“I triple-dog-dare you to see who’s gonna lie on the railroad tracks the longest!”
The US armed forces arrived at the North Fuji Maneuver Area in 1945, after World War 2 ended. Jeeps stopped at Shimoyoshida station, and soldiers appeared in the town. True to history’s account of the “give-me-chocolate era”, they would give chocolate, butter, and other sundries to the kids they’d meet - foods that, for the Japanese people of the time, were like a dream. Youths looked up to the soldiers eating corned beef straight out of the can and were mesmerized by the smell of their tobacco.
Then thirty years later, in the first half of 1975, Shimoyoshida Station became a local haunt for hooligans, in much the same way as it was for those soldiers.
With its many service lines and storehouse for cargo and luggage across the way, the station was a key port-of-call from which large quantities of fabrics were shipped. Lots of textiles were kept at a “luggage reception counter” inside the station.
This station was a common haunt for youths, as it had a playground and sitting plaza. In those days they’d find empty beer bottles by the storehouse across the street, take the bottle caps and play games with them. Then they’d swipe the bottles and exchange them for money at the liquor store.
In one corner of the station building, older ladies would set up stalls to sell drinks, toys, sweets, and even souvenirs if they had them. That corner is empty nowadays, but it was a perfect place for those brats; they got their thrills from stealing candy from the elderly shopkeepers who nodded off under their kotatsu.
Something happened to them in Shimoyoshida station that they’d never forget.
One day, five youths met up at Shimoyoshida Station as usual. One of them said, “Let’s go to the tracks.” They’d always go for their usual 10-yen coin ritual: they’d put the coins on the tracks for the trains to flatten. They enjoyed collecting them afterward since they flattened into different shapes.
But that day was different.
“Let’s have a dare,” said one boy, smirking.
“What’re we doin’?”
“Let’s lie down on the tracks and see who lasts the longest.”
They all laid down at the rail crossing. Anxiously, they pressed their ears to the track and knew a train was coming. The clattering and shaking reached them; the train was almost here--
Did anyone chicken out first?
Actually, no one got up. The train itself pulled the breaks and squealed to an emergency stop. Then the driver and conductor both emerged in a rage, arresting 3 of the 5 kids.
The two who managed to escape couldn’t leave their friends in that bind, so they eventually went to the stationmaster’s office, where their friends awaited.
Their homeroom teacher and school principal came soon after. They saw the boys kowtow apologetically, then dragged them to the principal’s office, where they were severely scolded. It goes without saying that their fathers were waiting at the door that night, paddle in hand, to mete out discipline.
Even then, the boys played it cool. Shimoyoshida Station holds that memory now, of five hooligans daring each other to do something exceedingly stupid.