Two foreign passengers are the star characters in this true story that touched the heart of a Japanese commuter.
Travellers to Japan are often surprised by the cultural differences that present themselves during a journey around the country. Even on trains, there are a number of unspoken rules and practices that are different from those you’d find back home, including taboos involving eating onboard, and the accepted practice of sleeping in all types of awkward positions while en route to your destination.
Now, Japanese Twitter has come alight with another story from the rails, and this time it’s a couple of foreigners who are melting hearts, with a tale of kindness that’s giving Japanese people pause for thought with a custom that’s instilled in Westerners from an early age. The act of courtesy was so touching that a fellow commuter decided to share the story online in a series of cute illustrated images.
今朝電車でほっこりした話を聞いてくれ ※汚い絵でごめんね🙇 https://t.co/gBnZ9OTdP9—
天野ゆま (@_M_Y_M_) January 26, 2017
With tens of thousands of likes and retweets, the sweet story begins with an image that sets the scene for the heartwarming tale. A foreign mother and child sit together on a train seat opposite the artist, @, with the sounds of the rails initially drowning out their animated conversation.
When the artist finally manages to overhear their conversation, it becomes clear that the Pikachu-hat-wearing boy is trying to sound out the word “sumimasen”, which means “excuse me” in Japanese. As the mother continues to correct her son’s Japanese, @ wonders why they would be practicing the pronunciation of that particular word.
Finally, the boy pronounces the word correctly, looking quite happy with his achievement.
To the surprise of the artist, the boy immediately stands up and taps a commuter on the back, saying the word he’d carefully practised with his mother, “sumimasen!”
The commuter turns out to be an older lady, and as she turns around, the boy points to his now vacant seat as his mother gestures for her to sit down.
The lady gratefully takes the boy’s seat and thanks him in Japanese, after which the young child continues on the rest of the journey while standing in front of his mother.
The artist then realises that the boy and his mother had been practising the Japanese word for “excuse me” so he could get the older lady’s attention in order to offer her his seat.
Touched by this turn of events, the artist created a manga strip to share the story with everyone on Twitter. It turns out that fellow Twitter users were equally moved by this act of kindness, leaving comments like:
“This makes me think we can have peace in the world!”
“What a wonderful story!”
“A kind encounter like this would fill me with happiness for the rest of the day!
“I’m always so ashamed to see young Japanese people sitting down on public transport without a care for the older people in front of them.”
“If only Japanese commuters could follow the example of this young boy!”
While it’s true that the western custom of giving up seats for older or less able people on public transport is one that’s less prevalent on Japanese buses and trains, the pride of some of the country’s senior citizens can sometimes make it a difficult minefield to navigate in Japan.
Still, with stories like this one filling so many people with happiness, there’s a good chance that this type of common courtesy can continue to become more widespread in the future. There certainly is a whole collection of tales of kindness on Japanese trains, so hop on over here to check out more of them!