American journalist Charli James didn’t realize the video she uploaded to YouTube in January would become a viral sensation six months later. The video shows the diligent, blue-capped cleaning crew of Tokyo’s famous bullet train sweeping the floors, clearing the seats, and wiping down the tray tables for the next round of commuters, all in an astonishing seven minutes.
The workers are each responsible for one of the train’s 100-seat cars. To get the train moving on time to its next destination, each row of seats must be cleaned in only twelve seconds. After completing their tasks, the workers all exit the train cars and bow to show their pride in a job well done.
Their moment doesn’t last long, though, since another bullet train, or shinkansen, is already on its way.Over 400,000 people rely on the more than 300 bullet trains that speed through Tokyo station every day. With that many commuters to clean up after, it’s little wonder the cleaning crew has become so efficient at their jobs.
James’ video was originally shot as part of a project by the metropolitan government of Tokyo to attract English-speaking journalists to document life in the city. It first became popular on French and Indian websites and now has more than 2 million views worldwide, making the bullet train cleaning crew a true international sensation.