Japanese trains have fascinated the internet for years, but there’s one thing about the country’s super high-tech system that people have always struggled to figure out – why do the train drivers point at absolutely everything?
If you’ve ever ridden on public transport you’ve probably noticed how the drivers of trains and buses often wave at each other as they pass. In Japan however, things are a bit different, with footage from inside the driver cabins of bullet trains always seeming to show the drivers pointing at pretty much everything they come across on their journey.
It turns out there’s a good reason for it, with the practice actually designed to help prevent accidents by making sure drivers are aware of potential hazards.
It’s called ‘shisa kanko’ or ‘Pointing and Calling’ and it’s used by everyone from train drivers to airline pilots. TikTok users are just now finding this information out, and it’s blowing their minds.
A post by TikTok channel ‘in the now,’ has explained that Pointing and Calling was first developed by a Japanese train engineer named Yasoichi Hori way back in 1913. Worried he was beginning to lose his sight, Hori started calling out signs and objects as he approached them, to let the firemen riding along with him know he’d seen them. The firemen would then call back to confirm, helping Hori to avoid making mistakes.
‘Soon, other drivers began following his example as it helped them stay vigilant during their shifts, and a safety system was born,’ the post reveals.
@inthenow Safety first!☝️📹 Japan Railpass #trainsafety #traindriver #trainstory #stayvigilant ♬ Blade Runner 2049 – Synthwave Goose
Now, even rail employees on station platforms do the same thing, pointing and calling out as trains pull in and out.
According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, Japan, it works, too. The Institute says that by ‘raising the consciousness levels of workers,’ the system can help reduce the risk of accidents and workplace errors by as much as 85%, Atlas Obscura reports.
Japanese workers have acknowledged that some Western observers might find the practice a bit silly or embarrassing, but that’s not to say it hasn’t got admirers elsewhere. Since 1996 a variation of Pointing and Calling has been in use on the New York City subway, with drivers required to point and confirm that they’re parked correctly on a platform. Apparently, the simple technique helped to cut the rate of incorrectly parked trains in half in just two years.
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