Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Passenger-related accident involving bodily injury

I was sitting on the train home from uni yesterday late afternoon (I sat in my lab for about two hours but couldn't settle or concentrate, partly due to hunger and partly to tiredness thanks to being woken three times last night: once by a series of texts, and twice by the couple next door who apparently can't decide whether they like fucking or fighting better, so do both in healthy amounts at max volume at all hours) and suddenly the train slammed to a halt between stations. Everyone glanced up briefly, looking mildly perturbed, but immediately went back to gazing at their smartphones.

And then this announcement:


O-kyakusama ni o-shirase desu. Jinshinjiko ga hassei shita tame kyuuteisha itashimashita. Osoreirimasu ga shibaraku o-machi kudasai.

 "This is a passenger announcement. Due to an accident causing bodily injury, we have made an emergency stop. We apologize for the delay."

And then, a few moments later, the dreaded follow-up announcement:

O-kyakusama ni o-shirase desu. Jinshinjiko ga hassei shita tame, tadaima unten o miawasete orimasu.

“This is a passenger announcement. Due to an accident causing bodily injury, operation is currently temporarily suspended.”

I, along with probably everyone else on the train, heaved a sigh of annoyance. People started gathering their belongings in preparation for abandoning ship. The general mood was one of pissed-off "why me, why now". And this is the only reaction I have ever seen in Tokyo. It may be a symptom of everyone's bubble-like self-absorption, but no one cares that someone felt desperate enough to fling themselves in front of an oncoming train. Everyone is pissed off at the selfishness of the person who chose the most dramatic suicide method possible, the one that inconveniences the greatest number of people possible.

人 身事故 literally means "accident causing bodily injury". It's not always a suicide - but as the older guy walking behind me in the swarm of people trekking from the Tobu Tojo line station to the corresponding Saikyo line station about 20 minutes' walk away, "Jinshinjiko just means jisatsu (suicide), you know? But they can't say that," he laughed.

I posted on Twitter my annoyance at my journey being interrupted and my happiness at getting my ticket refunded and a free ride to Ikebukuro on the Saikyo. My Twitter is linked to my Facebook, and this tweet was posted there. Then a friend, who lives in the countryside here and who has been here less than a year, commented with "poor dead person". And my initial reaction was: No! They're so selfish! Why should anyone feel sorry for them? They could have chosen any other means of offing themselves but they had to choose the one that inconveniences thousands of people and carries a crippling fine from the train company for their family to boot. No one seems to be sure how much this fine is, but there are rumours of 100 million yen (1.2 million US dollars). If anything you should feel sorry for the poor driver who had to be the involuntary tool of their demise.

The Japanese attitude to suicide, as it is to many things, is: if you're going to do it, do it unobtrusively and without bothering anyone else. Committing suicide by commuter train flagrantly disobeys this social expectation. It is the showiest, angriest way to kill yourself. It's a way of saying Fuck you, you drove me to this, it's all of your fault. One of the saddest of these suicides recently was a 14 year old girl who was wearing her school uniform when she jumped. Apparently she had been bullied.

Suicides are most frequent on Mondays, and on the Chuo line (leading to the term "Chuicide"). The reason for the former is self-evident; the latter because the Chuo line trains are all high-speed expresses and have a lot of cars, so it's hard if not impossible for a driver to stop in time.

What happens when someone commits suicide by train is this. 

1. All trains on that line are suspended immediately and cleanup begins (possibly the least enviable job in this entire city, if not the planet). 

2. Announcements are made of a "passenger-related bodily injury incident", and alternative routes of transport to major hubs are recommended "for those in a hurry", which everyone is, always. 

3. Everyone gets off the train and hurries to the station window at the ticket barriers. Here you hand over your electronic travel card (Suica or Pasmo) and the cost of the journey up until that point will be refunded (NB: this sometimes depends on the train company) as well as your card "voided" for that journey so it won't cause an error when you swipe through the next ticket barrier at the alternative station you're about to walk to. If you don't have a travel card, you're handed a little paper ticket which entitles you to a free journey.

4. You then follow the crowd streaming out of the station and enjoy a scenic walk through whichever commuter satellite suburb you happen to have ended up in to the nearest alternative line station.

5. Once there don't go through the barriers, but instead flash your travel card/hand over your paper ticket and go through the non-barriered route by the station window. You then enjoy a free ride to your destination.

6. Upon arrival, once again follow the crowd and line up at the station window to walk through without passing through the barriers.

Since this process is assumed to be understood by all, there are no explanations or announcements, even in Japanese. The first time this happened to me I had no idea what to do, and I think I ended up paying for my alternative journey as a result. All of the announcements for a suicide are made by the driver over loudspeaker rather than a pre-recorded message, so they're in Japanese only; I've seen so many confused tourists when this happens on one of the main lines, like the Yamanote. I once went over and explained to a family who was waiting on a deserted platform for a train that wouldn't be coming for at least an hour what was going on, and how they could get to where they were going, but JR really needs a standard pre-recorded English/Chinese message for this situation. I doubt they'll make one, though, since it's one of those things that's socially embarrassing and not exactly great for the city's image.


  1. I didn't know anyone refunds you. I have a commuter ticket though, so I guess I never really spent extra...

    I always wonder how much "injury" takes place because I've had times I waited a mere 15 minutes and times it was 2 hrs+. I'm guessing the later was pretty bad > , < ;)

  2. I was just hate to traveling by train as the risk of fatal crashes are rapidly increases now days but in reality traveling by a train is definitely one of the worst choice it take longer time to reach the destination along with risk of accident.

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