Train Trivia:Japan’s Rail Workers Always Point And Call

Japanese train drivers, conductors, and station workers will usually point and call out information whenever a train enters…

Train Trivia:Japan's Rail Workers Always Point And Call
Train Trivia:Japan’s Rail Workers Always Point And Call

Japanese train drivers, conductors, and station workers will usually point and call out information whenever a train enters or leaves a station. The habit seems weird because they are talking to nobody. This is known as shisa kanko (“pointing and calling”), a tactic used to prevent mistakes and accidents. The idea is that workers are more conscious of whatever they are doing when they point and call. For instance, drivers will usually point and call out their speed during speed checks. So it is normal to hear a driver point at their accelerator and shout, “Speed check, 80.”


Station workers who check for debris and people around departing trains will point at the track while shouting, “All clear.” They do the same thing when they confirm the doors are properly shut. Pointing and calling has been used in Japan since the early 20th century. A study shows that it reduces mistakes by 85 percent.

It is so effective that it has been adopted by other Japanese businesses outside the railway and other railways outside Japan. This includes New York City, which adopted a modified version of the practice in 1996. Instead of pointing and calling, train drivers point at a black and white “zebra board” to confirm that their train is correctly stopped.

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