Lessons From the Japanese Toll Booth Men


Gosh, it must’ve been my 5th or 6th trip to Japan when I started driving a rental car. For a first world country, their roads sure are backwards. Haha.

During my daily Japan commutes, I encountered toll booths four times a day. These toll booths usually have a quick pass through lane for those who have an “ETC” card, which is the equivalent of a toll tag or sticker for your car. The “ETC” card is an actual physical card that goes into a little module that can be installed in your Japanese vehicular device that gets read at toll booths in Japan. The other lanes at toll booths are actual manned toll booths. In Texas, where I’m from, even before our toll sticker days, toll booths were merely just large bins that you threw your change into to make the gate go up. And then DFW International Airport was really my only experience of interacting with a human being at such a kind of booth.

Japanese toll booth men. The unsung heroes of the transportation system as I know it. They’re the real MVPs. Quite honestly, they’re one of the best parts of my day when I spent all those days in Japan.

They’re freakin’ awesome and here’s why:

Gratuitous Enthusiasm

Imagine this. I’m still tired because my hotel Executive Lounge coffee to go hasn’t yet kicked in so I’m driving through Japanese streets in a bit of a hazy (but still competent) daze. When I pull up to the toll booth before entering the highway, I roll down my window, and I’m met with a boisterous “OHAYO GOZAIMASU!!!! Nana hyaku nana juu en onegai shimasu!!!!”, which means “GOOD MORNING! 770 yen please!”, from the toll booth man. I hand him a Noguchi (1000 yen note (that’s the guy on the bill), because USD Hamilton’s don’t work here), and he enthusiastically says “SEN EN–CHOTTO MATTE KUDASAI!!” (“1000 yen, please wait!”). I receive my receipt. I thank him. He yells “DOMO!!!” at me (also a form of “Thank you!”. And I’m on way.

Classic Japanese Pride In Work

Knowing, experiencing, and observing the Japanese and their penchant for hard work, I can just tell that the Japanese toll booth men do take great pride in their work. From an American perspective, their job seems really simple and mundane. But still I can appreciate that they strive to do their simple job well and with great pride even though their job looks simple and mundane to me.


I went through tolls 20 times a week, and for the most part, each toll booth encounter was met with consistent enthusiasm and pride. Like, I can’t think of an instance of a bad example. That’s pretty awesome.

I’m inspired by the Japanese toll booth men by their joyful enthusiasm and pride in work. I want what they have. And I want to try to incorporate a little more enthusiasm and pride in the work that I do even if it’s not necessarily the most exciting at times.

Japanese toll booth men. Life. Changing.

Here’s to them! Kanpai!



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