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10 train faux-pas in Japan that some men are willing to let slide

27 Comments
By Casey Baseel, RocketNews24

Taking the train is by far the most common way to get around urban and suburban Japan. By its very nature, though, using public transportation means being out in public, which in Japan means following social norms about proper manners and not bothering your fellow passengers.

The average Tokyo commuter spends an hour each way on the train, though. It can be hard to follow all of the implicit rules of train etiquette during such a lengthy ride, and here are 10 minor breaches of etiquette that some Japanese men are willing to turn a blind eye to.

Internet portal Web R25 recently surveyed 200 men on the subject. The respondents, all working adults between the ages of 20 and 39, were given a list of behaviors that, while not outright prohibited, are generally frowned upon while riding the train, and asked to pick up to three that they personally had no problem with others doing.

10. Openly reading sexy articles in a magazine (7.5%)

Just to clarify, the respondents weren’t talking about leafing through dedicated porno rags while riding the rails. Many sports and men’s interest magazines in Japan, though, often have swimsuit model spreads or even nude photos, and 7.5% of those asked felt this was an acceptable pick-me-up before or after a tough day at the office.

9. Having a lively conversation in a loud voice (8%)

This is one of the odder choices on the list, considering that the word “loud” usually implies that the sound is genuinely bothering others.

8. Drinking alcohol (9%)

Using public transportation essentially means you’ve always got a designated driver, so why not crack open a cold one, roughly one in ten men said.

7. Putting on makeup (10%)

Obviously, putting on powder that’s going to flitter about the interior of the train car would be a problem. But assuming a woman’s cosmetics don’t get on any other passengers, 10% of the respondents said they think it’s OK.

6. Kissing/snuggling (10.5%)

Because hey, maybe the lipstick your girlfriend just put on in the train has her lips looking extra inviting.

5. Not folding up strollers while on the train (12%)

Traditional manners dictate that after boarding the train, you should take your child out of the stroller and fold it up, so as not to take up space where other passengers could be standing. Perhaps as a result of Japanese men becoming more involved with child-rearing than in previous generations, though, some guys realize that’s not always such an easy thing to do, and are willing to give parents of small children a pass.

4. Eating/drinking (14%)

This one carried the extra stipulation that it’s only OK if the food or drink doesn’t have a strong smell, so no matter how much you may like natto, please wait until you get home to enjoy your snack of fermented soybeans.

3. Listening to music on your headphones at a volume where others can hear it, but that’s still quieter than the voices of the people talking around you (15.5%)

As long as your tunes meet all those conditions, it isn’t any more intrusive than the voices of people having conversations on the train, or so the logic behind this choice seems to go.

2. Playing portable/mobile games while wearing a suit (49.5%)

If you’re not in the office, what’s wrong with playing some games, even if you’re dressed for work?

1. Reading manga while wearing a suit (55%)

Finally, the majority of the survey respondents felt it’s totally fine to kill time on the train by reading some comics. After all, even if you’re wearing the de facto uniform of a productive member of adult society and you’ve got nothing more dramatic than a day of data analysis and sales meetings on your work schedule, everyone enjoys a little escapist adventure now and again.

Sources: Web R25/Yahoo! Japan

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27 Comments
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10. Not when others, especially children, can see 9. Not early in the morning 8. Ok desu, 'specially on a Friday night 7. Rippu ;-) 6. No groping and slobbering please. I saw a young couple doing this on the platform at Ofuna eki and told them to get a hotel room. 5. No problem there 4. I agree, No Mac when I'm hungry please 3. I disagree 2. OK 1. I know manga are a part of Japanese culture, but part of me still thinks there's something wrong with an ojisan reading comics.
-4 ( +1 / -5 )

I really dislike it when people listen to music with high volume. It's simply rude. Particularly ignorant foreigners who think what they can do in their own country they can do in Japan. It's simply disrespectful.

-16 ( +7 / -23 )

Alcohol is a faux pas? Only in the mind of some gaijin writers...

1 ( +7 / -6 )

Having a beer on the train on the way home after a big night was something I enjoyed about my Japan days.

I guess some people would probably prefer you didn't do it, but a 'traveller' was often exactly what the doctor ordered.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

I really dislike it when people listen to music with high volume. It's simply rude. Particularly ignorant foreigners who think what they can do in their own country they can do in Japan. It's simply disrespectful.

Ive only ever seen Japanese doing this.

14 ( +17 / -3 )

If they had interviewed working men between the ages of 40 and 80, this would be more of a daily check sheet.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

On the whole, I think that Japanese have good train manners, but Osaka commuters tend to be noisy!

4 ( +7 / -3 )

Only 12% find taking a stroller (push chair in my part of the world) without folding it is acceptable? I might understand 50%, but 12%?! Have these men ever looked after an infant? (The clue is is the question and survey result.)

5 ( +6 / -1 )

I totally disagree with the loud music on headphones, we have this issue in the U.S. The whole purpose of head phones is so that I don't have to listen to what your playing.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

10 train faux-pas in Japan that some men are willing to let slide

How about utter disregard for fellow passengers?

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Why would it be a problem if you read manga or play games while you're wearing a suit? I'm Japanese but I've never thought these to be faux-pas.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Akula, good one on the TRAVELLER, haha I haven't heard that term in decades, brings back memories & yeah although I don't use trains much anymore thankfully, but when in the cities on occasion a traveler really hits the spot, hell they sell them on lots of platforms so............................

