How an unscripted train commercial went viral and united a nation

The directions were simple – show up and wave at the train.

On a cold February morning in 2011, a brand new bullet train would make a single test run from Kagoshima Station all the way through Kyushu to Hakata Station – roughly a 2 hour trip. Word was spread, inviting anyone and everyone to show up along the route and wave. A camera would be mounted to the train, capturing the footage which in turn would be used in a commercial to advertise the new train. It was a bold idea by Yuya Furukawa of ad agency Dentsu. It was unscripted. It was risky.

On March 12 – one day after the tragic earthquake –  the new shinkansen that vertically connected the entire island of Kyushu opened on schedule. However, deemed overly cheery and happy, the TV commercial, along with all other print advertisements, were pulled.

But the ad spot was uploaded to Youtube and quickly went viral, racking up hundreds of thousands of tweets. Within 3 months it had logged over 2 million views, proving that, in a dark time of loss and despair, this was exactly what Japan needed: 15,000 people doing a jubilant “human wave” across an entire island! The catchy tune that accompanies the footage is a song called BOOM, performed by Maia Hirasawa, a half-Swedish, half-Japanese singer/songwriter.

Watch carefully as there is something here for everyone that will crack a laugh or a tear: firefighters doing chin-ups @ 00:29; Power Rangers @ 1:04; newlyweds @ 01:25; pro-wrestlers @ 02:29.

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This post is part of week-long series on trains in Japan. The complete series can be found here.

2 Comments

  1. This brought a big smile to my face – thanks for sharing it, Johnny! Saw it off a share from a Facebook friend. Absolutely love the Japanese spirit! So missing that country now!

  2. So joyful!!! Thank you.

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