Back in the day you might have called them “train otaku” but they would have preferred “tetsudo fan” a Japanese translation of the British “railfan” label for those who enjoy riding, viewing, and appreciating everything about railway transportation.
Around the turn of the millennium a new Japanese term for train buffs arose: tetsu (iron). The name also has many derivatives such as “tetsuko” for a female train enthusiast, and “hitetsu” (non-ferrous) for people who are train laymen. Two main groups of tetsu are noritetsu (iron riders) and toritetsu (iron filmers).
The latter of these two are the focus now, as there has been an increasingly troubling trend of rude and dangerous behavior from what many would assume to be the tranquil hobby of train photography. The following are five examples.
All of these videos were taken at Omiya Station in Saitama City. The station is considered a mecca for all types of railfans, and even has The Railway Museum nearby. The station serves as a major junction for several lines including Shinkansen bullet trains, which means it’s often the go-to location to catch a rare train in action.
However, when one of those coveted trains pulls in, it becomes a nightmare for station staff and passengers alike, as the platforms become flooded with swarms of agitated toritetsu, each trying to get shots of the trains no matter what.
■ Toritetsu and the Limited Express Sleeper: “Iwate Monogatari”
In the beginning of the following video you can see the toritetsu ignoring station workers’ warnings to stand back and be careful as they stand with eyes locked on the track and cameras poised for action.
Then, as the train slowly pulls in the station staff have to walk alongside and act as human guard rails physically pushing them away from the tracks as they continue to ignore anyone else’s existence. A few minutes into the video, you can see how the workers and security are kneeling in front with ropes trying to keep these people safe by putting themselves in front of the rails (see above image). Toritetsu still spill over the line, however.
■ Toritetsu and the Ogu train returning out of service
The previous video gave you a little taste of the abusive language used by toritetsu, but this video will give you a closer listen. Many of these shouts can be translated to “Out of my way!” or “Back the f**k up!” all in earshot of the little kids on the opposite platform. This video should be safe for work as long as the volume is down and you don’t have any Japanese speaking coworkers.
■ Toritetsu and the 183 Series Ashikaga Fuji Festival
This starts off a little better than the others. Here we see some toritetsu jockeying for position at the end of a platform to get a shot of the 183 train without using inappropriate language. However, a fraction of a second after it passes, the 185 speeds by in the opposite direction and less than an inch from some of their faces.
■ Toritetsu vs station staff
In this scene, the toritetsu are being told rather sternly by a station attendant to stand back from the tracks. However, they hit back with a volley of obscenities in the vein of “Shut up!” and “Go f**k yourself!” Looks like a relaxing hobby, don’t it?
■ Toritetsu telling the train driver what to do
It this short but poignant clip we can hear the toritetsu actually shouting to the train driver “More forwaaaaarrrrrd!” demanding that he operate the train to meet their photographic needs. As you might expect, the professional operator doesn’t agree.
We should remind everyone that, of course the actions of these people do not reflect the entire tetsudo fan community. However, if such behavior continues we may see the term “toritetsu” to become synonymous with “jerk” or worse, we may even see a total ban on photography in stations in the not too distant future.