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Home Travel Foreign passenger shoves conductor on one of the last full runs for Japan’s Thunderbird train – SoraNews24 -Japan News-

Foreign passenger shoves conductor on one of the last full runs for Japan’s Thunderbird train – SoraNews24 -Japan News-

by Staff

Tokkyuken check leads to altercation and delay.

When trains go out of service in Japan, they go out in style. Rail operators put together “last run” celebrations, drawing in not just hard-core train otaku but also more mainstream travelers who have fond memories of riding that particular train to destinations along its route over the years. The memories for one group of last-run passengers, though are probably going to be less pleasant, due to an altercation between one rider and the train staff.

Recently, West Japan Railway and its passengers were preparing to bid a bittersweet goodbye to the full service of the Thunderbird special express (pictured above). First going into service in 1995, the Thunderbird was the successor to the Raicho (also meaning “thunderbird”) express that began in 1964, connecting Osaka with the Hokuriku region along the northern shore of Japan’s main island of Honshu.

The Thunderbird ran from Osaka to Kanazawa, in Ishikawa Prefecture. As of this month, though, the two cities are linked through the extension to the Hokuriku Shinkansen line. With the faster, more modern bullet train becoming an option, JR West made the decision to truncate the Thunderbird’s route, eliminating all stops north of Tsuruga Station in Fukui Prefecture, meaning that the Thunderbird will no longer reach to Ishikawa at all.

▼ The Thunderbird pulls out of the station on its last run

YouTube Poster

The last day for the full-length Thunderbird run was March 15, but even the day before, fans were showing up for one last ride. On one run on the 14th, however, passengers were startled to hear the train’s P.A. system come to life, and a staff member inform them that “The police are investigating an incident that has occurred onboard,” and that the train would be making an extended stop at Tsuruga Station.

So what sort of incident had occurred? According to JR West, in one of the cars a foreign passenger was asleep in one of the seats, and when the conductors came by they asked to see his ticket. Specifically, they wanted to see his tokkyuken, or “special express ticket.” The passenger, a Caucasian male, didn’t have one, though, and instead became agitated and shoved the conductor. Following the ruckus, the train made a 40-minute stop at Tsuruga Station, where more police were waiting.

▼ Stills showing the police response can be seen at the point in the video here.

YouTube Poster

This wasn’t necessarily a case of a foreign passenger being singled out for stricter ticket checks. When traveling by special express trains in Japan, passengers must pay for two types of ticket. One covers the base fare from their starting station to their destination, and costs the bare minimum for that route, the fare that one would use for any and all trains to travel between those points. The second ticket, the tokkyuken, covers the additional surcharge required to ride faster long-distance express trains, such as the Thunderbird or Shinkansen.

For trains that don’t require a tokkyuken, there’s no need to check passengers’ tickets onboard, since they’ll be checked, either by staff or automated ticket gates, when they leave the station. However, at many stations, passengers getting off both standard-price trains and additional-cost ones are funneled into the same area. While the Shinkansen always has its own gates, other tokkyuken trains often don’t, and so tickets are checked onboard, to prevent someone from buying the base ticket only, riding the special express for free, and then waltzing out of the station after they get off without paying for the tokkyuken.

Now, there are two possible explanations for how the passenger ended up on the Thunderbird without a tokkyuken. The first is that he simply didn’t know he needed one. Granted, that shows a pretty poor level of research into traveling in Japan, but there’s a chance it was an honest mistake, and that he was confused and panicked when the conductors demanded he show them tickets that he didn’t have or even think he needed.

However, even if that was the case, panicking is an improper response, and shoving a conductor is an idiotic one. Though Japan is not an entirely crime-free country, you can rest assured that its rail operators run a tight enough ship that there’s zero chance of the staff trying to shake you down for money or otherwise scam you onboard. Should you ever find yourself on a train in Japan and a staff worker is telling you that you need another ticket, you can rest assured that they’re telling you the truth. If that happens, stay calm. Even if you can’t purchase the ticket right then and there from the conductor, they’re not going to throw you out the window while the train is still moving. At the very worst, they’ll ask you to get off at the next station and settle the bill before reboarding another train.

Of course, there’s also the possibility that the man knew he needed a tokkyuken, but thought that he could sneak onto and off the train before anyone found out he didn’t have one. This is dumb, inconsiderate, and unethical for a whole bunch of reasons, and makes shoving the conductor even dumber, since it’s not like there’s anywhere he could have then escaped to since, you know, this was all happening inside a moving train.

It’s unclear what charges, if any, the man faces as a result of his actions, but it’s unfortunate that rail fans who were looking forward to one last ride on the Thunderbird had to put up with such a dumb disturbance.

Source: TV Asahi via Livedoor News via Jin, J-Cast News
Top image: Wikipedia/MaedaAkihiko
Insert images: Pakutaso
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