Violent drunks better smile for the camera from now on.

A rather odd dark side to Japanese culture is that people have been known to attack train conductors surprisingly often. An investigation by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism found that in 2020 there were 439 reported physical attacks on railway staff across the country.

That means that even in spite of the greatly reduced number of passengers at the height of COVID-19 fears, there was still at least one assaulted train conductor per day in Japan. The causes aren’t entirely clear, but alcohol appears to play a big role if the numerous posters in stations reminding passengers NOT to punch staff are any indication.

▼ OG Kamen Rider, Segata Sanshiro, and all-round badass Hiroshi Fujioka has become a spokesperson for this problem. Here he sternly warns people: “Resorting to violence only because you were drunk? Aren’t you the one who got yourself drunk?”

However, it looks as if posters alone are not helping, so JR East is reportedly set to equip staff with bodycams from the start of the next fiscal year, which begins in April in Japan. Mainly intended for those working the night shift, it is hoped that these chest-mounted cameras will provide stronger evidence in the case of assaults on employees and ultimately become a deterrence. In addition, JR East said that these cameras can be useful for providing real-time remote support during emergencies of other forms of trouble on moving vehicles. In 2020, they conducted experiments with live feeds from bodycams on Shinkansen trains to ensure their effectiveness at high speeds.

Online comments expressed support for the idea, but many raised concerns over whether the employees own privacy will be protected if they are required to wear cameras all the time while on duty.

“It’s a good idea. I take the train often and sometimes see a bunch of staff crowding around, only to hear that it had something to do with violence.”
“I think it’s good to provide evidence of what these people have to deal with. It’s just sad that it’s come to this.”
“I wonder if this is good from an employee’s point of view. If they mutter an obscenity that no one can hear but gets picked up on the bodycam, can that be used against them?”
“Sounds expensive, but it needs to be done.”
“Thirty years too late.”
“Is this meant for the train otaku?”
“It seems like a good idea, but I’m worried about the privacy of the employees.”

Although protecting train conductors from violent drunks is important, the recurring problem of violent attackers on trains is also a major problem. Unfortunately that means that train conductors are sometimes thrust into the front line of defense alongside police and security when it comes to passenger safety.

▼ A news report showing one of the periodic violent attacker drills held on the Shinkansen

It’s a really raw deal for a group of people who are simply trying to help us get from one place to another, so hopefully they get all the help they need and still have the freedom to tell someone off under their breath if they feel like it.

Source: Tokyo Sports, My Game News Flash
Top image: Pakutaso
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