We recently regaled you with some truly terrifying Japanese train stories told by foreigners that included everything from runaway trains to perverts and nuns. Today we will talk to you stories of foreigners of amazing acts of kindness they experienced on trains in Japan.
You’ve probably heard a few stories of Japanese doing good deeds, like returning lost property or someone helping the hapless foreigner who doesn’t speak the language. But the special kindness of Japan goes much further than that. You know, things that when you see them make you think, “Wow, that would never happen in my country! “
Join us for Miso Soup for the Soul: Extremely Sweet Stories on Japanese Trains, After the Jump.
These stories are particularly relevant now that Japan will host the 2020 Summer Olympics. One of the ways in which Japan has bolstered its bid to win the Games has been to promote the theme of omotenashi–– Japanese hospitality – sometimes manifested in the form of extreme kindness and hospitality.
Let’s start with random acts of kindness …
“When I arrived in Tokyo when I moved to Japan, I was not familiar with the bag delivery service at the airport. I took it upon myself to go from Narita Airport to my hotel in Asakusa via the Narita Express and the Tokyo Metro. I had so many bags that I had to make three trips up and down the escalators. A nice Japanese man offered to help me with my luggage from Asakusa station to my hotel. We still keep in touch to this day, and I even spent New Years Eve with his family in Tokyo once!
And random acts of sympathy …
“My friend threw up on the train one night after drinking too much. In less than 15 seconds, the Japanese around us had taken out handkerchiefs and mopped the floor of the train, then handed my friend more tissues to clean herself. After 30 seconds, it was as if it had never happened at all.
“I broke my ankle when I passed out on a JR train on my way to work one morning (a combination of not having breakfast, not getting enough sleep, and hypoglycemia). I regained consciousness as four Japanese carried me away and gently deposited me on the platform of Shin-Osaka station. An incredibly kind station staff member escorted me in the ambulance to the hospital and sat with me for four hours.
Flickr (Mikael Leppa)
I came home from work during rush hour. All the overhead straps were either taken or I couldn’t reach them, so I stood there, tottering in my high heels, next to a four-seater, the kind with two benches facing each other. The local trains can jostle a bit, and during such a jolt, I found myself thrown, head first, into the crotches of people sitting on the benches. However, you will be happy to know there is a way to avoid this if you find yourself in this situation yourself:
“Once I was taking the last Hankyu train from Umeda (Osaka) to Kyoto and there were so many people there was nothing to hang on to. A total stranger (she later said her name was Kaori) held my hand for 20 minutes until she reached her stop in Takatsuki. Talk about a random act of kindness! “
The 36 views by train of Mount Fuji…
“I was dozing off in the Shinkansen once and a Japanese woman across the aisle suddenly tapped me on the shoulder. She said, ‘Sorry, I know you were trying to sleep, but the view of Fuji-san is so clear today. It’s very rare, so I wanted you to see it.
On the other hand, it might not sound so nice when a stranger does it, unless it’s done exactly right …
“I was on the Keiyo Line one fine day and was amazed at how clear the view of Mt. Fuji was: perfect with a snow capped peak, blue skies and it looked so close! I was overwhelmed, absolutely bubbling, and I had to share my feelings of excitement with someone, anyone, even to the point of being embarrassed. So finally a guy opened my eyes and, using my limited Japanese, I said, “Fuji san, Fuji san!” but he shook his head and fell asleep again. I was shocked and saddened. Then it hit me: the man must have thought I was calling by mistake him Mr. Fuji.
What kind of tea is served in the green car? Green tea, of course …
“My mother and I met in Japan, each with a different Japan Rail Pass – hers for the very expensive first class green cars, not mine. We booked our seats accordingly, but I would try to sit with her in the green car if possible. All of the drivers ignored my inappropriate rail pass, although one or two quietly told me that if the green car fills up, I should switch to one of the regular cars. On the Tsubame in Kyushu, the green car filled up and the driver quietly came over and asked me to follow her into the driver’s room. There she served me green tea and we chatted until we reached our destination!
At the northernmost point of Japan, the people are even nicer …
Flickr (Bryan …)
The Japanese Railways service is pretty darn good, but so is their bus service. This is what happened to two train attendants when they combined the two.
“We were escorting a group of train enthusiasts across Japan. The group was staying at Asahikawa in Hokkaido and traveled aboard the Super Soya to Wakkanai with the intention of visiting Cape Soya. At Wakkanai station we attempted to buy 26 JR bus tickets for the cape, but the man behind the counter immediately made a phone call and after a while hung up the phone and sold us a ticket. of group. He then told us where to wait and gave us a departure time a little earlier than stated in the JR bus timetables. Our whole group was ready and waiting at the agreed time with a few local passengers. The man who sold us the ticket then arrived just as the bus pulled up in front of us. It was a coach – not the expected city bus. The man put us on board and told the locals to wait as it was not their bus. He had assured us of our own private coach to Cape Soya! The driver did what would have been otherwise with local unscheduled stops along the way and took us to the top of a hill from where we could see the Cape and Sakhalin Island in the distance. After a brief break he went to the normal bus stop and let us go. We then set the time for the return trip, which was five minutes before the regular bus left. As this was a virtually non-stop race, we then had time to explore Wakkanai before boarding the Super Soya to return to Asahikawa.
When you have to go, you have to go …
Flickr (Mike Mozart)
“I was on the last train of the night, heading for Kofu on the Minobu-sen. The toilets were locked and I really needed to go. I reported the driver and explained that I had kidney problems, could he unlock the toilet. He said to wait. Great… A few more stops and he comes back a few times, wondering if I can take him a little longer. The train arrived at a small rural station, where a train on the opposite tracks was also arriving. The conductor locked the control room door, left the train, and ran across the platform to speak to the conductor of the other train. The conductor of my train then came back and said “Come with me, you can leave your luggage.” He escorted me off the train, out of this little country station, to the public toilets outside. He dutifully waited for me, then escorted me to the train full of confused passengers.
We hate to say it, but now we have to go too. But please share your omotenashi stories with us in the comments section below!
Featured Image: Flickr (Mikael Leppa)