Handicapped on Trains

I took this picture on the Hanshin Line platform at Sannomiya station in Kobe. This is a familiar scene, repeated thousands of times across Japan every minute: people waiting in line for the train (with their heads stuck in their smartphones, of course).


But note the train company employee. He’s holding a small board in his hand, and has an earpiece and a microphone. You can’t see it in the picture, but occasionally he would get some message in his ear, and will murmur softly into his mike. The reason he’s there? There is a person in a wheelchair on the train, and the employee is there to help him or her get off the train.

In Japan, all a handicapped person needs to do is show up at the train station. He will be escorted to the platform (using the elevator or a chair lift) and be helped onto the train. Then the train staff will notify the arrival station, noting the exact arrival time and the door through which the person will need assistance in alighting from the train. Not the car; the exact door. This is why this employee is listening to his earpiece, to position himself on time at the right door.

Now watch what happens when the train arrives:

Hard to see what’s going on, but that’s exactly the point. The entire exercise takes place so flawlessly and so smoothly, that there is no interruption in the normal flow of other passengers. The person on the wheelchair gets off the train in the blink of an eye, and this does not interfere with the regular schedule of the train, which will depart the station on time.

Yet another mundane, and perfect, example of Japanese attention to detail and commitment to service.



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