The Saitama prefectural government poster reads, "On the escalator, stay put! It's required. The first ordinance in Japan!! Let it begin from Saitama Prefecture.
It continues at the bottom: "An ordinance to promote safe use of Saitama escalators. To take effect from October 1, 2021."
Five cartoon figures stand alternately on the right and left sides of the escalator: three humans -- a middle-aged man with his left arm in a sling, an expectant mother and a primary schoolgirl with a back pack -- plus the obligatory mascots which in this case are two large, goofy-looking birds.
As J-Cast News reported on Sept 21, Saitama Governor Motohiro Ono tweeted an announcement that day, stating, "Walking on escalators is extremely dangerous, resulting not only in yourself falling, but causing others to fall as well. You are requested to cooperate to enable everybody to use escalators safely."
Wording in the new prefectural ordinance also states that "All those who might utilize escalators are to be notified."
The ordinance had been passed by Saitama's prefectural assembly last February, and an announcement of its passing appeared in the May issue of the prefecture's public newsletter.
A page was also devoted to it on the prefectural website, in which people were advised of proper escalator safety, while warning against the dangers of walking on moving escalators.
Clicking here provides a high-resolution .pdf enabling people to print out seals to be posted near escalators.
Actually, the Japan Elevator Association, which also covers escalators, has posted a number of user safety recommendations that include proscriptions against walking, as well as other forms of misbehavior such as using prams, wearing trousers or other garments with excessively long hemlines, not leaving one hand free for gripping the bannister, wearing high heeled shoes with heels that can easily be jammed between escalator teeth, loitering close to the landing in a way that blocks escalator traffic, and smoking.
Governor Ono's tweet received a variety of positive responses, such as "We look forward to this!" and "It should be adopted nationwide!" Some others, however, voiced skepticism, with one posting that it was likely to "cause traffic confusion at large stations" and "I wonder if anyone will pay attention at transfer stations during the morning commute."
The responsible official in Saitama's Consumer Livelihood Department responded to J-Cast News' query concerning penalties for violators of the new ordinance and ways to maintain its effectiveness.
"We have not stipulated penalties for violations," the official was quoted as saying. "In our way of thinking, the only way to make the ordinance work is for residents of the prefecture to understand its purpose. Propagating it via the internet repeatedly, and in a courteous manner, will be the only way people will accept it."
When asked about specific cases of falls or other accidents on escalators, all the official could say was "I believe mishaps have happened, including small accidents. But no major escalator accident has occurred in Saitama over the past several years."
"Still, due to moving aboard the escalator can possibly result in people falling down, and when falling they can cause others to fall as well," the official added. "So we ask that people use escalators in accordance with the new ordinance and remain standing in one place."© Japan Today