a white train on the tracks

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”

a red bridge over a streamThe 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 white train on the tracksA 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.

a street sign in a cityThe 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?

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. Isnt this the same country that subjugated millions, raped hundreds of thousand of women and killed and maimed millions to spread japanese imperialism? Stop idolizing Japanese “Politeness”. There are many good things to emulate from Japan, their fake politeness is not one of those things.

    1. Couldn’t you make an equally depressing anecdote about virtually every country throughout history?

    2. Fake politeness?

      You’ve probably never been here then… I’m yet to find anything at all that’s fake about it. They’re not even tip hunting when they are like it, because tips are considered impolite.

  2. the lowly culture of usa is no comparison with thousands yrs of eastern counterpart. i missed my bus at Tokyo Main station three times in 3 hours, because it departed at the exact time as schedule, while I got to the bus stop ~1 min late.

  3. I HAVE been to Japan, I am friends with two Japanese people, and I can tell you that Japanese culture is so different from the U.S. culture that it is like day and night. Japanese people today are NOT the same people who did horrific things back in the pre-World War I and II days! Laying that attribute upon these people is like blaming the present-day people of the U.S. for slavery in the 1700s. Does THAT make sense? After you have gone to Japan and spent time getting to know people who live and work there, then let’s see what your comment is!!! You are simply ignorant!!

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