HAKONE, KANAGAWA PREF. – Shinya Ochiai, 26, is a popular conductor on Hakone Tozan Railway Co.’s mountain tram in Kanagawa Prefecture.
In addition to ensuring the passengers’ safety, Ochiai tells them about the main points of interest, the local history and where the best views are along the line that links Hakone-Yumoto and Gora stations in mountainous Hakone, a major hot spring resort in the Kanto region.
His explanations are always filled with humor.
“If you want to see this, the time is now! Don’t miss it!” he announces as the tram approaches a beautiful view.
When the train is chugging up a steep slope, Ochiai’s announcements turn breathless, as if it is he himself who is making the ascent.
As the conductor, Ochiai has to open and close the doors and blow the whistle when the train leaves each station. He also has to sell tickets to passengers who are boarding from unmanned stations while ensuring the train stays on time.
Once the talkative Ochiai is finished with all of his duties, he kindly informs the passengers what’s next: More talk.
“Now that I’m done, I going to keep talking until the train arrives at its final destination,” he says, provoking laughter.
Passengers often ask to have their picture taken with Ochiai, who said one of the best compliments he received was when somebody came up to him on a rainy day and said: “The weather wasn’t good, but I enjoyed riding this train.”
A native of Kawasaki, Ochiai was an elementary school student when he decided he wanted to become a conductor after meeting one on a family trip who made a lasting impression.
He said when their train was halted by heavy rain, the conductor kept their spirits up and took them to the nearest station.
After graduating from university in 2010, he joined Odakyu Hakone Holdings Inc. and started working at the Hakone Tozan Railway two years later. He now aspires to become a driver.
“I will continue to work hard so that I can provide passengers an even more enjoyable train trip,” he said.
According to the railway, Ochiai will leave his conductor’s post at the end of the month to take a six-month training course for operating trains in preparation for a national examination.