And since I wear shorts & Ts for work when its warm I wonder what all the stuff I could get away with sans a suit LOL!!!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Apparently a lot of people are willing to let a fart slide through too during the morning commute.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I've never understood the problem with make-up. Who on earth would object to a girl/woman making her face up?

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Never ever seen 6. Anywhere in Japan that is, not just on a train.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

My train peeve is watching young and middle-aged men and women sitting in seats designated for the elderly, parents with small children and for pregnant women, and then ignoring one in those categories standing nearby.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

One seriously has to be going deaf to have their music loud enough to be heard by others with headphones on. In the US its really bad, though. Mostly young blood brats sitting on the train think they don't even need headphones. They just blast it straight off their phone, or even a boombox... (Unless a transit officer is on board to tell them to obey the rules).

On my local transit system we have signs that state the following rules.

No eating or drinking. (This rule they let slide a lot as long as people aren't leaving crumbs or trash behind)

2.No Putting your feet on the seats. (They won't let this slide, because it costs money to maintain and clean the vehicles. But even then there are a ton of fools that think they're cool by putting their shoes on the seats and making them really dirty. Plus nobody knows where they've been walking.)

No Gambling (Of course this is a given. Last time someone was gambling on the public transit system was probably back in the 80s)

No loud music, USE HEADPHONES (The driver/transit officers will tell passengers to keep their music down as it can be considered causing a disturbance on the Bus or Light Rail train. But as I said, many ignorant brats ignore this unless they're caught.)

5.No drinking alcohol. (Pretty much a given as they don't want people getting drunk and causing a disturbance, plus the smell of alcohol. Also we still have laws against where people can "publically consume alcohol". ) You can get on the bus/ light rail drunk, but you can't drink while on the transit system.

No smoking. Yes people actually have to be told this.

There is a lovely sign that informs passengers on each public transit system that states anyone caught causing a disturbance on public transportation can be fined up to $10,000 USD and up to 2 years in prison. Sad to say there are still people stupid enough to go that far on the bus even in this day and age. Fighting, stabbing, shooting, drinking alcohol. No shortage of fools in the world.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I hate being on a busy train and someone is sitting in the aisle seat with their bag(s) taking the seat next to them despite many people standing and there being a luggage storage rack overhead. That's the height of rudeness to me.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

I listen to my music at nightclub levels with the bass way up there but not even the person sitting beside me, even if she fell asleep on my shoulder would even hear a peep out the headphones I use because they are in ear, self sealing type. I know this because my wife has the same pair and I tried to see if I could hear hers when she had them cranked up in her ears and there was nothing! Those are the best kind of headphone for public places BUT you really have to keeping an eye on your surroundings if you crank way up because the world could be coming to an end and you might not notice it. Also, it's not good for your hearing in the long term to crank it all the time but sometimes after a looooong week on ride home you just can't help it!

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

On the whole, I think that Japanese have good train manners, but Osaka commuters tend to be noisy!

From an Osaka perspective, it is much more comfortable and care-free riding a train here than in Tokyo. Smiling and laughing are pretty normal things in my opinion.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Ive only ever seen Japanese doing this. #9. Having a lively conversation in a loud voice is the only thing ive seen gaijin do on trains, have seen Japanese do the rest on countless occasions

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Would be nice to see a poll in Osaka and another one in Tokyo. Would be night and day.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

From an Osaka perspective, it is much more comfortable and care-free riding a train here than in Tokyo. Smiling and laughing are pretty normal things in my opinion.

Although I agree with you, some passengers are really annoying, especially groups of middle-aged ladies gossiping openly about their neighbours (for some reason, Osakans have to do everything in groups, and they have to do it as loudly as possible). Of course, they're the first to complain about supposedly noisy Chinese tourists ...

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Where I live, food, music and drink are strictly prohibited and will get you kicked off at the very next stop.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

I really dislike it when people listen to music with high volume. It's simply rude. Particularly ignorant foreigners who think what they can do in their own country they can do in Japan. It's simply disrespectful.

I really dislike it when people ( usually japanophiles, or Japanese who've never been outside of Japan or held a conversation with a foreigner) walk around with the presumptuous attitude that foreigners are uncouth philistines who break all the rules of society.

I say this loudly because since I've been in Japan the only folks I've seen breaking the rules on the subway have been Japanese. Just yesterday I saw a young, beautiful woman in a yukata drinking a tall can of yebis without a care in the world on the subway. I wasn't offended, but I wonder what the responses or at least the looks would have been if it had been a foreigner-- especially a Chinese. I guess if your young and beautiful and especially Japanese then it's alright! I can't count how many times I've seen loud and boisterous drunken salarymen or baseball whippersnappers high off another victory shouting and laughing at the top of their lungs on the subway. And only if I had one coin every time I stood next to a young straphanger while his headphones were blaring out the latest from Exhile or AKB48 or whatever.

It's funny though because every time I see foreigners on the subway they're usually sitting quietly by themselves ( everyone avoids sitting next to them) reading a book or sitting in deep contemplation wondering why they ever came to this place and how much more they'll be able to tolerate.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

It's funny though because every time I see foreigners on the subway they're usually sitting quietly by themselves ( everyone avoids sitting next to them) reading a book or sitting in deep contemplation wondering why they ever came to this place and how much more they'll be able to tolerate.

How do you know that's what they're contemplating?

I do however concur that it's annoying when people expect you to behave a certain way simply because of your race and its reputation.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

How do you know that's what they're contemplating?

You're right, I don't know. I was just demonstrating how wrong it is to be presumptuous.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

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