Golden week started off tragically in Japan this year when on April 29th, a bus full of tourists heading to Tokyo Disneyland ran into a sound-proofing wall on an expressway, killing seven people almost instantly and injuring at least 39 people. The bus driver had fallen asleep at the wheel, and apparently later so did Rakuten Travel, which had recruited tour members for the ill-fated trip.
On April 30th, the day after the accident Rakuten Travel sent an email to those who had purchased bus tickets for the tour which said in a very chipper tone, “How was your ride (ご乗車はいかがですか）?” etc, asking for a response to an opinion survey. As of today, none of the dead responded nor have their families.
Rakuten Travel explains that the mail was sent automatically, and that usually the responses would be displayed on the Rakuten Travel website, in “the customer’s voice” section.（お客さんの声）. Rakuten Travel publicly apologized for causing any grief to the families or survivors.
Of course, it’s unfair to blame Rakuten Travel for the accident although perhaps they could be criticized for not carefully vetting the vendors connected to their travel site. If there’s a lesson to be learned here it’s that automized mail is a frightening thing…and so are expressway buses. Maybe somewhere in Japan, in someone’s mail box, there’s a missive from TEPCO asking “How did you enjoy your tour of Fukushima Daichi, one of Japan’s absolutely safe nuclear power plants?”