Jiji Press TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Iconic Shinkansen bullet trains are well known across the world for their safety and punctuality, but they have another noteworthy feature — the miraculous work performed by cleaners of the passenger areas of the trains.
At Tokyo Station, four platforms are used for Shinkansen trains to and from the Tohoku, Joetsu and Hokuriku regions. JR East Tessei Co., a cleaning service subsidiary of East Japan Railway Co., or JR East, is in charge of the trains.
During the busy year-end and New Year period, when many people make homecoming visits, a total of about 170 Shinkansen trains, each with eight to 17 cars, arrive at and depart from the four platforms a day.
The time between arrival and departure is as short as only 12 minutes for some of the trains, and about five minutes of that interval are taken up by passengers getting off and on the trains. This therefore means that JR East Tessei staff have only seven minutes to clean the inside of each train.
During the short interval, JR East Tessei cleaning teams, each of which comprises 22 members, do such work as checking whether passengers left anything behind, picking up trash, turning around the seats, wiping the windows and tables, sweeping the floor, and putting magazines and other things back in their original places.
It takes them just a few seconds to clean one seat. They also clean the toilets perfectly in a jiffy.
After finishing their work, the cleaners line up in front of the trains and bow to passengers waiting to board the train.
“I was impressed by their quick work, and I saw them bow for the first time,” said Mutsuko Nanasawa, a 72-year-old housewife, who was waiting to board a Hokuriku Shinkansen train at one of the four platforms at Tokyo Station.
“I feel good as the train is now clean,” said Nanasawa, who is from the town of Asahi, Toyama Prefecture.
JR East Tessei, established in 1952, cleans trains at Tokyo Station and rail yards. Since 2006, the company has been taking various measures to boost employee morale, including introducing new uniforms.
In fiscal 2015, the company earned ¥4.05 billion in sales. As of April 1, 2016, it had about 900 employees, including about 360 part-timers.
JR East Tessei workers’ bewitching cleaning performance has been introduced as a seven-minute miracle by foreign media, while officials from many companies and universities come to see the way they work in order to learn something from their performance.
Their workload is increasing year after year partly because of the introduction of new Shinkansen models. They now handle eight types of Shinkansen trains.
But Keiko Kitano, a JR East Tessei official in charge of training staff, said, “We must avoid a situation in which the departures of Shinkansen trains are delayed by any reason in our cleaning work.”