We’ve reached the last column of the syllabary, but not nearly the end of the Sunday Soundcheck. I’ll explain why after this column is completed, which won’t take so long since there are only three characters in this column. My feeling is that these three are the oddballs tacked on at the end, but all three of them are very important.
The first is wa which is written in hiragana and katakana as わ and ワ respectively. It is the only character starting with w, so most Japanese people have difficulty with foreign words containing w sounds.
Warikan (わりかん・割り勘) is splitting of a bill equally between parties, commonly called Dutch treat in some circles. Often at Japanese parties a senior member will feel responsible to pick up the bill as the host, but sometimes it is necessary for everyone to chip in. Nowadays most restaurants are computerized and will allow each person to pay for exactly their order at the register, but when many dishes are shared the warikan system is probably better.
Wanman (ワンマン) from ‘one man’ is used to refer to trains with no conductor, just an engineer. In the big cities this is nothing special; people may get on or off the train by themselves and tickets are generally sold from machines and inserted into automated wickets at the exits. Fare adjustment machines also exist for passengers who have gone farther than their purchased fare. Also in the big stations there are usually staff manning the entrances and exits; however, in more countryside areas – particularly on the local trains which stop at every station – there are sometimes unmanned exits. In these cases the engineer-only trains will typically only open the front door of the train so the engineer can watch passengers dropping their tickets or fares into a kitty, much like a bus.