Photographer: Haruyoshi Yamaguchi/Bloomberg

Japan Rail Operator Says Sorry, as Train Leaves 20 Seconds Early

They put a high premium on punctuality in Japan.

A politician once had to drop out of an election after he delayed a bullet train by pushing staff to halt it for a campaign stop. This time, though, it’s a rail company that’s apologizing after the 9:44 a.m. train on Tokyo’s Tsukuba Express line left earlier than scheduled on Tuesday -- 20 seconds too early.

In a statement in Japanese on its website, management “deeply” apologized for the “severe inconvenience” caused to customers who missed the too-early train and couldn’t afford to wait for the next one -- scheduled for four minutes later. The conductor on board didn’t correctly check the train’s timetable, resulting in the early departure, the statement said. Train officers have been told to fully follow basic instructions in future.

While issuing the mea culpa, the company noted that it actually hadn’t received any customer complaints.

The Tsukuba Express railway connects Akihabara and Tsukuba, two towns that are about 60 kilometers (37 miles) apart in a 45-minute ride -- give or take 20 seconds -- according to the company’s website.

— With assistance by Tomoko Yamazaki, Fukashi Maruta, and Chris Anstey

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