On the surface, Japan’s train station employees might appear deferential, profusely apologizing for the slightest delay and helpfully guiding passengers through the intricacies of the various transport hubs dotting Tokyo.
On the inside, however, a darker side of their personality seems to exist.
To get an idea of just how frustrated some might be, look no further than a recent social media trend that has seen such workers anonymously unleash scathing posts on Twitter as they rant about the stressful side of their job — in particular, their experiences with kasuhara (harassment by unpleasant customers).
Anonymous accounts from Twitter users who identify themselves as railway employees are increasingly popping up in Japanese, with their profile details suggesting many joined the platform in 2019.
“I was looking for a way to vent about my work anonymously and raise awareness of the little-known aspects of our jobs as train station employees,” a Twitter user with the handle @stsf_psn told The Japan Times. “Posting (tweets that convey) what’s on my mind and getting connected to others in this industry helps me release my stress.”
Their tweets address a wide range of aspects of their jobs, but they say it’s their battle with those described as “monster customers” — a term referring to customers with extremely demanding or unreasonable requests — that wear them out the most.
“I’ve had passengers who demand we pay for their taxi rides because the trains they were planning to take were suspended,” @stsf_psn wrote.
Twitter user @Black_railway, who claimed to be a railway employee in his 30s, also recounted several harassment incidents.
“One thing I want people to understand is that train station employees are not omniscient,” he told The Japan Times.
Being in this line of work, he wrote, doesn’t mean he is the equivalent of a walking map that has encyclopedic knowledge of every single station.
“Many people have approached me and said, ‘Hey, I need to go to this shop, but I don’t know where it is or what its nearest station is. Tell me how to get there,'” he wrote. “But, really … how would I know?”
According to the transport ministry, 670 cases of violence against station employees were reported in fiscal 2018, including incidents in which staff were physically struck, shoved or spat on.
It’s little wonder, then, that station employees sometimes resort to colorful language in venting their frustration on Twitter.
“Passengers in their 70s or so are violent, verbally abusive, rude and low-tech,” Twitter user @monkey_56su posted in January. “Are these b——- really the ones who contributed to Japan’s postwar growth?”
Twitter user @shiotaiosyuseki says there is a reason why some station workers are not as kind as you might expect them to be.
“Not all of us were brusque from the beginning. It’s the crappy customers who have made us behave that way,” the employee writes in their Twitter profile.
Meanwhile, Twitter user @Sta__attendant says the aftermath of a suicide attempt by a passenger gives her the biggest headache.
Many customers — upon learning train operations will be shut down for close to an hour because of a police investigation into the incident — blame station employees for the delay.
“However, taking your anger out on us like that doesn’t make operations resume any sooner — not even by a second,” she told The Japan Times.
Some passengers accuse station employees of not having had the foresight to install platform barriers to prevent suicide attempts, but many of these tragedies are actually happening at railroad crossings instead of on platforms, she said.
Although she believes many people resent, rather than sympathize with, the person who died, “I can’t help but imagine what emotional distress they had to go through to feel like they have to kill themselves in this way,” @Sta__attendant wrote. “That’s what I feel whenever I process the aftermath of what happened.”
Other common complaints cited by train station employees include the marathon work shifts that can keep them there for 24 hours or more. Such irregular work hours often take a toll on their private lives by interfering with their pursuit of romance, @Black_railway wrote.
“Our relationships don’t last long unless we meet partners who can tolerate such work styles,” he wrote. However, he added, “we have seen an increase in female recruits recently, so there are now more workplace romances than before.”