Yes, Japan’s Shinkansen is an amazingly stress-free way to get around the country, but that doesn’t mean the driver should be this relaxed.
While every profession throws workers a curve ball now and again, after a while many of your responsibilities should start to feel pretty routine. Some tasks might even eventually start to feel so easy that you’re capable of relaxing as you perform them.
In certain lines of work, this isn’t a problem. For example, if you’re a financial analyst, web designer, or fine-smelling Internet writer, no one’s going to mind if you kick back and put your feet up on your work station during your shift. It’s a very different matter, though, if your job is to drive one of Japan’s ultra-fast bullet trains.
やまもと1号mark2 (@yamamoto1go2) September 06, 2016
Shortly before 2 in the afternoon on September 6, Twitter user @yamamoto1go2 snapped this photo of the Kodama Shinkansen somewhere between Kakegawa and Hamamatsu Stations, in Shizuoka Prefecture. The train had left Tokyo Station just a little over two hours prior, and apparently the driver felt like taking off his shoes and stretching out, as evidenced by the bottom of his sock-covered feet being clearly visible through the windshield.
Of course, there are several ways in which driving a bullet train is different from driving a car, with one being that trains aren’t operated by foot-operated accelerator and brake pedals. Since the critical levers, switches, and buttons that control the vehicle are manipulated by hand, it’s theoretically possible to drive the Shinkansen without using your feet. However, another key discrepancy between cars and the Kodama is that the latter runs at speeds up to 285 kilometers (175 miles) per hour. That calls for a bit more discipline on the driver’s part, and the relaxed posture seen in the photo doesn’t seem congruent with the readiness to react quickly that’s required by such a rapid rate of travel.
After getting wind of the tweet, rail operator Central Japan Railway Company, also known as JR Tokai, confirmed that the photo is legitimate. Following an internal investigation, the driver seen in the image, a 29-year-old employee who has been part of the Shinkansen crew for three years and five months, admitted to the misconduct, and JR Tokai has issued a statement that he will be sternly disciplined. In the meantime, if the unsettling photo has any of you thinking of skipping the train and just getting around Japan by car, please remember that comes with its own set of risks, so stay alert.
Follow Casey on Twitter, where you’ll never know if he has his feet up or not.