The Pointing and calling in Japan “Shisa Kanko”

Lucky to be at the very front of a packed train with a good old buddy. As we looked over to the train conductor (the driver), we were amused at the cool digital consoles and the privileged view he had as a train driver. Once the train started to move, he started pointing and calling out every thing I think was needed to move the train. It was like a mental checklist of things he had to do to start going. “Doors, brakes, signal color, accelerate, and etc.”

Not only did the driver do this in the beginning, he continued to do this while en-route to the next train station. Every signal light, every train crossing, he would point so gracefully yet with sharp execution that we began to wondered whether or not he was an actual robot. It was cool but it was also strange.

It’s Called the Shisa Kanko

Something in me told me that it was to keep the driver attentive because that is the only explanation I can come up with. Next thing you know, on a rainy Saturday, while reading the Japan Times, an article comes up about it and the whole performance is actually a technique for safety and error prevention.  It is called the shisa kanko. (

The shisa kanko basically utilizes the eyes, mouth, hands, and ears for co-action and re-action. I didn’t even know that New York subway conductors according to the wikipedia link above did this. I guess this exposes us as west coast bros.

Professional Drivers Do It

As I started to do research, I learned that pilots, taxi drivers, and even bus drivers do this. I am glad to know that those in the public transportation service do this for our safety but also glad to see a professional performance to battle the boredom of a long commute.

Believe it or not, a friend actually used the shisa kanko during his basic car driving test and he actually passed. Word spread and the next thing you know you had a couple of gaijin dudes pointing and calling out obstacles and what not on the Japanese course to get their precious Japanese driver’s license. Getting the Japanese driver’s license is notoriously hard but not really so if you know how to drive the Japanese way.

Thought I’d share the shisa kanko with you all!

To learn more about pointing and calling, visit

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