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'Japanese style' train culture booming in Jakarta

A train conductor confirms safety using the Japanese-style "pointing-and-calling" method at a Juanda Railway Station platform in Indonesia, Jakarta, on Oct. 8, 2018. (Mainichi/Yuka Narita)

JAKARTA -- From Japanese-innovated railway safety methods to train-related goods, the "Japanese style" is spreading throughout Indonesia's capital as railway companies from both nations forge closer ties.

Juanda Railway Station lies next to PT Kereta Commuter Indonesia (KCI)'s headquarters. Its platforms have lines indicating where the doors of each car open, and tactile paving to assist passengers with visual impairment.

After a train arrived, the conductor confirmed safety using the Japanese "pointing-and-calling" method, aiming his finger at indicators and yelling out their status. Meanwhile, around 100 kinds of official goods, such as key chains and T-shirts are sold at a station stand just outside of the gates. KCI's 32-year-old spokesperson Adli Hakim explained, "All of these were introduced over the past two to three years, which we learned from Japan."

Employees carry a ramp resembling ones used Japan, which enables passengers in wheelchairs to board a train, in PT Kereta Commuter Indonesia's headquarters in Indonesia, Jakarta, on Oct. 8, 2018. (Mainichi/Yuka Narita)

Indonesia started full-scale imports of Japan's secondhand trains in 2000 after the country experienced financial difficulties. The move gathered further momentum from around 2010 after the population increased rapidly in the metropolitan area as Japanese trains that ran on railroad tracks of the same width could be used with minor adjustments.

KCI is like a "running museum for Japan's secondhand trains," with about 900 carriages previously used by East Japan Railway Co. (JR East), Tokyo Metro Co. and Tokyu Corp. There are railway fans that come all the way from Japan just to observe the trains. By 2019, the Indonesian government plans to increase its railway users by about twice the number of passengers of 2014 in a bid to alleviate chronic traffic congestion. Thus, the numbers of train cars are expected to further surge in the near future.

KCI has been dispatching staff members from its maintenance section to JR East in Japan around five times a year to receive training. In addition, employees from the marketing and public relations sectors have also joined the training course since the end of 2016.

Tactile paving used to assist passengers with visual impairment has been installed at a Juanda Railway Station platform in Indonesia, Jakarta. (Mainichi/Yuka Narita)

Employees of the Indonesian railway company have learned about and adopted train-related items used at JR East, such as electronic bulletin boards displaying destinations on railway platforms and ramps that enable passengers in wheelchairs to board trains.

"It (the training course) inspired new ideas, and I created a movie showing ways to respond to people using wheelchairs," commented Hakim. "In the future I want to acquire more knowledge from Japan, such as about train advertising and aspects of management."

JR East temporary assigned Omiya Office fleet manager sector head Kengo Maeda to KCI for two years from 2015 in a first for the Japanese company. The 45-year-old instructed ways to create manuals for the train's maintenance, how to announce train destinations, and ways to sell tickets. He has high hopes for a synergetic effect from Indonesia-Japan railway relations.

"There are many aspects (in KCI) that Japan can learn from," Maeda stated. "For example, their reform-minded posture in considering what they can do themselves, and their fast work, immediately taking in what they perceived as good."

(Japanese original by Yuka Narita, City News Department)

This photo shows key chains, depicting various train cars, on sale at Juanda Railway Station in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Oct. 8, 2018. (Mainichi/Yuka Narita)

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