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10 times Japanese train passengers aren’t so polite

36 Comments
By Casey Baseel, SoraNews24

Public transportation in Japan is awesome for a number of reasons, not the least of which are how punctual and clean the trains are. An equally important factor, though, is the remarkable politeness of most passengers, which is an especially big plus if you’re stuck on a crowded commuter train with hundreds of other people on your way in or out of downtown.

But while Japanese societal norms and values keep most people on their best behavior, that doesn’t mean Japanese train passengers never feel the desire to let their manners lapse for the purpose of making themselves a little more comfortable. Sometimes they even give in to such temptations, as revealed in a survey by Japanese media organization Standby, which polled 200 working men between the ages of 20 and 39 and asked them what etiquette slip-ups they admit to while on the train.

The survey participants were presented with a list of 13 commonly frowned-upon behaviors, and asked to select the three they most often find themselves doing, with one point given to their top pick, two to their second, and one for their third. When the points were tallied, the top 10 were:

10. Sitting in a priority seat even though other seats are open (46 points)

priorityseat.png

Japanese trains customarily have priority seats for elderly, physically handicapped, or pregnant passengers located at the corner of the carriages. But the corners are usually the least crowded part of the carriage, making them also the most comfortable place to sit. Since fully able-bodied passengers aren’t prohibited from sitting in the priority seats (they’re simply asked to give the seat up if someone in need wants it), grabbing a seat there even if you’re not one of the service’s target demographics is a common quasi-transgression.

9. Keeping your bag on my shoulder when the train is crowded (59 points)

Because of the contours of the human body, you’ll take up the least space if you hold your bag in front of you, as opposed to keeping it slung over a shoulder or two. But even when the train fills up and space is at a premium, some guys keep their bag on their back to help distribute its weight.

7 (tie). Taking out a newspaper, book, or smartphone even if the train is crowded(75 points)

On the one hand, a little light reading is a great way to kill time while riding from Point A to Point B. But when you’re literally standing shoulder-to-shoulder with your fellow passengers, whipping out your reading material or apparatus, even if it’s as compact as a smartphone, is sure to be cutting into someone else’s severely limited personal space.

7 (tie). Putting your bag on the floor in front of where’re your sitting (75 points)

This isn’t really an issue unless the train gets crowded, but if it does, holding your bag on your lap, as opposed to putting it on the floor, opens up a bit of foot space for passengers who weren’t lucky enough to snag a seat.

6. Dozing off and leaning on the person sitting next to you (106 points)

dozing.png

Taking a nap on the train is a time-honored tradition in Japan, but using the stranger sitting next to you as a pillow is a no-no (though it’s A-OK if you and your human pillow are a couple).

5. Putting your bag on the seat next to you when there are a lot of empty seats(108 points)

At first, there might not seem to be anything wrong with this. After all, if there are multiple empty seats open, what’s wrong with taking up one of them for your bag?

But by putting your bag on the seat, you’re essentially telling anyone getting on the train “Go look for a seat somewhere else,” which isn’t a particularly courteous thing to do. Plus, should someone really want that seat for whatever reason (maybe it’s near the door that’s closest to the exit at the station they’re getting off at), putting your belongings there means they have to ask you to alter your behavior for their benefit, which can be an awkward and embarrassing exchange,

4. Getting on the train while other people are still getting off (114 points)

When you’re waiting on the platform and a train pulls up, the polite thing to do is stand to the side of the doors, leave an easy path for people to exit from, and only hop on once everyone who’s getting off has left the carriage. But the sooner you can get inside, the greater your chance of grabbing an open seat, and so some people who want to rest their feet try to move against the flow and get a head start on their seat-hunting rivals.

3. Folding your legs (118 points)

Japan isn’t all too keen on leg-folding in general. It’s a serious faux pas in business situations, for example, but it’s an especially aggravating maneuver on trains. Most Japanese trains have bench seats designed to just fit a certain number of passengers (seven is the norm for many Tokyo area trains). So when you fold our legs, you’re coming close to sticking your foot in someone’s lap, especially if you’re above average height.

2. Using your phone near the priority seats (154 points)

Passengers are asked to refrain from talking on their phones on Japanese trains, regardless of which part of the carriage they’re in. Using your phone to fire off emails or read SoraNews24, though, is acceptable…unless you’re sitting in or standing near the priority seats, in which case you’re asked to power down your phone entirely.

This rule comes from concerns that the signals sent by mobile phones may interfere with pacemakers of other medical devices, whose bearers are likely to be sitting in the priority seats due to their health issues. But with smartphone use being such a ubiquitous part of rail travel in Japan, many people forget, or simply don’t bother to, shut their phones off.

1. Refusing to give up your spot next to the door no matter what (235 points)

If you do have to stand, one of the best spots on the train to do it is next to the door. There’s usually a short length of wall between the edge of the bench seat and the door opening, and if you can position yourself there and lean against the wall, you’re probably going to be a lot more comfortable than if you’re hanging onto a hand strap and having to use your back, leg, and abdominal muscles to balance yourself as the train makes it way down the tracks.

