Japanese trains are known worldwide for their punctuality, but Tokyo commuters would tell you another story. The major lines connecting the capital to its neighboring prefectures (Chiba, Saitama, Kanagawa) are often delayed by technical difficulties, weather, and sadly, human accidents—very often a soft way to refer to suicide by train.
One September evening, the last train of the Odakyu line, which leaves at half past midnight, got terribly delayed after an accident involving a possible human casualty. Lots of passengers on their way home, tired after a hard workday, ended up stranded on the Shinjuku Station platform with nothing to do but scroll on their phones. Their misfortune was shared by the station staff too, unable to clock out until the last train could depart with all the passengers safely on board.
An improvised concert to warm up the atmosphere
Waiting for a delayed train is no fun, but when you read the word 人身事故 (an accident resulting in a casualty) on the announcement board, things get dark and you know you’re in to wait for at least an hour.
The mood on the platform would have turned grim if not for the spontaneity of two skilled saxophone players who felt they had a duty to warm up the atmosphere for everyone.
The last train on the Odakyu line is stopped because of a fatal accident. [Playing is] the only thing a saxophone player should do for passengers drooling on the platform.”
“Shinjuku at 2 a.m., where the last train stopped! To everyone on the platform who warmly watched over us, thank you! And above all, thank you to all the train station staff. If you stand with your music instrument, everywhere becomes a stage.”
How to use the Japanese suffix べき to indicate an obligation
Japanese learners ought to know the mighty suffix べき enough not to use it lightly.
Indeed, this Japanese suffix carries a very strong connotation of a duty-like obligation. You express how strongly you believe something should be done/someone should do something. べき is a degree stronger than the expression した方がいい (“it’s better to…”) and translates as “must/ought/need to do” (or “mustn’t/shouldn’t” in a negative sentence).
Use this formula to use the suffix properly: plain form (or dictionary form) verb + べき \+ だ/です.
サックスのすべきことは唯一つ = The only thing a saxophone player should do.
はをるべきです = Society should protect children.
を見たですべきではない = We shouldn’t judge people based on appearances.
It’s worth noting that in a past sentence, the べき suffix will convey a strong regret for something that was done (or not done) because of the fallout it caused.
もっとすべきだった = We should have been more careful.
人身事故 jinshinjiko accident resulting in injury or death 終電 shyuuden last train うなだれる unadareru hang one’s head サックス奏者 sakkusu sousha saxophone player 温かく見守る atatakaku mimamoru warmly watch over someone 何より nani yori above all 楽器 gakki music instrument 判断する handan suru judge 見た目で mita me de by appearances