27 9 / 2011
In 2004, due to typhoons, the Shinkansen total annual delays were 42 seconds. It was a disgrace to Japan. (source)
If a train were to be late for 5 minutes, everyone receives a free journey and an apology from the conductor. If a train is delayed 10 minutes, it would be in the newspaper.
So to say train delays are serious business would be an understatement. And last week, knowing what I knew about trains and average delays, I began snapping the following photos, unfolding in time, to mark the first major delay of a Japanese Shinkansen in 2011.
We were taking a 1:35PM train to Tokyo.
1:32PM: Train nowhere to be seen. Passengers seem anxious.
1:33PM: The train arrives. On the platform, hundreds of people wait with their babies, luggage and tourist maps. “We’re going to get a refund!” I realize, excitedly.
1:34PM: The train pulls all the way into the station. Forget a 5 minute delay, this one’s going to be 10 minutes or more. I can see the newspaper headlines with each passing second.
1:34/1:35PM: First of all, can you believe I caught my camera changing minutes? Second of all, it’s 1:35PM. THE 60 SECOND COUNT DOWN HAS BEGUN! WE ARE GOING TO BE LATE! THERE’S STILL A LINE OUTSIDE OUR CAR! WE’LL BE AT LEAST 10 TO 15 MINUTES TO LOAD ALL THESE PEOPLE! History is, clearly, in the making. GOOD THING I HAVE ALL THESE PHOTOS! Maybe the newspaper will want them for tomorrow’s story!
1:35PM: The train is moving.
1:36PM: We are already going like a zillion miles an hour. I am devastated.
So in short, the Japanese Shinkansen train is on time. It’s always on time. There are no refunds. There is no formal apology from the conductor. There will be no newspaper article. It’s just another day in efficiently fabulous Japan. Guess I’ll have to get my train-delay fix back on San Francisco’s Muni train.
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