“Sorry I’m late, boss. My train got stuck in a tunnel.”
“A likely story, Tanaka. Prove it.”
“Sure thing: Here’s my train delay certificate.”
Tokyo trains are so punctual that you can set your watch by them. Literally. On the infrequent occasions when they are not, the railroad will give you documentary proof to show anyone you’ve let down by turning up late.
The proof is called a chien shoumeisho (delay certificate). You can ask for one at the ticket gate at the station where you get off your delayed train.
I received the one in the photo after my subway train was delayed by 10 minutes on July 28. You can see where the man at the ticket gate punched “28” to indicate the date and “10” to indicate the length of the delay. The text in the center of the paper is headed “Chien Shoumeisho” in large print, followed by a message of apology from the Tokyo Metro company and the stationmaster of Kourakuen Station. Other rail lines may issue certificates with slightly different formats, but they all operate on the same basic concept.
Imagine how the above dialogue would play out in a country where everyone commuted by car.
“Sorry I’m late, boss. I hit every single red light on the way in.”
“Sure, Jack. Prove it.”