Hughes

    Yup, and it is very true. It’s always a shocks when I come back to the US from Japan. The service, friendliness and punctual nature of everything there is incredible. When I landed here, in the US, my wife and I were hungry so we stopped at some pizza place on the way home. We stood there and waited for the people behind the counter to finish their conversation and they eventually took our order when they were ready, like we were an annoying inconvenience of course. The food was crap and the service was worse. “Welcome home” is all I could think. Ah well.

  • BC2009

    The trains stop at exact locations as stated, arrive at exact times and depart at exact times.

    But even MORE impressive is how awesome Japanese people are about queueing for trains. They politely stand in line and funnel efficiently into the train when the door opens. There is no pushing or shoving or cutting in line. Japanese culture places an incredible emphasis on queueing etiquette (including trains, grocery stores, or lines at amusement parks).

    By contrast Americans would seem downright rude in queues.

    Even worse, Chinese culture seems to place very little importance on queueing. if a Chinese tourist cuts you in line at Disneyland its not because they are being rude, but it is simply not an aspect of etiquette that is emphasized in the Chinese culture (you can google it — it has nothing to do with race, but more with the cultural environment in which somebody was raised).

    When Disney opened a theme park in China the government had to post a public notice on theme park etiquette which included instructions to “not jump queues”.

    I find the Japanese cultural etiquette on queues extremely polite and extremely efficient. I feel bad for Japanese tourists in NYC, China, Orlando and Anaheim — they have to be shaking their heads.

    • “Even worse, Chinese culture seems to place very little importance on queueing.’ Definitely something I’ve experienced here in Vancouver with our large Chinese population. Incredibly annoying.

      • Alex Hon

        What I’ve learned is their older immigrants who came “here” with the rest of the family, usually are not very well-educated, so they stick to their way of life back where they came. It explains why many of them talk excessively loud, attempt to make their grandchildren do their “business” on sidewalks, skip lines, etc.

    • David Zentgraf

      I agree with everything, but often find Japanese queuing terribly annoying as well. They literally queue right across rather narrow train platforms, erecting human walls every few meters down the platform. The only spot to squeeze past them is at the edge of the platform you’re not supposed to walk. I find that mindless and downright dangerous.

  • I bet they use those newfangled computer things to help run the trains.

  • John Kordyback

    Those Japanese train operators really need to get their act together.

  • Mo

    It must be nice to have high standards for public services.

  • Caleb Hightower

    These days in NYC, your lucky to get where your going 20 minutes late!