A commuter’s grinning face today on an outward-bound train to western Tokyo appeared threateningly as if it would initiate a conversation in English.

James Hocking was given just a few moments to react as the muscles at the sides of the man’s mouth began to flex and there was a slight contraction of the facial tendons at the corner of his eyes indicating that English was about to be spoken.

“Once I could see teeth through the smile and the guy’s body started angling towards me I knew it was on,” said Hocking.

“I had three options. Face the other way, which could come off as rude. Two, move carriages by walking through the inter-carriage doors or exiting the carriage at the next station. Or three, pre-empt the conversation by starting my own conversation in Japanese.”

Hocking went with option number three but his Japanese was soon beaten and slapped down by a barrage of broken English.

“I should’ve gone with option number two,” said Hocking.

Hocking was forced to nod agreeingly for the next eight stations.

Image: Toyochin