A reminder of why you shouldn’t be quick to judge who’s sitting in Japan's priority train seats

By Casey Baseel, SoraNews24

In the corner of just about every train car in Japan you’ll find a bench of “priority seats.” While they’re shaped and sized just like any other seats on the train, the priority seats are there for passengers who have an especially strong need for a place to sit, as opposed to stand, during their journey.

Good manners dictate that priority seats should be kept clear for, or at least given up for, passengers who are elderly, physically disabled, or pregnant. Of course, sometimes entirely able-bodied individuals snag one of the seats and don’t want to vacate it, and this is what appeared to be happening on a train recently being ridden by Japanese Twitter user @otamiotanomi.

@otamiotanomi, who was standing, noticed a pregnant woman step onto the train and make her way over to the priority seats, only to find them all occupied. But rather than try to find a seat elsewhere, the pregnant woman took up a standing position in front of a younger woman who was sitting in one of the priority seats. When the younger woman didn’t make any move to give up her seat, the pregnant woman made a show of shifting her purse on her shoulder, showing off the pregnancy marker that many pregnant women in Japan carry in order to subtly state their claim for a priority seat.

▼ A pregnancy marker, declaring “There’s a baby in my tummy.”

Screen Shot 2018-07-10 at 10.48.31.png
Photo: @Hikaru_hb

But the younger woman continued to sit and fiddle with her smartphone. Figuring she had to make a more overt issue of her pregnancy, the pregnant woman then began rubbing her stomach in large, expansive strokes, and this finally got the young woman’s attention. Yet even this didn’t convince her to give up her seat, because instead of standing up, the younger woman instead shifted her own purse, revealing her pregnancy mark.

“I witnessed a battle,” @otamiotanomi tweeted, and while that’s a dramatic way of putting it, his story made waves throughout the Japanese Internet, earning well over 150,000 likes. It’s a good reminder that you can’t always judge with just a quick glance what sort of physical conditions a person may have. Even people who look young, fit, and non-pregnant may have injuries or ailments that make it painful or even impossible for them to stand for extended periods of time, and keeping in mind the possibility of circumstances beyond your perception is the best way to mentally deal with such situations.

Source: Twitter/@otamiotanomi via Jin

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

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

-- Japanese senior stabs younger man multiple times after seeing him sit in train’s priority seat

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

© SoraNews24

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Technically the lady sitting down was right, but it was in bad form for her to sit while someone more obviously pregnant had to stand.

-10 ( +3 / -13 )

This one thing that pisses me off immensely, especially how able-bodied salarymen pretend they don't notice pregnant women or elderly standing right in front of them-whether priority seats or not. I have never noticed any signs of shame or remorse from these people when I would give up my seat to their nationals-this could be their elderly parents or pregnant wives in this country, but they keep sitting.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

it was in bad form for her to sit while someone more obviously pregnant had to stand

Actually, no. While the 'obviously pregnant' lady most likely suffers from back ache and general fatigue from carrying around an extra load using only her abdominal muscles so that it's perfectly understandable she would want to sit down, the not-yet-showing pregnant lady is in a much more unstable phase of her pregnancy and in greater need of the seat.

It's a phase that the obviously-pregnant lady has gone through to get to where she is now, and so should understand or at least guess why the other lady may be sitting. It was bad form on her part to target one lady. she should have taken up her standing position and rubbed her tummy in front of another of the priority seats, one occupied by a young healthy sleeping male.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

I wonder if some bad women just buy the pins and use it as an excuse to get a free seat.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

This one thing that pisses me off immensely, especially how able-bodied salarymen

and salary-women, plus teenage boys and girls in school uniforms, plus other young men and women (though some may be pregnant), do the same. In my opinion the salaryman using his smartphone or laptop is the worst, especially when he's manspreading.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

A friend of mine shared a more extreme version of this story that took place in China a couple years ago and made big rounds on the social media there (this is my memory of someone else's second-hand story, so apologies if I don't have the details quite right):

A woman in the later stages of her pregnancy got on a train without a "reserved seat ticket," found the train to be full, went to the reserved-seat section, found a young woman sitting there, and asked her if she could please have her seat. The young woman refused. The pregnant woman got a little indignant, but the young woman kept refusing. So the pregnant woman got out her phone, snapped a photo of the young woman sitting there, and posted it on social media in an effort to make her look bad publicly. She included a comment like "When my baby is born and gets older, I want her to know who the woman is who wouldn't help her." And it worked - people were getting all fired up about it on the internet. ...until the young woman found it on social media, and responded, explaining that she too was pregnant (but in an early stage, where it wasn't obvious by looking at her). Her comment was, "When my baby is born, I want her to know that her mother cared about her enough to get to the station early and buy a reserved seat ticket." Internet backlash turned 180 degrees.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

If a woman is obviously pregnant, I'll give up my seat no matter where I am on the train. Conversely, if a woman has a badge but isn't even beginning to show, she can stand. Why should I give up my seat just because she missed her monthly and got a tag from the clinic saying "Look what I did"

-14 ( +1 / -15 )


I mentioned salarymen in particular because I have never seen them giving their seats up to anyone. EVER! Most commonly it's women giving up seats, then schoolkids and students.. Ojisans and salarymen? Nope, not happening.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@Michael Jackson

Ah I remember when I was 4 months pregnant, but not showing at all, and was racked with cluster headaches and horrible motion sickness. I thought people sitting just couldn't see my badge and gave them the benefit of the doubt. Thanks for letting me know there's actual spiteful people that won't get up just to be rude intentionally. You're a real peach.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

I wonder if some bad women just buy the pins and use it as an excuse to get a free seat.

