25 seconds… not a typo.

This is a repeat episode of “if you haven’t been to Japan, you simply must”. Back in November a train caused outrage from regular commuters, not when it was cancelled, filthy or running 30 minutes late – but when it left 20 seconds early. Less than a year later, lightning has struck twice, this time with a 25 second early departure. The company has issued a statement about the premature departure.

“The great inconvenience we placed upon our customers was truly inexcusable”

The West Japan Railway Company (JR West) has apologized for this inexcusable inconvenience, after a conductor mistakenly believed that the train from Notogawa to Nishi-Akashi was due to depart at 7:11AM, rather than the correctly scheduled 7:12AM. According to Japanese media, the conductor caught the mistake in time, but chose to leave 25 seconds early, as there was no one to be seen waiting on the platform.

A Bit Of Context

Yes, all of this over 25 seconds. While Western travelers struggle to receive any resemblance of an apology for multi hour delays, JR West has offered an unequivocal, truly heartfelt statement of apology. Anywhere else in the world, the only newsworthy part of this story would be that a train left on time. But to fully understand this, you must understand Japan. Punctuality is the first sign of respect in business dealings. 25 seconds in Japan is 15 minutes elsewhere in the world. People are punctual, people are polite and everything – and we mean everything – runs on time. Not too early, not too late – on time.

The Same Country

This is the same country where airport ground staff bow and wave to departing planes. This is the same country where baggage handlers have been caught on video not chucking suitcases, but polishing them with a fine cloth to ensure they are returned to passengers in their best form. If you haven’t been to Japan, you simply must.

Have you been to Japan?