However, being near the door also means you’re right next to the flow of traffic as people get on and off the train. Depending on your stature, your shoulders might actually be jutting into the space people need to move through, in which case the polite thing to do is move out of the way or step off the train onto the platform, then reboard the carriage before it pulls away.

Doing that, though, means you might not be able to reclaim that prime location, and so many of the survey respondents are loath to give it up. Hopefully they at least remember not to hit anyone in the head with their bag while they’re standing there.

Source: Livedoor News/Standby via Otakomu

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- To sit or not to sit? Linguistic and societal debate on Japanese train seats for the elderly

-- Should healthy young men sit in Japanese trains’ priority seats for the elderly and pregnant?

-- Shinkansen travel tip: A clever way to keep your suitcase from rolling around on the bullet train

© SoraNews24

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

36 Comments
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Totally misses the number 1 rude action of pushing others to get on!

9 ( +12 / -3 )

I rarely see people sitting on priority seats giving their seat to any elder or disabled person, I feel like the only one person that does so. And I have seen plenty of pregnant women that cannot seat anywhere because nobody really cares.

7 ( +11 / -4 )

10 times Japanese train passengers aren’t so polite

Just only 10 times?? Jeez I can EASILY double or triple that number

7 ( +9 / -2 )

Hey, guess what, Japanese people aren’t perfect, they’re human like the rest of us. Some behave and act well, some don’t, same as anywhere else. As for Refusing to give up your spot next to the door no matter what, this guy tried that on a PACKED train, and I mean Saikyo Line Level Packed so I got on backside first and levered, and I mean I really had to slowly push him back away from his spot. Not happy he used all his might, and he was plenty strong, to push back, so just as he peaked at what must have been 2000lb per square inch of force, I slipped quickly to my left, he really smacked himself right into the metal handle... Thank you.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

From my experience, Japanese are very well mannered, except when drunk or on a train. These together results in the worst manners.

The biggest issue for me is people not offering their seat to pregnant ladies. I've seen couples before sat together (female pregnant and showing her badge) and another pregnant lady stood infront of them... yet the guy doesn't offer her a seat.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Refusing to sit next to a foreigner even when the train is crowded.
15 ( +16 / -1 )

The phone off rule near the silver seat (showing my age) should be removed that is plain stupid.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Bio-terrorists - Having rotten breath that could strip paint of the walls... Not nice when the train is packed and they are breathing on or just near you :(

14 ( +14 / -0 )

2 is ludicrous. If your pace-maker is going to stop because of someone's cell phone activity...don't get on a train with a thousand cell phones.
4 ( +5 / -1 )

Where to start...

Keeping your bag on your shoulder

Putting your bag on the floor in front of where you're sitting 

Crossing your legs

...are all annoying.

I see manspreading isn't there. Interesting.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Folding your legs? Are you made of paper?

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Re 5, reckon putting your bag next to you when the train IS packed is ten times worse.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

@goldorak - an older fellow did this yesterday, had his bag of boxes on the seat next to him, and people standing.

I find it infuriating when people do that, and more so when they don't move it. Almost as bad is the "Five people on a six-people bench." Move up!

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I would have to say that the lion's share of my negative experiences in Japan (outside of dealing with the cops or the banks) have been in the trains.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Dont forget farts and bad breath....both enough to ruin your 2 hour commute.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I have had to leave my seat sometimes because of the strong tonic people us in their hair. I nearly fainted because no one will open the windows in the winter for more fresh air.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

picking your nose, looking at it, then dusting it off your fingers

sneezing or coughing without covering your face

i could go on....

and I will!

yawning loudly

sitting in the priority seats pretending to fall asleep the instant a pregnant or disabled person gets on (i saw you...)

holding shopping bags in the crook of your arm instead of holding them by your sides thus saving space

10 ( +10 / -0 )

I have seen a man picking his bugars and then eating it. I supposed that is better than flicking it.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Women Putting on make up. Get up earlier and do it before you leave home, like I do for all my morning ablutions!

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

My BIGGEST pet peeve is people that stand near the open doors and do not get off the train. Where I come from, we ask those standing near the doors if they are going to get off at the next stop and if not then let's change places. If it's too crowded, those standing near the doors get off the train to allow everyone get off the train. It NEVER happens here.

Second, bad breath is seriously an issue especially among young men. You see this hunk standing next to you and he looks sexy but then he exhales...

i always give my seat to those in need even if it's just a person feeling sick or something. My dad NEVER sits in the train unless it's empty because it's manners. People in Japan often call it 'bunks' or culture. But it's simply banners. And they are just trying to give an excuse to their lack of desire to follow these manners. Even though they all know that what they're doing is not good.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

All legitimate examples and loving everyone's comments. But out of interest, have people experienced things like these in other parts of Japan (not Tokyo)? I never saw this side of Japanese people until I moved to Tokyo.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I've had 3 strokes wear medical wrist bands and a large red medical alert thingy

on the strap of my bag all in Japanese, when seemingly healthy train passengers

occupy the seats for us types I just ask them to move and they do,

pain in the butt but i've never had any opposition.

