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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Nankai Railway Tells its Japanese Passengers "Sorry About All the Foreigners"

南海電鉄 外国人 車内放送

Nankai Railway is a private railway company in the Kansai region that operates several lines mainly from Osaka southwards, including the  rapi:t limited express service and the slightly slower express service between Namba Station in Osaka and Kansai International Airport.

Nankai Railway Station in Namba, Osaka, Japan.
Nankai Namba Railway Station, Osaka
It was on this express service to Kansai International Airport - which stops at 10 stations along the way (as opposed to the rapi:t service's 6) - that an announcement was made yesterday that has hit the news. Apparently at about 11 am as the train was at Namba Station, a Japanese man on board yelled something about "all these foreigners being a nuisance" - "all these foreigners" no doubt referring to the many tourists on the train bound for Kansai International Airport.

Then, three stations south of Namba, at Tengachaya Station, just as the train was departing, the conductor of the train - thinking to "avoid any trouble," he says - made the announcement that "There are a lot of foreigner passengers on the train today making for extreme congestion, and causing inconvenience to the Japanese passengers."

The "causing inconvenience" bit (fuben o okake shite orimasu) implies a request for forbearance, and is the next best thing to an apology in Japanese. The even more unfortunate "to the Japanese passengers" bit implied that Japanese passengers are entitled to ride "free of interference from foreigners," blindly ignoring the fact that foreign tourists pay just as much for their ticket to Kansai International Airport as do Japanese passengers.

A (Japanese) passenger complained to Nankai staff once the train arrived at Kansai International Airport, asking if such an announcement  complied with whatever rules there were governing onboard announcements. Nankai Railway replied that while there had been instances of complaints from passengers about the large items of luggage carried by foreign tourists, this was the first time a conductor had made such an announcement.

The conductor assures everyone that "no discrimination had been intended" - and no doubt none was. It seems to be a case of blissful ignorance on the part of of a probably well-meaning conductor who doesn't know any better than to pander to an outburst from an irritable, disgruntled old man. It also seems to be a case of somewhat less blissful ignorance by Nankai Railway in identifying "foreign tourists" as the luggage-bearing culprits, as everyone knows that the typical outbound Japanese tourist - who go to Kansai International Airport in their thousands daily - take just as much luggage with them as non-Japanese tourists do.

In the past five years, the streets of Japan's cities have been transformed as millions of tourists mainly from China and other parts of Asia - as well as many from Western countries - come here to see Japan's vaunted sights, experience its vaunted culture, cuisine and hospitality, and buy its vaunted electrical and electronic products (which typically make up for a considerable proportion of the baggage Asian tourists carry home).

As levels of consumption in Japan continue to sag domestically, the spending of the approximately 2 million overseas visitors per month to Japan makes a palpable difference to the profits of Japanese businesses, not least transport companies like Nankai Railway.

Nankai Railway has a duty to ensure that the consciousness of its employees keeps up with the reality of where Japan is at today.

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  1. I guess not everybody in Japan is patient and forbearing. More illusions disproved!

  2. After living here for 4 yrs, I realized two things- Japanese things and wrong things. There is no third classification. Foreigners need to respect this very strong sentiment.

    1. Foreigners need to understand this very strong sentiment, not necessarily respect it. The only reason this incident became news is because a Japanese passenger did not respect this very strong sentiment, and reported it.


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