Stuck on a Japanese Train!

Green Train used on the Nara Line

My first time in Japan was quite unique, I experienced things I’d never experience in my home countries. And one of those things I experienced, happened on Monday, 23rd of January, 2017.

I was told that I was to be visiting my host brothers’ high school again, not as a student, just a guest for some English classes with some of the English teachers at the school. I was 17, so I was the age of these students I was visiting, but I had already completed High School in full when I was 16, (Year 13, And had the top grade in all my classes but 1 – We have 13 years of school in New Zealand). I don’t know why, but all the students thought I was in my early to mid 20’s as a university graduate.

Now as a person who had pretty crippling social anxiety when I was young, and the thought of going to back to school – a place I wasn’t too fond of when I did my time in school. You can image how relieved I was when I woke up for my second day at the school, Monday 23rd of January, when I discovered that school would be cancelled due to the snow outside. It 6:00am, and very dark outside, but when the light finally came through, I saw something horrible. A whole 2cm of snow had piled up!

I know, hardly a reason to cancel school, but it didn’t stop snowing there, and didn’t stop until the next day. Despite school being cancelled, my host brother still had to go to cram school, which wasn’t cancelled. So by the time cram school came around, there was a solid 25-30cm of snow, and still piling down. 

Cram school was actually better than I expected, but was completely irrelevant to me, it was all spoken in Japanese and university level calculus was being taught, which no way applied to me. Anyways, after 2 hours of not paying attention or understanding, or not doing anything – seriously, I don’t know why I was there, my host brother, his friends, and myself left the school and headed to Fukuchiyama Station. That’s when the ‘fun’ began.

We boarded the train, it was 8:20pm, and we hadn’t had dinner yet. The train was due in at 8:25pm at Isa Station, the next stop along the train line. It was snowing even harder, the tracks and the power cables for the train had already amassed a large quantity of snow since the last train passed through, which was about 30 minutes prior – it was a small city, trains were pretty infrequent at night. 

Within moments, the flights began to flicker, going off for longer periods of time at time. We slowed down by a couple of km/h every time the lights went out – I don’t think we got any faster than 20km/h. The train ride was very rocky, a few big jolts here and there scared me quite a bit, but my host brother assured me that this was ‘normal’. Turns out, this wasn’t normal in the slightest and the train slowed down to a hault in the middle of a crossing.

Japanese Train Crossing

Temperatures in the cabin rapidly dropped, we lost all power, disconnected from the power source and slightly derailed. We were helpless, we had no clue when we’d get moving again. About 20 minutes had passed before the JR Rail staff showed up to investigate what happened, where they confirmed that we were definitely stuck. The train conductor went around the train shortly after giving blankets, pillows and heat packs for everyone. It was at that point, we knew we weren’t getting out of there soon. 

To pass the time, my host brother’s friends felt like the best thing to do, was to add some ‘humor’ to the situation. By humor, I mean, asking me every personal question they could think of in regards to my sex life – I don’t think they were very mature, but boys will be boys. I didn’t have much to discuss, on that topic, but they were relentless teenagers, they weren’t going to give up trying to get some gossip out of me. When I didn’t talk due to a lack of stories, they all began sharing their experiences and stories – it was mortifying. When I was at school after the snow cleared, I couldn’t stop thinking about their stories, especially after they’d introduced me to their girlfriends – although, knowing those guys, they were just making it all up to sound cool.

You’d be surprised how long teenagers can talk about what goes on behind closed doors. We were stuck for nearly 3 hours in the snow, and we were talking about it for pretty much the whole time – in earshot of the people on the train, saying things loudly which really should not be said in public. Needless to say, it was highly embarrassing. 

The train lights finally kicked in, and we began moving, slowly, yet surely. The supposedly 5 minute train ride which began at 8:20, came to an end just before 11pm. I tell you, after all that, I was so happy to get back to my house and have some dinner which was ready waiting for my host brother and I :).

A lot of the time, you hear stories about how if a Japanese train is delayed by x seconds, you will receive a notice from JR, explaining to employers or meetings, that your tardiness was our of your control. But Frankly, that’s not always true, and it certainly wasn’t in this situation, and many other experiences I’ve had where the trains have been behind schedule for by a few minutes. – Just felt like busting a popular misconception.

Posted by Off The Track Japan

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