Everyone’s surprised after a Japanese rail operator apologised for a train which left 20 seconds early

The Tsukuba Express links Akihabara station in Chiyoda, Tokyo, and Tsukuba station, in Tsukuba, Ibaraki.
LERK/Wikimedia Commons

In a country where its rail network prides itself on precision and punctuality, a Tokyo rail company has apologised after one of its trains pulled out of a station just 20 seconds too early.

The train was scheduled to depart at 9:44:40am on Tuesday morning (local time) (Nov 14) but an over-eager conductor let it go at 9.44.20am instead.

The incident happened at the Minami Nagareyama station in Chiba on a line connecting two towns 60km apart.

To most of us, the mistake would be perceived as being miniscule since it would have only meant a further four-minute wait before the next train.

But for the Japanese, it was serious enough to prompt the management of Tsukuba Express to issue a statement on its website to “sincerely apologise for the inconvenience” caused.

The mistake apparently happened after the staff failed to check the timetable, it said in the statement.

While no customers complained about the early departure according to the BBC, news of the apology caused a stir on social media from users who were more surprised by it than anything else.

The outpour of admiration for the Japanese also came with complaints from many who compared them to the rail operators in their own respective countries.