Japan’s shinkansen, or bullet train, was the world’s first high-speed train running at 200 km per hour, and today the Tokaido Shinkansen is the world’s most used high-speed rail line. Impressively, even with over 120,000 trains running on the line each year, the average delay time is a mere 36 seconds.
Part of the reason the bullet train system can run as smoothly as it does is thanks to the “hospitality group” working behind the scenes of the sleek, futuristic facades of these famous trains. These cleaning crews are charged with covering every inch of a train’s interior when it arrives at its final stop and preparing it for the next wave of customers–and they have just seven minutes to do it.
JR East’s rail service company is known as TESSEI, and it is responsible for the cleaning of the bullet trains when they have come to a stop at Tokyo Station. There are around 820 staff members including full-time staff and part-timers known as “partners.” The average employee age is 52, and around 50% of them are women, so people often talk affectionately of the TESSEI “obaa-sans” or “grannies.”
Bullet trains shuttle in and out of the platforms at Tokyo station 210 times each day. TESSEI staff are divided into teams composed of 22 people, and with 11 teams of cleaners taking turns on the platform, which translates into each TESSEI employee cleaning around 20 trains per day.
Despite not being particularly glamorous work, the group has received a lot of media attention over the years, and have been called Japan’s ‘strongest team’ by the Nikkei Business magazine.
So what exactly does the job entail?
Trains spend only 12 minutes at the station in Tokyo. That includes two minutes for passengers to disembark and three more for the next to get on, leaving only seven minutes for cleaning.
One person is in charge of one car with around 100 seats, and the whole car must be made spotlessly clean during those crucial seven minutes. It’s the same for the toilet cleaning staff – no matter how dirty it is, they have to have it sparkling again within the time limit. And lest we forget, the shinkansen aren’t like inner-city trains — passengers often travel for hours at a time, getting settled for the long ride, eating meals, snacking, reading newspapers, and generally making a bit of a mess.
The strict seven-minute deadline means that the work is broken down into smaller blocks that have to be completed in record time: 1.5 minutes spent picking up trash, 30 seconds rotating the seats (some can be swivelled around so that larger groups can face one another), four minutes sweeping and cleaning, and a one-minute check.
Those crucial seven minutes
0:00~1:30 First check the luggage racks on both sides, then look down the gaps between the seats for any forgotten items. As the seats are being turned to face the direction of travel, run down to the door at the other end sweeping out dropped trash into the aisle along the way.
1:30~4:30 On the way back up the aisle, pull down and check the blinds, and at the same time pull out the seat-back trays and wipe everything down, and change the seat covers if they’re dirty.
4:30~6:30 There’s now only two minutes left. Take a broom and sweep up all the trash brought out into the aisle in one go.
Everything above is expected to be completed in about six minutes. The official time limit is seven minutes, but it’s often crowded and takes longer for passengers to disembark, so they rarely have the luxury of using the full seven. This almost superhuman feat is known in Japanese as the “7-minute shinkansen theater.” (taken from Japan Today with photos found on the internet)
God loves and rewards diligence and as Christians our work ethic should be even stronger in our desire to do our jobs, no matter how large or small, to the best of our abilities!
Proverbs 12:27-The slothful man roasteth not that which he took in hunting: but the substance of a diligent man is precious.
Ecclesiastes 9:10-Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.
Colossians 3:23, 24-And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.
Serve the Lord diligently in all you do! And remember that your reward will be in heaven, even if not seen by others here on earth!
(a video of this 7 minute cleaning can be seen at this link-)
7 minutes to clean!