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Train etiquette: Top 10 inconsiderate behaviors that tick Japanese train commuters off the most

43 Comments
By Koh Ruide, SoraNews24

Numerous train etiquette guidelines exist in Japan, and though most people follow them religiously, even the most polite of passengers can unintentionally make their fellow commuters feel uncomfortable. But what actions, exactly, would earn you an eye-roll or a shake of the head?

The Japan Private Railway Association recently gathered information from 72 railway companies and 2,686 respondents to compile an annual list of inconsiderate behavior committed at stations or in trains that exasperate Japanese passengers. Let us go through the top ten offences starting from the least to the most aggravating.

10. Eating food in crowded trains (10 percent)

In a country that prioritizes quietness when riding trains, not only will incessant chewing noises upset the heck out of people, the smell from food would, too.

9. Leaving trash or empty cans lying around (14.2 percent)

Having rubbish like slippery plastic bags or food packaging around in busy stations can be potentially hazardous, particularly during peak hours when people rush to catch their next train.

8. Putting on makeup in trains (15.1 percent)

Cosmetic products may stain commuters’ clothes, not to mention subjecting passengers to watching you perform personal grooming in front of them.

7. Riding the train drunk (15.4 percent)

Drinking is an integral part of Japanese culture, but stepping into train cars feeling buzzed and potentially inconveniencing others is not.

6. Walking while using smartphones (21.5 percent)

Fiddling with smartphones while on the move may be really convenient, but getting distracted to the point of becoming a walking disaster makes this behavior one of the most dangerous and inconsiderate in people’s eyes.

5. Playing music loud enough for others to hear through headphones (23.2 percent)

Any activity disrupting silence in trains is generally frowned upon. You might just be annoying the person next to you who is trying to read a book.

4. Rude train boarding and disembarking behavior (34.3 percent)

Refusing to give way when the doors slide open is just downright inconsiderate.

3. Inappropriate seating behavior (34.5 percent)

Spreading legs wide apart to take up more room than needed, otherwise known as manspreading, is certainly very frustrating to deal with.

2. Talking in loud voices (36.9 percent)

Whether on the phone or with friends and acquaintances, this ties in with previous points where silence is golden.

1. Bag placement etiquette (37.3 percent)

Making the top spot of inconsiderate train behaviors is the way bags are held or placed by passengers in crowded trains. Specifically, 66.2 percent of respondents indicated that rucksacks carried on the back or shoulder bags slung at the side inconvenienced them, while 9 percent did not like passengers putting their belongings on seats. Another 8.3 percent even found bags placed on the floor of train cars frustrating.

What is perhaps most surprising is that bag placement slowly crept up from 12th place in 2009 to third in 2017, and is now first place this year. Some Japanese netizens were surprised by the response to bag etiquette, while others were not:

“What!? That’s me! What’s wrong with that?”

“I’m not even bothered by it. Perfume, stinky cosmetics, and heavy-smelling shampoo are the biggest offenders for me.”

“Get rid of those rucksacks, seriously.”

“What about those who pretend to sleep to avoid giving up seats?”

What are inconsiderate behavior tat annoy you most? It seems the golden rules in Japan are to stay quiet, not take up excessive space, and to be considerate to fellow commuters. And to remember to watch where you’re standing, too.

Source: Japan Private Railway Association via Livedoor News, My Game News Flash

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- “Scholar” tops list of what Japanese boys want to be when they grow up, “restauranteur” for girls

-- Survey reveals that Japanese women’s ideal husband is surprisingly ordinary

-- Inconsiderate commuter behavior in Korea – A photo guide

© SoraNews24

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

43 Comments
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Rucksacks are a menace in crowded areas.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

How about the discusting and very noizy nose pulling, instead of quickly cleaning it with a tissue. Riding 1 hour on a crowded train with prople pilling their noses was the most discusting experience ever.

That and not giving the seats to elder or pregnant passengers.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Backpacks are a fact of life. Made to be on the back. If worn in front, bumps into the person in front of the wearer. This is just petty. I stand sideways if needed, which seems to fit into the personal space alright.

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

Vomiting on trains.

Disregard of the purpose of silver seats.

Playing loud and excruciatingly annoying music before the doors close.

Loud and unnecessary announcements in the train endlessly repeated.

Instructions shouted in panicky voices on the platform.

The first two are the result of passenger behaviour, the rest are the result of the behaviour of train companies.

Travelling on the Skytrain in Bangkok I could not help noticing how much more pleasant the announcements were. A soft female voice quietly but audibly announces the name of the next station.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Backpacks crept up to #1 because they have only recently become popular with Japanese people (Annelo bags for younger kids, and smart backpacks for business people). Until now it was always shoulder bags or briefcases. Backpacks take up space directly behind you, and it is human nature to try to keep some personal space in front of you - This makes for quite a bit of space usage for one person. For example, if you keep your backpack on your back while you are standing in front of the seats, people will have trouble passing behind you. If you shift your backpack to your front, you not only guarantee that bit of personal space in front of you, you dont take up any unnecessary space behind you. This is why they say to shift your backpack to your front on trains.... Unfortunately not many people understand this, and hence you have the #1 annoyance for other passengers right now...

