Pointing and Calling

Japanese Train Conductor

When you board a train in Japan, you might notice rail workers in crisp uniforms constantly pointing at things and calling out.

For example, the train conductor would point to a speed limit sign along the track, read out loud, and then point to the speedometer to verify. Or he would point to the signal light, declare the status to himself, and then operate the knobs and buttons on the dashboard accordingly.

Likewise, for the platform attendant whose duty is to ensure the tracks are free of debris or fallen passengers, he would point down the track and sweep his arm along the length of the platform, with his eyes following the hand movement, before declaring all clear. Apparently, a visual scan alone is not enough.

Such movements and shouts are practised by Japanese railway companies. The procedure is known as “Shisa Kanko” and translated to mean “Pointing and Calling”. It combines looking at something, pointing at it, calling out the observation, and listening to your own voice. The act of pointing promotes focus and attention, while the act of calling out the action reinforces correct procedure. It helps to avoid sloppiness and complacency. This method has been credited with reducing workplace errors and accident rates.

I am impressed with their attention to details and awareness of safety. It also requires a lot of self-discipline to carry out such physical gestures and vocal calls even when not under supervision. Most of the time, there is no one to hear or observe his action! In fact, you often see train conductors seemingly talking to themselves while alone in the driver’s compartment.

Lens-Artists Challenge: Detail


10 thoughts on “Pointing and Calling

  1. pattimoed

    Fascinating details, Jeremy on this Japanese safety custom. And your shot is intriguing, because we look through the windows to glimpse the conductor and the action on the platform. Very clever.



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