The Museum of Accidents Offers a Glimpse into Japanese Introspection

Accidents will happen. Mistakes will be made. It’s an unavoidable part of life. But what’s important is how we reflect on those mistakes and learn from them. Japan’s train industry, responsible for transporting millions of people each day, understandably takes safety very seriously. And their introspection and dedication to not repeating the past was on full display recently when JR East, one of the country’s major passenger railway companies, unveiled the new expansion to their “Exhibition Hall of Historical Accidents” (事故の歴史展示館).

The renovated Main Hall and newly added Reference Hall

The Exhibition Hall, which originally opened in 2002, is a fascinating glimpse into the Japanese psyche of introspection. If you’ve ever worked in a Japanese company, you’re probably familiar with the term hanseikai (反省会), which loosely translates as “introspection meeting.” During the meeting, those involved in an event will discuss what went wrong, and how it can be improved upon. In reality it’s perhaps the boss yelling at his or her subordinates, pointing out their mistakes. But in theory, the idea is to expose errors, rather than hide them, as a means of reflection and learning. Failure is more likely to trigger reflection than success. And reflection, not experience, is the key to learning. The Exhibition Hall of Historical Accidents is, in essence, a permanent large-scale hanseikai.

a rendering of the interior of the new Reference Hall

photos courtesy Sankei Photo

a replica of a train that derailed near Kawasaki Station in 2014

JR East recently completed an expansion of their exhibition hall. “We want our employees to never forget the accidents of the past so that we can reflect on the incidents and learn from them” said the company (PDF), reasserting the importance of this initiative. The new exhibition hall consist of video footage, slides, panels and digital signage, combined with newspaper clippings, reports and other documentations from accidents. In the newly added reference hall are real-scale replicas of trains that have been in accidents.

The new exhibition hall was unveiled to the press on October 9, 2018. Unfortunately, it is only open to employees of the company and is not for the public.

a rendering of the interior of the main hall

2 Comments

  1. “If you’ve ever worked in a Japanese company, you’re probably familiar with the term hanseikai (反省会)”

    The recent live action Shin Godzilla had some pretty pointed satire of hanseikai in its portrayal of the government response.

  2. Fascinating. I would love to have the opportunity to see this. I love learning about accidents and incidents and what went wrong, how it was addressed and how it was fixed. I actually feel safer when flying when I’ve learned about historical accidents and how the industry worked to make aircraft safer.
    Glad to know the employees of JR East have this to reflect on.

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