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Busted! Transport buff, 6, finds slew of signage mistakes in Japan bus network

Seishiro Yasumoto, 6, is seen with some of the over 100 copies he made of the bus route map and the individual bus stop route listings, in Kokurakita Ward, Kitakyushu, on Sept. 20, 2019. (Mainichi/Hiroya Miyagi)

KITAKYUSHU -- A local 6-year-old kindergartner with a passion for buses has exposed a series of mistakes in the signage for the Nishitetsu Bus network in this southwestern Japan city.

Seishiro Yasumoto, 6, of Kokurakita Ward in the Fukuoka Prefecture city of Kitakyushu, has been playing bus driver since before he could read, and has even copied the timetable. His obsession with the service means he has completely memorized the network of Nishitetsu Bus routes in the city, which led to him pointing out seven mistakes in its signage.

He started spotting the blunders in February, when he realized that the sign for "main destinations" at the Harmonie Cinq Kitakyushu Soleil Hall bus stop in his local ward's Otemachi district did not include the Kokurakita Ward Office. His father Ryuji, 41, sent an email to Nishitetsu Bus Kitakyushu Co. informing them of the omission, and the error was rectified around April.

After that, Seishiro went on to discover that the Public Prosecutors Office and Kanada bus stops both listed destinations they don't actually use. A stop in Sunatsu had the details of stops from another route on it, which turned out to be information left over after a timetable change.

Seishiro's mother, Mari, 42, remembered how he was when they found the mistakes, "He said to me, 'If people who want to come here rode on the wrong bus they'd get worried."

Even before he could speak, Seishiro showed an interest in the buses that passed by the family home and the route maps of the network. On the bus to kindergarten, he uses a hat as a steering wheel and plays along. After receiving a 30-year-old map of the city as a gift from a relative, he set to work intently spotting the differences between it and a current map.

Seishiro Yasumoto is seen with his mother, Mari, next to the Harmonie Cinq Kitakyushu Soleil Hall bus stop on Sept. 20, 2019. It now lists the Kokurakita Ward Office as a destination that passengers can travel to from the stop, which had been omitted until Seishiro notified the operator of its mistake. (Mainichi/Hiroya Miyagi)

Observing Seishiro's interest in busses and maps, his dad gave him a bus route map around two years ago. He was instantly hooked, and took to staring at it while his parents told him the names of the places he couldn't read, and using a washbasin instead of a steering wheel to imitate being a bus driver.

Once he learned to write, he started copying out the bus routes and the timetables on large sheets of paper. He also draws his favorite routes and diagrams of transfers. So far, he's produced over 100 sheets devoted to various bus route permutations.

Now, Seishiro has the city's bus network completely mapped out in his head. When I asked him the best route to take from his house to mine in the city's Moji Ward, he responded instantly, "Go to Sunatsu. Then you can transfer to either the number 6, 63 or 83 bus. Watch out for taking the 49, it goes the long way round."

The thing he enjoys most at the moment are his weekend "Nishitetsu Bus Travels," where he rides with his parents to see each of the town's bus stops. Anticipating what he'll gaze at from the window, Seishiro said, "Buses go on narrow streets, too. When it rains they go dark, when it's sunny they are bright. I like busses because I can see the times when the weather changes. I also like seeing signs and scenery."

Of the eight mistakes on the Nishitetsu Bus network that the operator learned of in this fiscal year, seven have come from Seishiro. He is the first kindergartner to ever get in touch over such matters.

A representative for the PR department at Nishitetsu Bus company apologized for the errors Seishiro pointed out, saying, "We are very sorry for our lack of thoroughness with regard to the bus stop signs." They added, "We are very happy about his use of our buses. We hope to be able to work together with him in the future."

When asked what he wished for from the company, Seishiro proposed, "The drivers of the number 74 have a very long route, from Mekari to Tobata, so I think it's hard for them. Wouldn't it be better if they just make it go up to Kokura?"

(Japanese original by Hiroya Miyagi, Kyushu News Department)

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