NAGOYA — A public bus operator in central Japan was sanctioned on September 1 after its driver ordered a passenger who refused to wear a mask to get off the vehicle in the first such case in the country.
The Chubu District Transport Bureau of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism imposed administrative disciplinary measures against Izuhakone Bus Co., headquartered in Mishima City, Shizuoka Prefecture, on the basis of the Road Transport Act. The operation of the company’s two buses was suspended for a total of 50 days, or 25 days for each bus. The transport bureau said it was the first case in Japan in which a public bus operator was punished for a mask incident.
According to sources, including the transportation bureau, a woman boarded the company’s fixed-route bus in Izunokuni city, Shizuoka prefecture on April 7 without wearing a mask. The 66-year-old driver asked him to cooperate through an announcement on the bus, but after he refused to comply, the driver stopped the vehicle and got him off.
Following a complaint from the passenger, the transportation office conducted a review of the incident. The bureau concluded the driver’s actions were against the law after confirming the driver had no valid reason to refuse the ride and forced the woman off before reaching a bus stop. It also determined that the bus operator had improperly instructed the driver to respond to potential incidents of passengers refusing to wear masks.
The road transport law states that drivers cannot refuse a ride except in certain cases, such as when passengers are heavily intoxicated or act violently towards the driver, but the law contains no provision on masks.
Izuhakone Bus explained that the driver said during the hearing, “A passenger boarded the bus near a hospital, so I thought the woman (not wearing a mask) would disturb the other passengers. ” The company said: “Having the passenger off the bus was inappropriate, but we will continue to ask passengers to wear masks.”
The transportation office said it did not know why the woman refused to wear a mask.
(Japanese original by Ayaka Morita, Nagoya News Center)