Thursday, September 8, 2011

In Training

While riding the train on my way from Temple Valley to Tokyo the other day I noticed these three elementary school girls. They had just boarded the same car where I had seconds before managed to stake a claim to some floor space directly in front of the door. All three were dressed exactly alike in the classic Japanese sailor suit school uniform but that familiar sight is not exactly what captured my attention.

It was their eyes that got me. They seemed to be aimed right at me, piercing my body like arrows. Then all of a sudden they started to move - in unison. Their gestures were exact mirror images. I wondered if they might be on their way to becoming Japan's next hit all-girl adolescent singing group, now brushing up on their dance routine before auditioning for some big Tokyo talent agency. Then I was gripped with fear as I came to the sudden realization that they could be some kind of crazy karate cult killing every foreigner in sight with their bare hands. Searching for divine intervention, I lifted my head  heavenward and was blessed with a vision.

It was "Train Vision." That's what Japan Railway (JR) has dubbed the video display monitors above every door on practically every train they run. The programs played on the in-train video channel run the whole gamut, including news, entertainment, cooking, educational fare, and lots and lots of commercials. On this particular day and time the train channel was featuring an educational segment with the dance group Hand Sign who for the past year or so have been introducing riders to Japanese Sign Language.

These grade school girls weren't even giving me a second look. Their eyes were glued to the TV  monitor. Best of all they weren't practicing karate, they were building up their sign language skills. Thanks to JR's train vision, there's never a dull moment and for these kids never a wasted moment either.

Here's a look at a couple of monitors in action.

Related post: Out of This World

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