Although the Tokyo Olympics are almost four years off, the stationmaster at the city's landmark train station already seems to be running his own kind of marathon every day.
Watch the video and answer the questions.
1 How many trains run through Tokyo station every weekday?
2 What Japanese saying does Takashi Etoh say?
3 What do his employees call him?
4 Why does he bow when he enters or exits the station?
5 Why does he sing Happy Birthday to his employees?
6 What happened to the station in 1980?
7 Which two worlds can be seen on both sides of the station?
8 Why does the station master show people the rubbish he picks up?
It’s home to Japan’s super-sleek shinkansen, or bullet train, and is a stop for nearly two million passengers riding 3,700 trains every weekday. This is Tokyo Station. And at the center of this universe, clad in white, is the station master. Like his trains, Takashi Etoh keeps a tight schedule.
We raced around trying to keep up with him. It’s vital for me to check on things with my own eyes, he said.
Let’s make it nice and tidy, he instructed a cleaner. On the platform he told another worker, Don’t catch cold!
You seem to really love your job.
I do! Etoh agreed. Adding, well, after my wife! But I’ve been with trains longer.
Does your wife ever get jealous?
No, he said. We have a saying in Japan: It’s good to have a husband who’s healthy and absent!
This station, really, is his second family. His employees call him Oyakata, Japanese for parent.
At the start of his day we found Etoh doing calligraphy, painting the character ‘en’, which means connection, his favorite word.
From cradle to grave, we encounter millions of people, he said. The few we share our workplace with are precious. And get this, he bows whenever he enters or exits the station.
It mentally prepares you for customers, Etoh told us, and shows them appreciation.
We watched as he saluted trains, stopped for a quick picture, and monitored the cleaners who turn around these trains in seven-minutes flat. And no, this video is not sped up.
He has almost 500 employees; he says he considers them his kids, and one of the most important parts of each day is about to happen: He serenades each and every employee on their birthday.
It creates a connection, he said. Everyone’s birthday is that person’s most special day.
The station itself, built in 1914, recently celebrated its 100th birthday. It’s lucky to be standing.
In the 1980s it came within a hair’s breath of being demolished.
Azby Brown, an architecture professor and New Orleans native has lived in Tokyo for 30 years.
You would not think this is the same station; it’s sort of schizophrenic.
Brown showed us how one side of the newly-renovated station is modern. The other is more traditional and faces Japan’s Imperial Palace.
It was really a symbol of the Japanese empire. It has this grandiose, classical, kind of dignified appearance. The other side was really like the backside of the city. It was always a little dustier and just more business-like.
You have the super-modern on one side meeting the almost old-fashioned on the other.
Definitely old-fashioned. And yet when this building was built, this was the peak of modernism.
Today, it boasts a labyrinth of shops, its own hotel and bar, even a signature Tokyo Station cocktail. And it’s remarkably clean, save for some wrappers Etoh snatched up, and a little dust he noticed behind a computer.
We watched you go around and pick up the trash, at one point you went down, you picked up a piece of trash and you showed it to people nearby. Why?
I’m trying to set an example, he told us. Tokyo is the gateway to Japan. For the Olympics, we’ll have visitors from 200 countries. We can’t speak the same language, but we can show a spanking-clean station.
Sipping one of those Tokyo Station cocktails, we toasted to the whole idea of this place [And to connections] making a connection.
2 It’s good to have a husband who’s healthy and absent.
4 It prepares him for customers and shows them appreciation.
5 To create a connection because everyone’s birthday is that person’s most special day.
6 It was almost demolished.
7 Traditional, old-fashioned Japan vs modern Japan
8 To set an example.