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  • On every platform and every train in Tokyo, employees in white gloves are always pointing at things.

  • These almost ritualistic gestures might look a bit silly but they're crucial to keeping Japan's massive train network running smoothly and they might even save lives.

  • Tokyo operates one of the most advanced train networks in the world, carrying upward of 13 billion passenger trips each year.

  • And with hundreds of trains entering and leaving stations each day, station attendants need to be vigilant.

  • To ensure smooth, safe rail operations, they use a technique called Shisa Kanko, also known as Pointing and Calling.

  • Attendants point at anything that could be a hazard,

  • from making sure the track is clear of debris before trains arrive to confirming timetables and making sure gauges and instruments are in order.

  • But does all this extra gesturing actually do anything?

  • How does it work?

  • Studies have shown that pointing to an object and verbalizing your intended action increases attention and awareness, making it harder to mess up.

  • A landmark study by the Japan Railway Technical Research Institute found that employing the combination of pointing and calling reduced errors by 85%.

  • Daito Suzuki and Yohei Sato are experts in pointing and calling, and they should be,

  • their company makes safety simulators, some of which are designed specifically for practicing the technique.

  • The ratio of mistake without confirmation method is 2.5% but applying point and calling procedure, it can reduce 0.4%.

  • With 140 buttons laid out on a grid, workers follow the on-screen coordinates and push the correct button.

  • Get it right and get a chime.

  • Get it wrong or take too long and (buzz).

  • Suzuki and Sato say these machines are necessary because a lot of people in Japan, well, don't see the point in pointing and calling.

  • Sato says there are three main reasons people don't like Shisa Kanko.

  • I am embarrassed. It's annoying. My boss doesn't do it.

  • And of course, people just feel like it's extra work.

  • They ask, "Isn't it more difficult?" "Actually, it is easier!" we tell them. And after teaching them at our training center, they realize, "Oh, it's easier, isn't it?"

  • Pointing and calling isn't only used in Tokyo and it's not just used on trains.

  • Amidst the constant frenzy of activity at Ishigaki Airport in Okinawa, workers of all stripes can be observed using Shisa Kanko.

  • We even caught Mr. Sato and Suzuki dutifully confirming traffic was clear with a quick point.

  • The practice really doesn't need to be limited to white-gloved professionals.

  • We've all been there.

  • Where are my keys?

  • Did I remember to lock my car?

  • So, the next time you leave the house, take a cue from Japan's massive rail network and give pointing and calling a try.

On every platform and every train in Tokyo, employees in white gloves are always pointing at things.

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What’s the Point of Pointing in Japan, Anyway? | Atlas Obscura

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    Minnie posted on 2020/12/14
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