Japan’s rail system is known worldwide for being efficient and punctual, probably the best transportation system on the planet.
Visitors to Japan are sometimes baffled by rail staff standing on the platform and pointing with their fingers in various directions, gestures that are sometimes accompanied also by shouting.
Here’s an example:
This seemingly mysterious ritual is there for a reason. Japan invented a system called shisa kanko (“pointing and calling”) which has been proven to reduce errors by up to 85%. This started more than a century ago, with train drivers calling out signal status, and was later expanded to include all rail staff. Even the Shinkansen (bullet train) cleaning staff – known for the 7-minute miracle – use this system.
Apparently, the physical movement and the vocalization of the task help in raising the worker’s focus and consciousness about the task at hand, thus reducing the possibility of making mistakes
This system is unique to Japan, where the culture permits workers to behave like this in public without feeling self-conscious or silly and without being laughed at by others. I am not aware of other countries where such a system would work (a limited version of it is supposedly used by New York’s subway drivers).
(This is a post in the series “Why Japan is the Closest Place to Paradise“)