Encounter leaves rail fans shouting into the night in seaside town.

Some of the hardest of Japan’s hardcore otaku are the train otaku, or “tetsu-ota” (from testudo/”railway”), as they’re called for short. While taking photos of public transportation infrastructure could be a relaxing, low-key hobby, some tetsu-ota take it very seriously, with the latest example being an incident that took place on Thursday night along the Enoshima Electric Railway in Kanagawa Prefecture.

Because of its picturesque location on the fashionable Shonan coast and unique streetcar configuration, the Enoden, as the line is also known, is particularly popular among tetsu-ota. So when word got out that test runs were going to be performed for a new model of Enoden carriage, tetsu-ota showed up in the middle of the night with the aim of securing bragging rights to be the first fans to photograph the upgraded rolling stock.

But as the train came around a curve near an intersection where a particularly large crowd had gathered, so too did a non-Japanese bicyclist. Pedaling up the street, his bike was between the train and the cameras, and his left arm was raised high. This instantly enraged the tetsu-ota, who began shouting “What are you doing?” and “Get out of the way, you moron!”

Video of the incident can be seen here, and it’s hard to tell if the man was raising his hand to wave to the crowd, or to signal that he wanted to turn up the street that several of the tetsu-ota seem to be blocking the entrance to in positioning themselves to photograph the train (at least one person seems to have set up a folding chair in the intersection). Either way, the crowd continues shouting as the train continues on, with a handful of the tetsu-ota approaching the man after he stops his bike. “This is seriously bad news,” someone says, while another shouts “Pay up!” and the “bad news” voice can be heard seconding the motion, agreeing “Pay up. Yeah, for sure. It’s logical that he should pay up.”

It’s unclear whether the suggested shakedown eventually took place or not, but the incident has divided opinions online. On one side are those taking the cyclist to task for what they see as intentionally spoiling the tetsu-ota’s photos, with the fault-finding going so far as some saying the man should be punished for the dangerous behavior of riding a bicycle with (gasp!) only one hand on the handlebars. On the other side are those who find the reaction of the on-site rail fans completely out of proportion with the perceived impoliteness, leaving comments such as:

“Totally laughing at what happened by the Enoden.”
“I don’t know how many times I’ve watched the video of that foreigner getting right in the way of the shot, but I’m still not tired of it.”

“Personally, I’d be satisfied with having that guy in my photo.”
“Instead of getting mad at him for messing up their pics, shouldn’t they be working on their own manners and not making so much noise in a residential neighborhood?”

With Japan currently closed to international tourism, it stands to reason that the bicyclist is likely a Japanese resident, and thus someone you’d expect to be at least aware of how passionate Japanese rail fans are and how disappointed they’d be by someone photobombing their train shot. On the other hand, he’s using a public road, and not under any obligation to alter his route simply to help someone better indulge in their otaku hobby. Really, the only thing that can be said for sure is that if a group of strangers start yelling at you and talking about potentially robbing you, probably the best thing to do is to keep on pedaling.

Source: Hachima Kiko, Twitter
Top image: Pakutaso
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