Interesting. Where do you buy these badges, then? I have always assumed pregnant women are given them when they start going for pre-natal care.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

This article talks about an 'invisible' physical condition that can cause someone discomfort and pain, but there are countless other invisible disabilities. People living with such disabilities have to put up with public haranguing, abuse, even assault, when they use facilities which are made for people with disabilities, like parking spaces and toilets. Just because you can't see evidence of a problem, it doesn't mean the person doesn't have one - like chronic pain, and colostomy bags, for example. People should be less quick to judge and condemn.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Why not add more cars on train so everybody can sit down? Clears the area too so cameras can see everybody. Plus, it makes it hard for gropers.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

When my wife was pregnant and commuting to work in Tokyo, she was never offered a seat. Although she never flashed her pregnancy badge, her very large bump made it clear she had a baby in her tummy. Weekends were a different story, with people (usually men accompanied by their family of girlfriend) regularly offering her their seat.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

omotenashi again

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The younger woman sat fiddling with her smartphone... So, the younger woman blatantly ignored the signs and common knowledge that you do NOT use a smartphone in those seats. The 'shouldn't be quick to judge' failed.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )


I needed a seat way more in the earlier months of my pregnancy when I was vomiting nearly non-stop. I can't tell you how many times I had to rush off a train and find a nearby trash can to throw up in. Just remember that next time you spitefully refuse your seat for a woman who simply "missed her monthly," she may be missing her lunch on your lap!

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I'll never forget the time I was sitting on the train, on the bench style seats, non-priority section. An old man walked in the train with a cane and stood directly in front of me. I immediately offered him my seat and in a loud voice, he refused. So the whole carriage is looking over to our direction and I offered him the seat again as he looked like he was about to fall over with the way the train was moving. He loudly refused again so I said the heck with this guy as I was embarrassed and walked off to another car.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@ savethegaijin and panda - if you want a seat, get to the station early or wait until the next train. Don't blame your lack of planning on me. And statistically, the possibility of a pregnant woman vomiting in my lap is so close to zero that I wouldn't give it a second thought.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

@ dadude - it is possible that he was just being polite it is considered rude to accept something offered to you the first time you have to try two or three times. It is also possible that he didn't want to be considered old

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@ savethegaijin - not doing it to be rude intentionally, just intentionally not getting up, rudeness is just your opinion

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

@ savethegaijin - not doing it to be rude intentionally, just intentionally not getting up, rudeness is just your opinion

No, not just hers.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

And statistically, the possibility of a pregnant woman vomiting in my lap is so close to zero that I wouldn't give it a second thought.

There goes your last hope for any form of intimacy with a woman.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Well I’ll be bashed for being old and sexist but here goes.

Im old enough to still feel embarrassed to sit down when a lady is standing - even though I know in Japan men don’t usually do that, and that there are a small number of feminists in the world who take offense at things like opening doors and giving up your seat.

If students and children gave up theirs seats for adults, people willingly gave up seats for elderly and men gave up seats for women you wouldn’t have a problem.

Some women men are always strong as oxes, but ask around. Some women going through menopause are weaker at times and many women simply have a rough time once a few days every month.

I stand for elderly, stand for women and stand so that couples, family or friends can sit together.

Because Japanese are polite you might have to ask twice, or even just get up and say you’re getting out soon, but you’ll be doing a nice thing for someone.

Stand up for a young lady and she’ll smile and tell her friends and it will make her day.

It will be sad when I get so old that women give me their seat, but until I can’t stand, I’ll be trying.

men who will argue with me are probably the type of wimp who on another thread will be complaining about the heat.

Too many girlie men these days.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

What about the young man with his bad back? What about the young woman with her bad knees? Y'all assume that the pregnant ladies and elderly are the one who deserve priority...there are no stickers for the silent invisible sufferers.

There is often more than meets the eye.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

So don't judge. But the strong can give up seats.

If i were that much in pain I'd sit, and just explain my situation if someone said anything.

This is simple. If men and kids give up seats for women and the elderly, its all good.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The biggest issue here though isn't the misunderstanding, it's the inability for so many Japanese people to speak: say something. She could have said politely, "May I sit here?". Nope, Japanese people are so afraid to talk. And they say Japanese people are so polite... Pushing a person out your way rather than saying 'Excuse me' is just plain rude. Expecting people to read your mind is your own inadequacy.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

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