9 ( +9 / -0 )

What a stupid article ! People in Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka are different. They get angry at different things. And it depends on the time of day. Salary men dominate in the morning, High school students and middies in the afternoon and College age and salary men at night. Weekends are a different crowd. Most of the groups have things they hate that are exclusive to the group.

-9 ( +2 / -11 )

Salarymen get upset at young people with headphones on who are upset with smelly do you ever bathe old people who are upset with the girl putting making up on who is upset because she forgot her lipstick at her gaijin boyfriend's, who is upset the salaryman is not giving his seat to an elderly woman, who is upset by the cell phone rude punk who is upset he just lost his video game, so he slouches and takes up two seats and upsets the salarymen who is upset with the gaijin's back pack, etc., etc.... it isn't the circle game Joni Mitchell was talking about....

1 ( +5 / -4 )

I am always puzzled by two things:

1) why would someone be bothered if another person is doing their makeup?

2) what is the difference between talking on your cell phone and talking to the person next to you? Its the same volume

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

a simple solution for those that carry backpacks on the crowded trains, take it off your back before boarding the train and place it at your feet, works great.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

people coughing in my face or people who stink bother me most...

2 ( +2 / -0 )

11 farting on trains. Should be illegal lol

Grown adults coughing and sneezing without "covering up" is also nasty, especially during cold and flu season it's like gee thanks...spread the joy...

3 ( +3 / -0 )

People using tasers.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Totally agree with afanofjapan! You need your personal space of at least 30cm, in front of you, not particularly BEHIND you. So why take up the extra space behind you on a crowded train with your backpack when you can conserve space by wearing your backpack in front of you AND guarantee that personal space at the front. It's a no-brainer and also shows a little bit of consideration for others! People who wear backpacks on their back during peak hours are saying that they don't need the space in front of their face??

2 ( +2 / -0 )

why would someone be bothered if another person is doing their makeup?

Doesn't bother me, except when they decide to put on nail polish; that stuff is nasty in a closed space.

The only thing I would add to all of the above are people who do not even make an effort to support their own body on a crowded train and just lean on others.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

A soft female voice quietly but audibly announces the name of the next station.

But isn't that what happens on Japanese trains? Most of my memories of travelling in Tokyo are of a soft female voice announcing something like, "The next station is Ikebukuro. The doors on the left-hand side will open."

As a tourist, I've always found travelling on trains throughout Japan to be a pretty pleasant experience. Lots of pleasantly-voiced and timely announcements, little jingles at the stations, and none of the behaviour described above. Obviously I either (a) don't spend enough time in Japan (I'd agree with that) or (b) I've just been lucky.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Last week on my way home from work someone had carry-out fried chicken and the smell literally had me gnashing my teeth and ready to eat the nearest passenger.

Totally understand about the backpacks. If you're riding relatively uncrowded trains sure. But try that nonsense at rush-hour in Osaka or Tokyo and you're going to feel like a human pinball.

Refusing to give way when the doors slide open is just downright inconsiderate.

This is my pet peeve of late. I'm ready to disembark as the train shrieks to a halt, and there on the platform stands some drooling idjut directly in front of the doors. B/C of course the priority at such times is that said idjut can board ASAP and find a seat that literally doesn't exist. It's always amusing to see their reaction when the doors open to reveal an irritated 2m gaijin scowling at them.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Only thing that bothers me is people who fart, forget to brush their teeth after drinking the previous night, and don't give their precious seat to elderly/pregnant women/handicapped riders. Really couldn't care less if people are talking on their phone, drunk, doing makeup, or eating (if its not rush hour).

3 ( +3 / -0 )

4. Rude train boarding and disembarking behavior (34.3 percent)

I definitely see this quite a bit during the holiday travel seasons, especially with groups cutting in line just as I and others are boarding the trains.

One other rude behavior that I've encountered with with junior and senior high students when one of them is in line and later, his/her friends get in line with the student in front of everyone else. I once blocked them as I was about to board the train and everyone behind me pushed their way through past the group of students.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Only thing that bothers me is people who fart, forget to brush their teeth after drinking the previous night, and don't give their precious seat to elderly/pregnant women/handicapped riders. Really couldn't care less if people are talking on their phone, drunk, doing makeup, or eating (if its not rush hour).

