Photo: Pakutaso

An often-forgotten part of Japanese train etiquette that we should all keep in mind

By Casey Baseel, SoraNews24

A lot of the etiquette guidelines for riding trains in Japan are pretty well-known. The most famous is that the specially marked seats at the corner of the carriages are priority seats for elderly, disabled, or pregnant passengers. You’re asked to refrain from talking on your mobile phone, since Japan likes quiet, and while you can get away with bite-sized snacks or maybe a rice ball, eating anything larger than that on a commuter train is generally frowned upon.

But there’s another bit of train etiquette that the particularly polite follow, but which often gets forgotten. Imagine that you step onto a train, but all the seats are taken. If you’re going to have to stand, the place to do it is at the end of the bench seat, next to the door.

There’s a bit of empty space between the edge of the door and the start of the seats, and if you can stake out that position, you can secure a bit more personal space since the area directly in front of the door is usually the last part of the train to fill up. Being next to the door also makes it easy to get off the train when your arrive at your stop.

This is also generally the most comfortable spot to stand on the train, since you can lean against the interior wall to take some of the wight off the soles of your feet. However, sometimes people also lean their backs against the crossbar at the edge of the bench.

Photo: Pakutaso

This becomes a problem if the person standing there is wearing a backpack or other bag slung backwards over their shoulder. As shown in these illustrations from Japanese Twitter user @ukai, basic biomechanics mean that if you’re resting your back or butt on the outside edge of the bench frame, you’re going to smack the person sitting there in the head with your bag.


“I keep getting terrorized by this when I sit at the edge of the bench (people just don’t understand),” tweeted @ukai. But while the people who keep hitting him man not understand his plight, plenty of other Twitter users do, with tens of thousands of sympathetic train and subway passengers retweeting and liking the two-panel slice of unpleasant life riding the rails.

It’s also worth pointing out that this isn’t something to be aware of only if you’re carrying a bag. If you’ve got particularly long hair, or a jacket with a sizeable hood, those can also end up draping down on the person sitting at the edge of the bench, so if you’re going to plant your feet at the prime standing spot next to the door, make sure to check your six and make sure you and your belongings aren’t spilling over the edge.

Source: Twitter/@ukai via IT Media

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

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

-- Can you guess where this amazing Japanese commuter train is hiding some extra seats? 【Video】

-- All aboard Tokyo’s Love Train!

© SoraNews24

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

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It does make it harder, but doesn't prevent it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Does it count when an elderly stands waiting in front of an able-bodied man who is taking priority seat. An the guy pretends to be sleeping? I hope these people grow up and admit they are just shutting eyelids.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Some newer trains have a partition / screen at the ends of the seat rows to prevent this kind of thing.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The low risk of crime on Japanese trains is obviously a great thing, but that doesn't mean they are perfect in every other way. Services in Japan are open for criticism, same as everything else, everywhere else.

I'll also point out that the original article was written based on a tweet/gripe from a Japanese person, so bringing in other countries is doubly-unnecessary as this isn't 'just another gaijin gripe'.

Personally, I've more or less stopped sitting in that seat for this reason. I haven't had any serious issues, just some irritation at people who lean in too close (but without actually coming into contact so I don't feel justified in pushing/asking them to move).

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Absolutely on point gaijin. This country is such an oxymoron. The noise thing is just the tip.of it. I really do think Japanese people can't live without ambient noise of some sort consummately on in the background.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

THANKYOU!! I totally agree. I hate..HATE it when people lean over the bars. Its as if to say "look at my _ss! Its in your face" so damn fricken rude!!!!

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I usually just ignore it because there's very little space in the train during the rush hour, and it is often impossible to keep a distance from other people, you just got squeezed and cannot move in any direction. What really bothers me to the edge of nervous breakdown is how noisy and disturbing trains and stations are - endless, repeating, super annoying and loud public announcements everywhere, ads screaming at you from every wall and a window, from TV screens and even hanging from the roof of the train, bumping on your head when you are passing by. Is this what I'm paying for?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I sometimes get whacked in head on the crowded local bus stuffed with students some of whom seem oblivious to the fact they've got a backpack on the rear.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

This does happen. If I sit there and it happens to me I gently but firmly push the offending object away. I think people usually get it. When I'm the one standing there I'm careful to not hit the person sitting down. However, I think JR trains have a better separating wall than other train lines so it's not usually a problem on JR.

Now if we could just get all the people to stop constantly sniffling and hitting people with their backpacks (because they don't take them off their back while standing in the middle of the train)...

4 ( +4 / -0 )

gaijintravellerToday 08:53 am JST

Well put.....the constant bombardment of rules and "do this" , "don't do that" makes living seem more like a straitjacket!

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Stupid article that bears no resemblance to the reality of the Metro.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I often wonder if all of the JT posters either dislike living in Japan or just think they are superior to the Japanese people. If I compare riding a train in the U.S. or Europe to riding a train in Japan....well....there is no comparison. The train cars are generally covered in graffiti, smell like someone urinated in the train, or are otherwise disgusting. The people are all over the place. The lack of understanding of basic manners is lacking and in the country of my citizenship (the U.S.) you have the chance of being robbed, mugged, or perhaps worse.

In the end. I like the Japanese trains.

7 ( +11 / -4 )

I don't ever experience trains as packed as a Tokyo commute, but when I stand I always make sure to do in the aisle, not near the doors. Less people bumping and brushing by that way and there's often more breathing room even if the areas near the doors get crowded up. I don't like the area mentioned in this article because too many people brush and squeeze by in and out the door, and I feel like I'm in the way.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

well sorry to say there is no train etiquette on Tokyo morning subway rush by the mobs. you fight fight fight and push push push. it is the rare soul who says sumimasen for pushing or elbowing you.

Regarding sitting in the end seat, "NO THANKS"!!! Let's just say a lot of men use it as an opportunity to pass gas in your face. On one occasion a large man made a PSSSSTTT sound, and the wisp of hair on the girl flew gently in the "breeze" then she made a totally disgusted face. In my country that would lead to a major confrontation, but not in Nippon on that smelly day.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

“I keep getting terrorized by this when I sit at the edge of the bench (people just don’t understand),”

A simple "sumimasen" will solve the issue.

I think the existence of so many rules and written etiquette shows the lack of common sense and genuine consideration for others.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

"Since Japan likes quiet"? You must be joking. It is the noisiest country I have ever been too. It is not people talking on phones in the problem, it is PA system that are the problem. The endless don't-use-your-phone and other announcements on JR are much more disturbing than anyone actually using their phone. Even the countryside can be noisy with announcement telling people it is lunchtime are telling children it is time to go home or telling people in the middle of nowhere to keep their dog on a leash.

In my home country there are no silver seats, or at least there were none when I lived there. Things may have changed since I left. People have the manners to stand up and offer their seats to those in need. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say every seat was a silver seat.

6 ( +12 / -6 )

"This is a public service announcement, on behalf of the passive-aggressive society"

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Japanese train etiquette is an oxymoron. Likewise for driving etiquette.

5 ( +11 / -6 )

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