The secret to making fare collection in Japanese buses more efficient turns out to be human hair — particularly Indian people’s hair.
Key details: Using human hair for fare boxes has reportedly been something Japanese buses have been doing for decades now.
Some bus companies experimented with different materials in the past, including plastic and animal hair, but they found more success after using human hair, according to SoraNews24.
The Japanese media outlet noted that Chinese people’s hair was used in Japanese buses before, but bus companies seem to prefer Indian people’s hair as they have “just the right firmness and electrostatic properties for the job.”
How it works: Passengers can put both tickets and coins in the fare boxes of Japanese buses. Hair, which is gathered to resemble small brushes, essentially serves as filters in the boxes to separate the tickets from the coins. The hair catches the tickets but lets the coins pass through because of their weight. The whole process lasts for just a few seconds.
Informational video: In October 2021, Gifu Shimbun, a local morning newspaper in Gifu Prefecture, Japan, notably uploaded
a video on YouTube that shows how Japanese buses operate. The video’s description shares that some of the featured buses’ fare boxes use Indian hair.
A spiritual practice: Many Indians partake in a practice known as tonsuring, in which practitioners cut or shave their heads to show their devotion to their gods. In India, some temples take the offerings and sell them to companies for future use.
The hair industry: India is reportedly one of the world’s largest exporters of raw human hair. Citing a Statista report, the SEMS Foundation noted that India exported $14.3 million worth of hair in 20
20, while Hong Kong shipped $44.4 million worth of hair that same year.