There are 4 levels of disabled classifications in japan btw

the first 2 are for those unable to walk at all.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

What I find really tiresome is when people insist on standing in the aisles when there are empty seats next to other passengers.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Keeping your bag on my shoulder when the train is crowded

Why would anyone keep my bag on their shoulder? For that matter, why would anyone keep any bag on their shoulder? It would be all off-center and weirdly balanced. And how would you hold it? With one arm? The whole sentence isn't making any sense.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

If your pace-maker is going to stop because of someone's cell phone activity...

It's not. That hasn't been an issue with phones since 3G started, and even when it was an issue, it almost never happened, and was an extreme rarity. So to follow along with your point:

...don't get on a train with a thousand cell phones.

If it was true that phones made pacemakers go wonky, then people with pacemakers would never ride the train because regardless of the rules, there are always people using their phones on trains, and usually near the priority seats as well.

The whole thing about phones and pacemakers is not valid these days. They need to drop the rule.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Women Putting on make up.

I've never understood why this bothers people. I kind of enjoy watching them do it. At the very least, it doesn't bother me whatsoever.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

All legitimate examples and loving everyone's comments. But out of interest, have people experienced things like these in other parts of Japan (not Tokyo)? I never saw this side of Japanese people until I moved to Tokyo.

My wife and I came across a drunken man on a train in Shimane making very audible comments to his friend about the size of my wife's bust. Not very polite. Neither was her reaction.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Women Putting on make up.

I've never understood why this bothers people. I kind of enjoy watching them do it.

Generally, grooming is not meant to be done in a confined public space with a lot of people around. It's just a sign of respect. That applies to men or women, though men are more often forgiven for poor manners.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Women Putting on make up.

I've never understood why this bothers people. I kind of enjoy watching them do it. At the very least, it doesn't bother me whatsoever.

Hear, hear! Nothing wrong with that, especially if 'she' is, well, attractive. I find it sort of soothing to watch a woman share this intimate moment with us mere mortals, hmmm

A bloke tying his shoelaces, necktie or worse, attempting a comb-over while on the train should on the other hand be expelled manu militari (i.e next stop would do). So rude!

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

Snot picking, where do I begin? Coughing and sneezing without covering up - I've yet to see a single train "manners promotion" cover this one.

Agreed, get rid of the no smartphones near priority seats rule. Possibly have a random train staff get on periodically to evict unworthy people from the priority seats, and fine those who resist. Word would soon get around.

I've no problem with passengers dozing off on my shoulder - if they're young and pretty.

Manspreading? Another peeve.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Anyone on any form of transport who puts their bag on an empty seat gets targeted by me. I'm sorry, you aren't allowed two seats madam. 'Saving it for a friend', you say? I'll move when they turn up.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Yep. I give them 3 seconds to move it before I sit on the bag

2 ( +3 / -1 )

What I find really tiresome is when people insist on standing in the aisles when there are empty seats next to other passengers.

Perhaps they can't sit down. I've had back problems recently and couldn't sit on those stupidly low seats.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

"Using your phone near the priority seats (154 points)

Passengers are asked to refrain from talking on their phones on Japanese trains, regardless of which part of the carriage they’re in. Using your phone to fire off emails or read SoraNews24, though, is acceptable…unless you’re sitting in or standing near the priority seats, in which case you’re asked to power down your phone entirely.

This rule comes from concerns that the signals sent by mobile phones may interfere with pacemakers of other medical devices, whose bearers are likely to be sitting in the priority seats due to their health issues. But with smartphone use being such a ubiquitous part of rail travel in Japan, many people forget, or simply don’t bother to, shut their phones off."

This rule is stupid and not based on any evidence. If the signals from phones affected pacemakers, people with pacemakers would be dropping dead in Shinjuku, or Shibuya all day long. Just getting in to a train doesn't make the signal different.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Most mornings, people are standing right in the middle of the exit that I need to get out of. If the train is so crowded there's nowhere else to stand, then fine. But when not, I make sure to give them a good shove as I alight.

It's odd how they act all affronted. Like, what do you expect when you choose to stand in people's way!?

When lots of people are holding their phones about 2 feet in front of their faces in really crowded trains, I make a point of maneuvering into the precise volume of space taken up by someone's arm and phone. Again, they often act annoyed, Sorry, your phone doesn't get priority over passengers' comfort.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I put my bag on the seat beside me if there are empty seats on the train. If it starts to fill up to any degree, I'll move my bag. If someone tried to sit on it when there are other empty seats on the train, they'd get an earful from me.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

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