Japanese Rail Company Apologise For Train Being 20 Seconds Early

Tsukuba Wiki

A Japanese rail company has issued an apology after one of its trains left 20 seconds early – despite nobody complaining.

Forget 20 seconds early, I’m constantly waiting 20 minutes for mine to even arrive and get no apology for it, which somebody already pointed out but we’ll get to that.

Management on the Tsukuba Express train – which runs between Tokyo and Tsukuba – said they ‘sincerely apologise for the inconvenience’ caused.

According to The New York Times, Metropolitan Intercity said ‘no passengers missed the train or complained about the jump-start’.

In a statement, the company said the train had been ‘scheduled to leave at 9:44:40 local time but left at 9:44:20’, what an absolute nightmare!

The ‘blunder’ happened because staff had not checked the timetable, the company statement said:

On November 14, at approximately 9:44 a.m., a northbound Metropolitan Intercity Railway Company (main office in Tokyo, Chiyoda Ward, President & CEO Koichi Yugi) train left Minami Nagareyama Station roughly 20 seconds earlier than the time indicated on the timetable.

We deeply apologise for the severe inconvenience imposed upon our customers.


Commuters have been joking about the apology on social media, with many recalling their own experiences on late-running public transport, since the news of the 20-second slip-up broke.

One tweet read:

Tokyo train company’s apology for 20-second-early departure is one of the best things about Japan.

While another added:

I once had an Israeli bus driver laugh at me after he closed the door on my hips and drove off with my legs hanging out of the bus. I am so envious of Japan right now.

A UK commuter was all of us when they posted:

They apologise for being 20 seconds early and yet you don’t get an apology from any major UK train company until they’re over two hours late.

Schuyler Velasco‏ wrote:

I took a commuter train in Tokyo that was 2 minutes late and there were profuse apologies. It was two minutes late because there was an earthquake.

The Japanese found the fascination in the story bewildering suggesting even ‘Japanese would laugh’ at it.

@gaishi_black wrote on Twitter:

People overseas are half amazed and praised Japan but even Japanese would laugh at this.

The Tsukuba Express line transports passengers from Akihabara, in eastern Tokyo, to Tsukuba, in around three quarters of an hour. The BBC report it’s ‘rare for trains in Japan’, which has one of the world’s ‘most reliable railways’, to leave at a different time to the one scheduled.

Which is evident by the fact the company apologised for being 20-seconds off, I suppose?

According to The New York Times, an article published earlier this month on the Gendai Business website, the Tsukuba Express, which carries 130 million passengers a year, markets its ‘safety and high speed’.

The article also apparently listed what it described as ‘concerning’ incidents from earlier in the year, which included ‘two cases of where trains stopped in the wrong position’ and an incident where customers were stuck in the lifts at a station for half an hour.

If only!