Our thoughts about the Kansai train conductor who used the car’s announcement system to apologize for the large number of foreign tourists on a car? Not so much O-mo-te-na-shi, and a bit more “Oh My.”
As record numbers of tourists flow into Japan – and with even more to be expected as the 2020 Olympic Games are steadily approaching – the country is doing its best to make things more hospitable for foreign visitors: map symbols that are easier to understand, lowered taxi fares, and increasing options for Muslim tourists in Japan.
However, feeling the need to apologize for the presence of a lot of foreigners on a train heading to an international airport probably doesn’t fit so neatly into that “hospitality box.”
As reported by Kyodo News (via the Japan Times), the incident occurred on a Nankai Line train that had just passed Tengachaya Station in Osaka en route to Kansai International Airport. It apparently started with a man who complained in a loud voice that he was annoyed by the number of foreign passengers on the train. The train conductor, reported to be a man in his 40s, having heard the complaint, felt obliged to make a public announcement – in Japanese – for the inconvenience that the large number of foreigners were causing the other passengers.
Later, a Japanese female passenger asked a station official whether this announcement was in line with the company’s rules. The conductor, who was reprimanded for his conduct, said that this was the first time that he had made a statement like this, and that he didn’t mean to offend foreign travelers. Nankai Electric Railway, on their behalf, has said that they will endeavor to prevent any further off-the-cuff statements from their employees.
Although it’s natural that a story like will have plenty of people getting high and mighty about racism in Japan, you don’t have to do much digging to find examples of rail-based discrimination just about anywhere. And, as one reader has already pointed out, we don’t know how the foreign travelers on this particular train were behaving. According to a report on Asahi TV (in Japanese), the passengers were being noisy and their children were running around the train car. Nonetheless, here’s hoping that this (basically) harmless incident does provoke a bit of thinking in regards to accommodating foreign tourists on this island nation.
Of course, there is another possibility: if you recall that the Kansai area is known for producing a lot of great Japanese comedians, this trainman might have just been working on some new material…