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Unswerving cyclist
14 Mar 2002
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Last week, my go-to 自転車屋さん told me on LINE that I could drop by any time I wanted; however, he'd be ワンオペ, and I might have to wait. I had to Google what he meant:

ワンオペ (wan ope) ≙ ワンマンオペレーション ("one-man operation")

Referring to the situation when a store is (temporarily or permanently) operated by just one person. Also known as ワンオペレーション (wan operēshon).

According to Wikipedia, the term was first used in 2014 to describe the late-night work system at the gyūdon restaurant chain Sukiya. Their operations were often staffed by a single person, usually a student.

I asked several Japanese native speakers if they were aware of ワンオペ. Some of those under 40 did. Apparently, it is also used for single parents.


12 Oct 2013
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Interesting. I was always curious about the writing near the doors on buses that said ワンマン ("one man"). It seemed an unusual thing to announce on the outside of the bus. Were there even such things as "two man" buses? Does it harken back to a time, decades ago, when there was one person on the bus who drove the bus, and another who collected the fare? And if so, was it really necessary to announce on all buses in this day and age that the current bus configuration was a "one man" bus? Who could that sign possibly be helping? Without that sign, what sort of confusion was the bus company anticipating? And yet there it was, on all the buses. ワンマン. I don't know if its still put on the outside of buses, but old habits die hard, and I suspect it still lurks on many, if not most buses.

As an occasional critic of over-katakanization of Japan, this in particular stood out as an example of unnecessary use of katakana English that was kept alive by momentum rather than a rational business need.

ワンオペ must be the descendent of ワンマン, but for some reason ワンオペ doesn't grate on me as much as ワンマン. In fact, I like how its been coopted to become a euphemism for single-parent. It somehow takes that rather dry description and adds the element of having to manage a large burden of work by oneself. I'd never heard it until today.


27 Dec 2003
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ワンマン ("one man").

ワンマン ("one man") refers to how, yes, there is no 'conductor' on the bus and the passenger must board at the front of the bus to pay and get on. (In years gone by, there was a 'conductor' who was at the back of the bus, near the rear entrance/exit door, who took the money.) Posting ワンマン on the outside of the bus makes it clear the passenger must board and pay at the front door, not the rear door, as was done in years gone by. (It would seem this notice would only apply to elderly passengers old enough to remember the bus conductors in years gone by.)

I don't see any need to post ワンマン on the inside of a bus, as it only posted as an informational sign for people getting on the bus.

Several years ago I rode a bus in China with a conductor in the back who took money as people got on. It was a strange experience, to be sure.

Back in the day, I think it was common to see young women working as the second 'crew member' of a bus. Here is such a video, but in this video, the women are working as tour guides, not money-taking conductors. (In those days, jobs were scarce, especially for women, and the money-collecting technology we are used to seeing on today's buses did not exist, making the need for a money-collecting conductors all the more important.)

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2 Jun 2005
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In the countryside I saw that on trains, some of those train stations were also unmanned so you gave your ticket to the train driver when you left the train. That was decades ago.


Freelance proofreader
26 Sep 2015
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In the countryside I saw that on trains, some of those train stations were also unmanned so you gave your ticket to the train driver when you left the train. That was decades ago.
It still happens on the line where Mrs Lother's parents live (Suigun line between Kooriyama and Mito).
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