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(Not Just) A Guy Thing
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Sat Sep 3, 2016 Link to this message
(Not Just) A Guy Thing
I've said—as have others—that the Japanese love their trains. The cool thing, though, is that it's not just the guys. Women are unabashed admirers of Japanese Railways, too. From sleek and sexy shinkansen to quaint "cute" private branch lines, you're as likely to find a "train girl" trackside taking pictures as a guy.
Yes, I mean women. Young and old, those of the female persuasion are just as likely to be tetsudo otaku (railfans) as well.
Think I'm kidding? Let me back up that claim with some proof. In a recent trip to Japan, yours truly indulged in some otaku photography. You know: standing at one end of the platform, filming the trains as they arrive, or seeking the choice position right behind the cab. I got some pretty good pictures, and a reasonable amount of video. Inevitably, another otaku gets into the frame. Not infrequently, it's a girl.
So, let's see. JR Morioka is a pretty active station on the Tohoku shinkansen line. It's where the racy teal-colored E5 shinkansen and the gimme-a-ticket-red E6 shinkansen go their separate ways after racing up from Tokyo at around 200 MPH. The E5 will head farther north to Aomori or even through the Seikan tunnel up to Hokkaido. Meanwhile, the E6s will head west through the mountains to Akita. (And the same thing happens in reverse: Tokyo-bound E5s and E6s lash up here as well.) Both these surgical-precision couplings happen dozens of times a day, every day.
And every time, one or a dozen otaku are there to witness it.
I call your attention to Exhibit A. In this captured frame from a video I'm recording, among the dozen or so of us spectators (well, specifically, tori-tetsu: those who like to photograph the trains) watching the uncoupling process, you'll notice a woman also filming the mechanics of the two trains uncoupling. I should point out that this procedure is something that the uninterested would compare to paint drying: the elapsed time from when the combined train pulls in to the the Akita shinkansen pulling away here is several minutes, with only brief periods of activity during this time. (Much of the procedure goes unseen within the coupled cabs.)
In short: otaku find this interesting; non-otaku, well, not so much. (Ask my wife...)
Let's go on, shall we? May it please the court, I present Exhibit B. In it, we see an E6 approaching. (Well, maybe not yet: this is the first few seconds of the clip, so the train is still at the other end of the station, washed out by the daylight.) But at this moment, we do see—in the foreground—a mother holding her young son up so he can see the the approaching train.
Awww, that's sweet. Mommy holds up her kid so he can watch the choo-choo approach.
Except she's as absorbed by its approach as he is. And this is no isolated instance. It's prevalent enough that this category of otaku has a name, too: not surprisingly, mama-tetsu (and the kid is chibi-tetsu...)
Not convinced yet? I understand, sexy shinkansen, right? I mean, who wouldn't stare at a Ferrari or Lotus pulling up?
Let's head down to Tokyo, and in particular, the Enoden line. This is a "private" line (that is, not part of the JR system) and their rolling stock is... well, let's just say, a whole lot less curvaceous.
Downright boxy, actually.
Ladies and Gentlement of the Jury, let's take a look here, at Exhibit C.
Hopefully I've presented enough information to convince you that female railfans are quite abundant, and quite unabashed about being so. I didn't go out of my way to take these photos. In fact, some (like the school girl) were inadvertent photo-bombs. But most were just there, and were caught in frame while I myself was being rather, um, otaku.
In short, they're out there, and in significant numbers.
Why? The reason is quite obvious: like their male counterparts, they think trains are cool.
And this demographic is being catered to, as well. There are manga and anime series about trains—from a woman's perspective—and even a production like NHK's Japan Railway Journal has female guests to report on railway developments. Guests like actresses Miki Murai, Rena Matsui, Rei Kitada, and Jessica Claros; fashion model Saya Ichikawa, photographer Naomi Yano, TV personality (and former JR employee) Atsumi Furuya are all recognized rail entusiasts.
The message? Not only are the trains cool, but it's cool to be a railfan... and no less so if you're female.
Guy or girl, merchants are happy to accommodate your fix... even if taking pictures isn't "your thing." Go to nearly any convenience store, especially in or near a station, and you'll find several aisle-feet of train-related merchandise. Common items include train-themed wallets, key-chain fobs, photo (and ticket) holders, datebooks and calendars, socks, toothbrushes and combs, refrigerator magnets, bento boxes (both ekiben and just the boxes for you to put your lunch into), cups and mugs, chopsticks and other utensils, face-cloths and tissues, cosmetic boxes, and more. This isn't just tourist chachkies, but daily-use items, too.
(You got that, right? Face-cloths. Tissues. Cosmetic boxes. This is not just "guy" stuff.)
So if you go to Japan and fall in love with the trains—which is quite easy to do—don't feel ashamed,
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