May 10, 2011

"Welcome Back, Komachi" Akita People Celebrated the Bullet Train's Come-Back!

April 29 was such a memorable day!

As we waited for the first Akita Shinkansen Komachi  at Tazawako Station, a community project was being carried out which invited local individuals to celebrate the resumed Shinkansen service in Tohoku!

This project  started by a tweet, in which a man suggested the Akita people to gather along the railroads and celebrate the resumed bullet-train service by “waving hands to the first train.” (read the detail)

Although at first he was unsure if other people would join his circle – even supposed “might get laughed at” -- the project was spread quickly by word-of-mouth and social media, as well as radio and newspapers! Within 5 days, it gathered at least about 400 people only in between Morioka and Akita.

Here is a slideshow that was put together by the contributors:
(There is no music to protect the copy right, but it is intended to go along with the same song as the Kyushu commercial.)

Komachi 115 Departed from Tokyo at 6:40 a.m.

What was Happening on the Train:

The proposer and his collaborators got on the train from Morioka Station. In a blog, a collaborater  shares a very touching story about what was happening in the train.

When getting on the train, they walked to a conductor to explain the project and asked for a permission. Despite of the strict JR company rules, the conductor was excited and even willing to cooperate in the project.
“Shall we announce to the passengers about this project?”
The conductor appeared to be in thought for a while; meanwhile, the participants thanked him and walked into the cabin. It was when they were about to take the seats that they heard the conductor’s announcement in the speaker:

“Ladies and gentlemen,

This is the very first train to arrive in Akita Prefecture after we resumed the Shinkansen service between Akita and Tokyo from today.
We have some passengers from Akita, who have been carrying out a community project for the local people to wave their hands to this train.

If you see anyone waving to us from your window, we would be glad if you could participate and wave back to them.
Thank you.”
The blog author recalls that was probably the most emotional moment! The announcement had brought cheers and roars of approval from the passengers– the joyful moment was even shared on twitter with many people in other parts of Japan. By a simple improvised arrangement, the conductor had instantly become a hero!
Mr. Chikatani, the conductor who took extra miles on his duty, is from Tsuchizaki, Akita City.

「つなげよう、日本。」("Let's connect, Nippon")

Mr. Chikatani, A Conductor of JR East Japan

Meanwhile, at Tazawako Station, we were waiting for the train to arrive . We are the very first stop in Akita Prefecture! We followed the updates on twitter and shared the delightful moment!

At Tazawako Station we waited for the return of the first Shinkansen Komachi.

On the roadsides, the author continues, there were people waving hands with banners and message boards like “Welcome back,” “Thank you,” “Let’s Keep it up, Tohoku,” and “Let’s stay connected.” Passengers in the train waved back, the train operator also replied with a whistle, and the conductors waved hands from open windows!

Many people who could not make it to the roadsides participated by following updates on twitter. They retweeted with messages like, “We are supporting you from Osaka!”

It all started by a single tweet of someone -- imagine how fast and wide the words were spread! It joined people together from all over Japan. The train lines are finally connected from the south to the north – synchronized the people!

Many were hurt and killed in the disaster. The emotional shock was immense on us. The railway system is only one of the countless things that are yet to be fully recovered. But, this event has encouraged and assured us of the connection amongst people. Now we are more aware as a part of the Tohoku Community!

"Come to Akita, Come to Tohoku!"

The Tourism in Japan has so much to recover; however, with these smiles we could re-build our country! In Akita, even our prefectural government is promoting “smiles campaign” to encourage the more affected, neighboring prefectures!

Here in Akita we have beautiful sceneries and unique food and craft cultures! We welcome you all with these smiles! Please come!

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