The Nankai Electric Railway has come under scrutiny in recent days after one of its conductors on a train bound for Kansai International Airport on Monday made a controversial announcement. On what is said to be a crowded train, the conductor, a man in his 40's, apologized over the train's announcement system saying "There are many foreigners on board today. We apologize for the inconvenience."

After an inquiry about the announcement by a Japanese passenger, the conductor said he did not intend to make discriminatory comments, but defended his words when an inquiry was made as to the meaning of the announcement, the Sankei Shimbun reported, saying that he made the announcement in response to a Japanese passenger who exclaimed "There are so many foreigners, this is a nuisance!" causing concern about congestion in the train. At the time of writing, there does not appear to have been an official complaint about misconduct on the train.

There's also this charming depiction of the incident.

"This is the first time, so there's no intent of discrimination."

While it's true that most Japanese workers in the service industry are trained to apologize for almost any inconvenience, the conductor's wording has caused him to be reprimanded by the Nankai Electric Railway company, who said it was wrong to distinguish between foreigners and Japanese nationals, as their nationality does not change the fact that they are customers.

Complicating things is a post from a passenger on the train, who claims that the conductor used the word gaijin (外人) and not the standard gaikokujin (外国人). The term gaijin is not inherently malicious, and while most people seem to translate it as "outsider", many times it is innocently used for the sake of brevity and convenience. However, in many formal announcements and publications the word is listed as a taboo, and so would definitely not be an appropriate word to use on a railway announcement.

The idea that a train bound for an international airport was filled with foreign travelers lugging around large suitcases and crowding the train is completely in play, and a lack of awareness for Japanese train etiquette for some foreigners can lead to frustration. Things such as sitting in priority seats reserved for the elderly or ill, as well as placing luggage in spots that cause inconvenience to other passengers are not an uncommon sight (regardless of nationality) on trains to major areas like airports. Social media users in support of the conductor have shared photos like the one below, wondering at what point it wouldn't be considered discrimination to be fed up with similar manners.

That said, the wording of the apology needlessly singles out travelers who are not Japanese, and like in most of these situations, the truth is a little more nuanced than internet culture, which demands immediate hot takes, allows. Commuters should be observant and respectful of manners while traveling, and train conductors should not apologize for the mere presence of foreigners.

By - grape Japan editorial staff.