On Monday April 25th 2005, a West Japan Railway (JR West) commuter train crashed into an apartment building and killed 107 people when a driver tried to catch up with an 80-second delay. Since the accident, the official committee report has concluded that the direct cause of the accident was over-speeding and JR West have agreed to pay compensation for the victims and changed the timetable. However, the fundamental question has remained unanswered – what made the driver risk so many lives for an 80-second delay?
Piecing together personal accounts of those affected by the train crash, Brakeless looks at a society which does not seem to know when to stop its pursuit of efficiency.
It examines the way in which the characteristics that are usually considered the national virtues – punctuality and loyalty to protocol – have become societal impediments and ultimately, dangers to the people of Japan.
What happened on the day is examined in light of the historical and economic development in post-war Japan. It is a story about modernisation gone too far and a cautionary tale from a country that is cutting corners in all the wrong places in a prolonged economic stagnation. Through the lens of a catastrophic train crash in Japan, Brakeless considers the ultimate cost of efficiency.
Image source: BBC 4 Storyville- Brakeless: Why Trains Crash
About the contributors
Kyoko Miyake’s first feature-length documentary, My Atomic Aunt (aka Beyond the Wave /Meine Tante aus Fukushima) was supported by 7 broadcasters and numerous grants including BBC, NHK, WDR and Sundance and has been screened and broadcasted in many countries. Her second film, Brakeless, is a co-production with BBC Storyville, ITVS, NHK, IKON and DR, and premiered at the Sheffield Doc Festival in June 2014. Kyoko originally came to the UK to study history of English witchcraft at Oxford University as a Swire Centenary Scholar, having studied English history at Tokyo University. While studying and working for various British and Japanese media organisations, she picked up a camera to fulfill her childhood dream of becoming a filmmaker and started to make short films on her own. She still intends to use her academic background by making films about witchcraft.