Conductor flips the bird on snowy night in Tokyo.

Japanese companies pride themselves on customer service, and that attitude carries over to public transportation providers too. Japan’s largest rail provider, Japan Railways Group (also known as JR) is particularly committed to presenting an image of its staff as courteous and capable, so many were shocked to learn that one of JR’s conductors recently flipped off a station-goer.

The incident took place last Saturday at Hakonegasaki Station, located on the Hachiko Line in western Tokyo, and can be seen in the images below.

As snow fell on the evening of January 23, word got out that the Hachiko Line would be running its 209-series carriages. This older model has been largely phased out of service, but issues with the weather that day prompted a temporary comeback, and a pair of train enthusiasts had come to Hakonegasaki Station to take photos from the platform. At around 8:30, though, the JR conductor at the rear of one train bird-bombed the photo by extending both his arm and his middle finger as the train pulled away.

One of the rail fans posted a video of the incident on Twitter, and some wondered if he may have been exhibiting the less-than-polite behavior that train enthusiasts are sometimes known for. He explained, though, that he had been properly standing behind the yellow safety lines marked on the platform, and that he hadn’t been using a flash, using an umbrella, or doing anything else that he felt would pose a safety risk or impeded the staff from doing their job and other passengers from getting on or of the train.

Eventually the video caught JR’s attention, and the company was able to determine who the conductor in the video was. When asked about the incident, he admitted to flipping the rail fans off, saying that he didn’t like that they were taking pictures of the train that he would be visible in as well. However, with tie to reflect on his conduct, he said that losing his temper and reacting the way he did was “inexcusable,” and JR has said “We deeply apologize for the offense this has caused our customers. We are taking this infraction very seriously, and we will be strictly educating the employee on the proper course of action to take.”

Thankfully, the conductor’s conduct isn’t the norm for JR staff, and in wake of the incident some other rail fans have posted examples of the much friendlier service the company is usually known for, such as this Shinkansen conductor cheerfully waving to kids on the platform at Kanazawa Station…

…or this one on the Tohoku Main Line waving goodbye.

Ultimately, while it’s understandable that some people don’t like being in pictures, Japan’s sizable community of passionate rail fans didn’t just spring up overnight, and its always had a lot of overlap with photography buffs. Being a conductor, especially one for JR, means it’s inevitable that a certain amount of amateur photography is going to happen at your workplace, and if incidentally showing up in someone’s photos is going to set you off, it’s really not a job you’re mentally suited for.

Sources: J Cast News via Livedoor News via Jin, Otakomu, Hachima Kiko
Top image: Pakutaso