The 1st of October is expected to be an important date for Japan’s Tadami train route, located between Fukushima Prefecture and Niigata Prefecture. After being struck by severe rainstorms during 2011 summer’s heat, almost all of the line, including part of the 88.4-kilometer (54.9-mile) section that runs between the Aizu-Wakamatsu Station as well as Tadami Stations, has been closed. The repairs are now nearing completion, but service is set to begin at the beginning of the following month after a long wait.
Railway Operator JR East has already begun tests ahead of public reopening. Japanese Broadcaster NHK added to everyone’s enthusiasm by sharing a clip of a long-awaited return to the track on their Official Twitter account….along with this text.
“A testing run was held ahead of the line’s return! It was uplifting to witness a train operating on this line, which was shut down for eleven years. .”
This seems relatively straightforward, isn’t it? Yet, NHK would soon have to make a correction and apologize for the statement’s error. It’s not as if the video itself has any misinformation. The vehicle in the video isn’t exactly “a train,” or at the very least, not the type of train NHK declared it to be.
The Japanese word through which NHK described the “train” was Densha, which on the outside, seems like it wouldn’t cause any controversy. If you don’t know Japanese or are new to it, the textbook or guide might mention a train as a “Densha.” Even if you google-translate Densha, it will give you “Electric-train” as a result. However, this is a peculiar case where while all densha are trains, all trains aren’t all densha. Let’s look at the characters in kanji using the word Densha.
Let’s begin with the second character. Che is pronounced sha and originally meant “cart,” but in contemporary contexts, it can also mean “car,” both in the context of an automobile and trains; it’s not a problem with that. The first kanji, Dian /den, means “electricity,” so densha is a reference to electricity. “densha” refers to a train that operates with electricity.
And the issue in this video context is that the train isn’t electric at all. It runs on diesel, which means it’s not a densha. Instead, it’s a ressha, a term that can be used for trains of all kinds.
After posting the video, the thread was inundated with comments from rail enthusiasts quickly pointing out the wrong terms.
The next day, NHK tweeted an apology.
昨日のツイートで『列車』と表記すべきところを、誤って『電車』と表記してしまいました。お詫びして訂正いたします。 https://t.co/HnxJOM3fKX— ＮＨＫ福島放送局 (@nhk_fukushima) September 7, 2022
In yesterday's tweet, We mistakenly wrote "densha" instead of "ressha". We apologize offer this correction.
To NHK’s credit, Densha is the kind of train most Japanese people are familiar with. This is because most commuter trains in cities and suburban areas are electric. In informal conversations, it’s not uncommon to hear people utilize “densha” as a catch-all for all trains. But, Densha is not the correct term for the train in the video, and due to the inherent interest of rail otaku that they’d be able to feel in the tale and the story’s context, it’s not surprising that they’d slam NHK for its mistake.