There is a internet slang Japanese expression “無敵な人” loosely explained as “a person who has no hesitation in committing crimes because they have nothing to lose socially”. There is also another very convenient expression “当たり屋” which refers to a person who causes an accident or incident for personal gain. Most people might think ‘trouble maker’ would do here, but trouble maker doesn’t capture the coldly calculated premeditation aspect of the Japanese expressions.
Both of these were on display during a recent platform incident at JR Shibuya station Yamanote line during the evening rush when trains arrive every 4 minutes. For reference Shibuya has over 700,000 people using it every day and does not yet have platform doors as the station is being slowly rebuilt in sections.
The ‘victim’ in this case was a man who dropped his wallet (which he claimed contained ¥40,000 that might ‘blow away’) and asked the station attendants to retrieve it with the magic hands that stations have on hand for such incidents. As transit YouTuber, and former station attendant, Wataru Watanuki explains in his video about the incident, a station attendant would have less than 3 minutes for a retrieval attempt before having to clear out before the next train. Attendants also have a rush hour to take care of. So after waiting for a while with the station attendants standing next to him, the ‘victim’ reached over and pushed the emergency button.
The emergency button is for emergencies, like when somebody falls on the tracks or the tracks are obstructed, basically any condition that might cause an accident. This was clearly not the case. Pressing the station platform emergency button also stops all trains on the Yamanote line. Clearly the ‘victim’ thought doing this would get him his wallet back without having to wait. He also hit video record on his smartphone to cleanly capture the astonished and now irate station attendants who tasked him about pressing the emergency button. Naturally the encounter was posted on social media and created a news event, I guess because the media thinks everybody needs the distraction.
As this things die quickly and tend to disappear from the web unexpectedly, the encounter clearly sounds premeditated as if the poster knew exactly how to goad the station attendant all while obnoxiously playing innocent victim. As Wataru Watanuki explains from personal experience, station attendants are there to ensure that train operation is safe and smooth, that is their job, not babysitting trouble makers. Stations like Shibuya are also notoriously difficult jobs because of ‘無敵な人’. A station attendant who posts anonymously as ‘On the job truths from a working station attendant’ added that JR East isn’t helping anybody when they don’t support front line employees who keep things safe.
But there is an aspect people might not be aware of, a transit user witnessed the poster dangerously attempting to retrieve his wallet on his own several times before pressing the emergency button, all while being warned by the station attendants to stand clear. The tweet said: “Completely understand why the station attendant yelled…poor thing, he ended up looking the bad one.”
That’s the problem with social media, it’s a virtual paradise for all kinds of hit and run 無敵な人. Unfortunately I think we’re going to experience a lot more of them in the years to come.