Wednesday, January 11, 2006


A Kurume-based conversation school teacher has sparked controversy amongst residents by daring to speak out against a written decree issued by Japan Railways.

In essence, Ben Treeskin, originally from England, is upset at the way he is being charged for ten shinkansen tickets instead of one. The decree, which is written on gold-leaf paper and is reportedly handcrafted over a period of weeks, states that on the 4th of November, ten Japanese passengers abandoned their seats when Treeskin sat down next to them, and the English teacher is thus liable. The decree goes on to say that in addition to the reimbursement of 400,000 yen to Japan Railways, Treeskin is encouraged to make personal calls to the passengers' homes to formally apologise.

In the history of Japan Railways' fabled golden decrees, this is the first time that one has been questioned, much less refused, but Treeskin is determined to see that proper justice is served.

"I wholly refute the so called decree," Treeskin told this reporter yesterday, "and categorically refuse to pay the money and apologise. The so-called victimised passengers in question should be apologising to me - the manner in which they fled when I sat down was highly discriminatory and xenophobic, and just shows how backwards this country can sometimes be."

When asked for his comment on the recently proposed train regulations from Tokyo (that foreigner-only trains should be introduced, following the death of an office lady that jumped up and broke her neck on the overhead rail when an American teacher sat down opposite her), Treeskin said something not suitable for print.

Whether Japan Railways will pursue this case is unknown, as in the past it hasn't been known to get involved with legal precedents. One thing is certain, however - be it a drawn out court battle or a swift settlement, Treeskin won't be welcomed on any JR train anytime soon.


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