Famed Japanese politeness wraps so far back around that it ends up being pretty rude on Osaka train.
Japan’s Nankai Electric Railway, which operates trains in Osaka and Wakayama Prefecture, is a company with a certain sense of fun. For example, a few years back it decided to create a special Gundam-themed train, complete with seats reserved for characters from the seminal mecha anime.
However, that doesn’t mean that Nankai’s employees are lacking in concern for customer complaints. Unfortunately, one of the company’s conductors, whose name has been withheld, handled a passenger grievance in a highly questionable manner.
On October 10, with the train making its way down the line, passengers were listening as the conductor went through the standard announcements, in Japanese, listing upcoming stations and expressing of gratitude for travelling with Nankai Electric Railway. However, before the conductor signed off, he also added “We apologize for the inconvenience of many foreign passengers being on the train today.”
What makes the unusual apology even more baffling is the that the train was headed for Kansai International Airport, central Japan’s major hub for overseas flights and, by design, a place that many foreigners will be headed to on any given day.
The conductor, who is in his 40s, said he added the apology to his standard announcements after hearing one Japanese passenger on the train loudly remark, “There are so many foreigners in the way” (the vagaries of Japanese-language sentence structure leave it unclear as to whether he was talking about the people themselves or the larger, bulkier baggage that overseas travelers tend to have with them). The conductor hoped that verbally addressing the complaint would placate the man and prevent any altercations between him and the foreign passengers. Given that the announcement was in Japanese, it’s also possible that he didn’t expect any of the foreigners to understand that they were being spoken about.
Whether they did or not, a Japanese woman who was on the train informed the station staff after the train arrived at the airport, and word eventually made its way to the conductor’s supervisors. While he says he “had no intention of being discriminatory,” Nankai’s management has informed its employee that making distinctions between passengers in the manner he did was inappropriate. “Both Japanese and foreign passengers alike are our customers,” the company said in a statement, while pledging to work harder to keep such a situation from happening again. Hopefully the effort will be successful, and Nankai can go back to simply confusing foreigners instead of disrespecting them.
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