How Japan Left an Old Train Station Open for Three Years Just for One Student: A Lesson for African Countries

Harada Kana, the lone Japanese train-rider waiting to be picked up

Hokkaido Railways Company, a Japanese railway company, did the unthinkable when they relegated their institutional and profit-oriented goals for the sake of a young female high school student, Harada Kana. Initially, the ridership to the remote Kyu-Shirataki station declined to a level where only the female student became the company’s routine client.

The decline in the ridership to the Kyu-Shirataki station was attributable to the remoteness of the station as well as the low population in that remote part of Japan. From a business angle, it was unfeasible to ferry only one passenger day in, day out. However, Hokkaido Railway Company did not shut down its services for the sake of the young secondary school student; hence, facilitating Harada to complete her high school education. The train that was assigned to pick Harada picked her up twice a day, for three years, until she completed all of her high school studies. The railway company received unparalleled acclaim for their selfless act of ascertaining that the high school learner, on no account, missed her classes.
What Can African Countries Learn from the Japanese Railroad Company?

The exceptional story of the Japanese railway firm offers invaluable lessons to African countries. Importantly, in relation to caring for citizens, African governments and businesses should, at all times, deem humanitarian grounds to be more important than financial motivation – whether national, state, local government, personal or corporate. It is unlikely that an African government or corporate entity could have sacrificed its financial objectives for the sake of a lone high school learner in the manner that Hokkaido Railway Company did when it discovered that there was a young client who needed its services. Instead, an African railway firm and government, by extension, could have asked the female high school learner to relocate to another location or find an alternative way to get to and back from school. For the Japanese railway company, they understood that it was imperative not to interfere with the girl’s education and her accustomed home environment.

Again, African countries and companies could learn that service to humanity is comparatively more significant than personal, national or corporate gains. While an African government or railway company could have deemed it inconvenient to authorize its employees to serve only one passenger, the Japanese company deemed it convenient to serve the lone passenger-student. While personal convenience is as important as personal gain, service to humanity is reasonably more helpful.

Again, since the Japanese government presumably endorsed the railway services that were offered to Harada, the lone rider, based on the remote location where the young school girl resided, African governments could learn that they are constitutionally mandated to render equal services even to their citizens who live in remote places. Harada’s remote location can be analogous to that citizen from the poorest part of the country or that single person with no political connection whatsoever. It could be that indistinctive citizen suffering a health problem with no one to buy her even a Paracetamol let alone ferry her off to the UK or Dubai to treat that rare disease. It could be that needy family from a region of the country – or that minority tribe that has the weakest influence in government or business. It could be that uneducated woman or housemaid that has suffered abuse and other social injustices but does not have anybody to speak up for her. But for this Japanese school girl, despite the remoteness of the location where she lived and became the lone rider of that train, the Japanese government understood that the principle of equity should apply to her in the same way it applied to the powerful, rich and well-connected Japanese living in Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka and similar areas.
Finally, just as Japan considers education to be a highly sustainable investment, African countries should value the education of their citizenry. African countries have arguably failed to invest adequately in education. Given that the Japanese railway company invested in fuel, maintained the station and the rail lines, and paid for the manpower to ensure that its lone rider continued with her education, African countries should invest highly in educating all their people notwithstanding the variations in national income contributions of the regions. Notably, Japanese people are committed to working in their countries as opposed to serving as expatriate professionals in selected countries. This correlates to the Japanese government’s commitment to serve the people’s educational needs based on the resultant intellectual and economic benefits. In contrast, African countries stereotypically neglect the educational needs of the citizenry based on the consistent brain drain dilemma which compromises intellectual and economic development in Africa.

Rabia S. Sa'id, PhD
  • Associate Professor of Physics
  • Bayero University, Kano, Nigeria
  • Personal Website:
  • Ford Foundation International Fellow (2002)
  • Fellow of the African Scientific Institute (2013)
  • OWSD/ Elsevier Foundation Award in Physics (2015)


  1. Great story. I read about this Japanese girl previously, but I have now made important connections to what every country, including Western countries, need to learn.

  2. Very inspiring story. Even India has a lot to learn from this story


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