The latest salaryman to trade one form of oblivion for another on the nation’s rails has horrified many with his spectacular plunge through the train’s window and straight into the arms of its doubtless even more horrified driver.
The incident occurred when an unidentified man leapt into the path of a oncoming limited express service at Oishi station on the Hanshin Electric Railway in Hyogo prefecture.
Unusually, rather than being dashed to pieces on impact or mangled underneath the train, he smashed straight through the driver’s side window with most of his body ending up inside the train.
The man was extricated from the train by a fire crew at the next station on and taken to hospital, but unsurprisingly his injuries proved fatal.
The unfortunate driver of the train sustained minor injuries from glass and the impact, although nothing is said about the psychological impact.
Passengers all escaped injury, saving the hour long delay inflicted on users of the express service and the obvious ghastliness of the spectacle – although judging by the photos of the scene at least one bystander (or “the sick pink fatty” as his online detractors have labelled him) found the scene highly edifying.
Suicide by train, a method very Japanese in both its fixation with the train and its passive-aggressiveness (although not very common, accounting for only 2.1% of suicides with straightforward hanging being by far the preferred method with 66.4%, unsurprisingly it is preferred by salarymen), continues to be a major problem for Japanese railways.
Euphemistically referred to as “traffic accidents resulting in injury” in station announcements, each year such attempts delay hundreds of thousands of commuters and subject train drivers to horrific trauma (to say nothing of anyone witnessing or forced to clean up “organs and chunks of flesh from an unrecognisably pulverised body spread 2-5km from the impact site in the case of high speed trains”), although fortunately none have yet turned into accidental murder-suicides taking out staff and passengers.
Measures to discourage such attempts include the famous example of the rail operators billing bereaved families for the disruption to services (in one case a family was even unsuccessfully sued by a woman who suffered PTSD after witnessing the incident).
Less controversially, suicide prevention gates on platforms are proving popular, as well as a variety of more subtle measures such as removing blind spots for jumpers to hide behind, installing mirrors facing the platform to force them to fully reflect on their course of action, adding train departure melodies and even “anti-suicide” blue lights.
Despite all this it would be hard to imagine Japanese train drivers envying their Chinese counterparts…