May 23, 2024

A small serpent caused a substantial delay on one of Japan’s Shinkansen bullet trains, shaking up the country’s typically timely rail service routine. More than 600 passengers experienced the unusual interruption when the 16-inch snake was discovered on a train traveling from Nagoya to Tokyo. The sighting caused a delay of 17 minutes—a rarity for the Shinkansen service known for its near-perfect timekeeping.

The incident occurred on the evening of April 16. A passenger spotted the scaly stowaway and promptly alerted the security staff. The Central Japan Railway Company (CJRC), which operates the high-speed train, confirmed that the snake’s presence on the train was indeed the cause of the delay. The company also switched to a different train for the onward journey to Osaka, contributing to the total delay.

A Rare Occurrence on a Bullet Train

The discovery of the snake, the species of which remains unidentified, left passengers and officials perplexed. It is still unclear how the reptile boarded the train, a question that triggered a review by the railway company. While passengers can bring small pets like dogs, cats, and even pigeons aboard the Shinkansen, snakes are not permitted.

A CJRC spokesperson highlighted the peculiarity of the incident in a conversation with AFP. The representative stated that it is hard to imagine a wild snake climbing aboard at one of the stations.

Despite the unexpected disruption, the situation was managed calmly and efficiently. The Shinkansen’s security protocols, enhanced after a fatal stabbing incident in 2018 and further reinforced for significant events like the Summer Olympics in 2021 and the Group of Seven meetings last year, ensured a swift and orderly response. The bullet trains, known for their impressive average delay of just 0.2 minutes, maintained their reputation for safety and precision.

Japan is home to 47 different snake species, with the mamushi and habu being the primary venomous varieties. Both are pit vipers, with bites that can cause tissue damage and, in severe cases, be fatal. However, such incidents are infrequent, as snakes generally avoid contact with humans unless provoked or threatened.

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