Diary of a traffic accident in Shinjuku

Underneath my balcony: Taxi driver, in lavender shirt, next to injured motorcyclist being aided by a paramedic. Oct. 18, 2011. ©Torin Boyd.

By Torin Boyd

Once again, a story that starts at breakfast. This time as I was beginning the day, I heard a commotion taking place outside my apartment building.

I live in an apartment building in Tokyo overlooking a park called Shinjuku Gyoen. Over the past year I've been making a series of images from here in what I call "A Room With a View - Home Sweet Shinjuku". This is just a casual series of images illustrating the changing seasons, wildlife, pedestrians, garbage collections, earthquakes, brownouts, and the occasional passing blimp.

But today there was an unexpected twist. As I went out onto the balcony to investigate this noise, I saw that directly below me was a traffic accident involving a motorcyclist and a taxi driver. Fortunately, the guy on the bike appeared to have only sustained minor injuries. He was sitting, talking to the taxi driver and making phone calls. A few minutes later the police arrived, followed by an ambulance which took the injured man to the hospital. After that, more police showed up, then the fire department, and yet another ambulance. At least fifteen emergency responders had shown up as Japan is a country of overkill in regards to public servants and public safety. This is not such a bad thing though.

But there is another over abundant work force in Japan which does warrant concern. These are the armies of overworked, over-stressed, underpaid, and sometimes under-qualified taxi drivers who clog the streets of Japan's cities. This is much a result of Japan's deregulation of the taxi industry in 2003 which led to an increase of new cab companies, cutthroat competition, lower wages and longer hours for drivers. There has also been a spike in accidents involving cabbies since then, as well as a number of lawsuits being filed by labor unions on behalf of the drivers. Something to think about when hailing a cab home after a late night out in Roppongi.

Photographs by Torin Boyd, © 2011 and may not be published, used, or copied without permission.


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