There's German efficiency, and then there's Japanese punctuality.
In Japan, tardiness is considered the height of rudeness. And timeliness is honored. That's why the trains are never late. Ever. Train arrival times are counted down to the centiseconds — one-hundredth of a second. Japanese trains just are not late, period.
Departures, too, are right down to the second. And that caused a tiny problem on Tuesday. A train on the Tsukuba Express line between Tokyo and Tsukuba was scheduled to leave at 9:44:40. But it didn't. No, it pulled out of the station at 9:44:20 — 20 seconds early!
Although there were no complaints from riders (Japanese aren't big complainers, either), the managers of the Tsukuba Express issued this statement:
"On November 14, at approximately 9:44 a.m., a northbound Metropolitan Intercity Railway Company (main office in Tokyo, Chiyoda Ward, President & CEO Koichi Yugi) train left Minami Nagareyama Station roughly 20 seconds earlier than the time indicated on the timetable. We deeply apologize for the severe inconvenience imposed upon our customers."
The managers said the early departure happened because "the crew did not sufficiently check the departure time and performed the departure operation."
Social media users had some fun with the apology.
And commenters to the BBC story wrote some hilarious reactions.
"This would never work for the British, we are all conditioned to turn up late to the station now in anticipation of the train being late," one wrote. "Nevertheless, i expect the train conductor committed Seppuku before the next stop, and will always be regarded with shame by his family."
Said another: "I don't think the UK has ever had a training leave on time! The words duty and professionalism are meaningless to our private rail companies. The only words they understand are profit and misery. Shame on them."
And one Brit made a wish: "Sometimes I wish Japan or Switzerland would just invade us and run the country for us. It's embarrassing just how badly run this country is."