Thursday, January 14, 2016

Japan Railways Broad-Minded Nature for a Only Train Passenger

There is only one high school girl who uses the remote Kami-Shirataki Station in Hokkaido, Japan, but the station has been kept open for her till she graduates, goes a Facebook post by Chinese state broadcaster CCTV on Friday (Jan 8) which has gone viral.

“The Kyu-Shirataki-Shirataki train station is located in Japan’s north island of Hokkaido,” the post read. “Three years ago, due to its remote location and ending of freight trains, the Japan Railway (JR) decided to close it down. However, they changed their minds after they discovered a young girl used the station to go to high school every day.”
According to the report, the only two trains that stop at the station now are just for this girl, with a “unique timetable depending on when the girl needs to go to school and back.” Japan Railway apparently intends to keep the station open until March this year, when she will finally graduate.

The touching tale naturally gathered thousands of likes, going viral on Japanese social media in just one.The story was shared several times over, and eventually covered by other media outlets as well. Lots of people left comments commending the empathy displayed by Japan Railway in supporting the girl’s education.

“Why should I not want to die for a country like this when the government is ready to go an extra mile just for me,” one person commented on CCTV’s post. “This is the meaning of good governance penetrating right to the grassroot level. Every citizen matters. No child left behind!”

Earlier, the same story was widely circulated in Japanese social media. But there is a little more to the story than that.

CCTV's Facebook post, recounting the poignant tale, was shared more than 5,700 times and liked by more than 22,000 people by Saturday.

The story goes that Japan Railway wanted to close the remote station in Hokkaido three years ago, but changed its mind when they discovered that a girl uses it to go to school. For years now trains have stopped at the station just for her. Japan Railway will keep the train station open until she leaves school.

She is expected to graduate on March 26, 2016,which is when the station is expected to close.

The post said: "Every day only two trains stop at the Kami-Shirataki station with a unique timetable depending on when the girl needs to go to school and back."

Many expressed their admiration for Japan Railways in the comments thread following the post. However, the situation may have been romanticised.

A Taiwan Apple Daily report said that the girl featured in the story does take the train every day, but the year-three student takes it from Kyu-Shirataki Station, instead of the Kami-Shirataki Station, along with more than 10 schoolmates at 7.15am. That is the only train in the morning.

On their way home, they have a choice of three trains, with one as late as 7.25pm.

Apple Daily also confirmed that Japan Railways, as part of an effort to rationalise its operations, will close three underused stations - Kami-Shirataki, Kyu-Shirataki and Shimo-Shirataki stations - by March 2016.

But this may not have anything to do with the schoolgirl's graduation.

It is not clear how the story started, but nostalgia for Japan's vanishing rural villages and the heartwarming details, which many say are akin to a Hayao Miyazaki film, probably helped it spread online.

Hayao Miyazaki is the co-founder of Studio Ghibli, known for anime films like My Neighbour Totoro and Spirited Away.

Others took the opportunity to lament about the dwindling population in rural Japan, resulting in the slow extinction of railway services in these areas.

But it looks like people might be getting emotional over nothing. According to a report in the Taiwan edition of Apple Daily, the tale is most likely a romanticized exaggeration. The girl actually boards the train from an entirely different station every morning, along with 10 other schoolmates. In the evening, she has a choice of three trains to get back home.