Many people who have spent time in Japan have stories of someone doing something really nice for them out of simple kindness. Such encounters range from getting a bag of onions from a shop owner to receiving an umbrella from a stranger, while standing in pouring rain (both true stories). Even on the job, workers’ kindness and sense of duty to show such consideration comes through in the form of outstanding customer service.

Such was the case in Chiba Prefecture last week when two junior high school students got on the wrong train and were about to be late to one of the most important tests of their lives: the public high school entrance exam. Thanks to some kind Japan Rail staff, they made it— although, we’re not sure if they passed.

This story would not bear the same meaning if we didn’t first discuss the gravity of the high school entrance exam. Japanese compulsory education ends after junior high, so kids have to test into public or private high schools. Getting into a good high school improves your chances of getting into a good university, which, in turn, improves your chances of getting a good job.

▼ Entrance exam time is the most stressful period for Japanese students.


Sure, they might slough off for their first two years of junior high, but all students know that once the third year comes along, they have to buckle down and study. In fact, many schools ban third year students from participating in sports and club activities after summer vacation, as they need to focus on studying for the remaining five to seven months before the tests! It’s kind of a big deal, and the process is repeated for the university entrance exam, three years later.

▼ Even snack companies have hopped on the entrance-exam-studying bandwagon and offer special snacks for test prep. Here’s a Kit-Kat with encouraging words.


These kids study all day at school, all night and every weekend. All of the third-year students in the prefecture applying to public high schools take the test on the same day, at the same time. They can only apply to one public school and if they don’t get in, they have no choice but to enter an expensive private school or wait a year and take the test again.

Most prefectures offer their public high school entrance exams in early March, but apparently Chiba runs early and had their’s last week, on February 12. Since many students commute to far-away high schools, some test-takers have to travel to areas they may have never been before, which only adds to the stress of test day.

▼ Hey kids, because the test isn’t stressful enough, navigate through this too!


Two girls from Urayasu City in Chiba (that’s where the Tokyo Disney Resort is), embarked on the journey to their school of choice in Mastudo City, about an hour away by train. Still young, and spending all of their time studying, they’re not seasoned pros at navigating the complicated Tokyo-area train lines. Apparently, they got on the wrong train and, realizing their mistake, jumped off at Minami-Funabashi Station at around 8:00 AM. While pulling away from the platform, the conductor of the Japan Rail (JR) train noticed the two panicking girls trying to figure out the schedule board.

▼ Oops! Wrong train!


Good thing this was in good ol’ Japan, because said conductor then promptly got on the radio with the station master, Shigeo Shishikura, and told him about the distressed youngsters. Mr. Shishikura rushed over to the girls and helped them figure out how to get to their destination. In response to their lamentations of “We’ll never make it on time!” and “What should we do?!” he gave them words of encouragement, saying (more or less) “It’s okay. Calm down and go give that test hell!”

That was a nice gesture and all, but what Mr. Shishikura did next was above and beyond what most would expect of his duties as Station Master. After seeing the girls off, he called up the high school, explained the train situation and told them that the girls would be there, even if they had to miss the opening assembly to discuss details of the test procedure. Thanks to his call, the girls were able to swiftly move through the registration process and were sitting at their assigned seats before the test began at 9:25 AM.

So in the end, success! Well, they at least got to take the test, we’re not sure if they passed!

▼ Hopefully the train mishap didn’t shake them up too much!


In typical Japanese fashion, the vice-principal of the two girls’ junior high stated, “By mistaking their train on such an important day, the girls troubled both the JR staff and the high school.” Downer! “But thanks to everyone’s kindness, the girls were able to take the test.” Based on Mr. Shishikura’s sense of relief when he heard the girls made it, we’re willing to bet that he didn’t feel troubled at all. We hope the girls took the time to thank him and let him know their results!

Source: Yomiuri Online
Images: Wikimedia Commons (ga9gk, DAJF, Albertogp), Japan from Inside, Miyako Mainichi