How about the nappers who move their heads sideways and lean on your shoulder.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I'm surprised "able-bodied people occupying the priority seats" is not on the list. I find this to be the most annoying, especially when I see elderly people and pregnant mothers having to stand because of this

5 ( +5 / -0 )

My pet peeve is the constant blaring of station announcements and warnings. Is the shrieking of instructions really necessary? Are commuters that stupid? My eardrum gets blown out every time I go through stations like Omotesando in the morning... SHUT UP!!!

3 ( +4 / -1 )

1) why would someone be bothered if another person is doing their makeup?

Hear hear! People get offended/annoyed by others just for being/existing these days ('another 8.3 percent even found bags placed on the floor of train cars frustrating'!!.)

Funnily (paradoxically, perhaps) enough, inconsiderate/self-entitled & easily offended/thin-skinned ppl are the norm these days (rather than 'reasonably' considerate, thoughtful, 'couldn't care less/mind my own biz' folks).

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I think the perennial worst ones are groping, especially of school girls, and upskirt photos on the station stairs and escalators.

Backpacks and rucksacks fall under live and let live. If you live centrally and want to go hiking, what are you supposed to do? Takkyubin your bag to the trailhead?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I personally can't abide people who stand in the aisles and block them when there are seats next to other passengers they could sit in. However I find the old, slow, uncomfortable trains with insufficient numbers of carriages that JR run on my line far more inconsiderate to passengers than anything other passengers do. And they charge the same fare, whether the carriages are almost tolerable or barely fit for cargo.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

why would someone be bothered if another person is doing their makeup?

Would you like it if the person next to you was shaving or clipping their nails? How about taking a dump or putting on their deodorant? Let's be inclusive and let people take a leak or a dump in the train carriage or smoke a cigarette. Lets be inclusive and let everybody do anything they want on the train.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Would you like it if the person next to you was shaving or clipping their nails? How about taking a dump or putting on their deodorant? Let's be inclusive and let people take a leak or a dump in the train carriage or smoke a cigarette. Lets be inclusive and let everybody do anything they want on the train.

What's wrong with putting on makeup on the train?

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Inappropriate seating behaviour

I hope that includes those who run in front of others to get that empty seat. Especially the priority seats. Basically, if you can run for it, YOU DON'T NEED IT!!!!!

Another one that drives me nuts is people giving up their seats for, and parents allowing their 6 year olds to have the priority seats!

5 ( +5 / -0 )

The only time I've been annoyed with someone doing their makeup on the train was when I was sat next to them and they got foundation/whitener on my clothes. I don't ride the train very much these days fortunately because rush hour sucks.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

No one has mentioned it, but why do men pick their nose while riding a train? If blowing your nose is considered gross and rude, doesn't the same apply to booger mining?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I've had two high school girls eat ramen next to me on the Keihin-Tohoku line in the Tokyo region. People may be fine with eating but I don't want dashi spilling onto my laps if the train suddenly stops.

And I don't appreciate women sitting next to me and brushing and flicking their long hair into my face.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

3. Inappropriate seating behavior (34.5 percent)

Forgot to mention how much I love it when 20 solo travelers rush into a train to individually claim window seats on two-person bench seats, which they will be forced to share in 2.3 seconds anyway. Meanwhile, that elderly couple or the mom w/the young child are forced to stand or sit separately.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I'm surprised that neither the article nor people commenting here have mentioned tobacco stench. Some guys (seldom women) wear clothes that are permeated by the stench of stale tobacco smoke. Sometimes this is enough to make my eyes water. A couple of times I've gotten off a crowded train and waited for the next one just to get away from some reeking guy. This can also be bad in crowded elevators. It's even worse when the tobacco stench is combined with some ghastly after shave scent.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Manspreading is especially annoying but also men who pinch and/or pick nonstop at spots or tiny hairs on their cheeks or chins.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I remember the smell of dried squid on the Jouban Line when I went out that way.

Just don't.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Seems to me that the root cause of the complaints listed here is the crowded nature of Japanese trains. If the trains were not so crowded, it would be easier to get away from bothersome behavior.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Make-up doesn't bother me.

The noise of someone constantly sniffing does.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

A few years ago, I was in a Washington DC metro subway around 7pm, when a 20-something got on, laser-focused on his smartphone. I was amazed he made it, safely, on board, especially with the crush of people getting on (not as bad as rush hour, but, still pretty crowded). Twenty minutes later, near the last stop, which was mine, there were only a few people left on the train. As the station drew closer, I got up from my seat to get to the door. The young man followed me, still on his smartphone, not having said a word or typing anything or even looking up, so, clearly, he was watching something engrossing. As a joke, I turned around and walked in the opposite direction the entire length of the railroad car, and repeated it two more times. The other passengers caught on and started laughing. It was then that the distracted dingbat looked up from his smartphone and out the window, then screamed, "I MISSED MY STOP!!!"

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Ah_so: A few years ago, I was on a jet, ready to leave the gate, when a woman starting painting her nails. Both I and the gentleman on her other side were dismayed at the noxious odor coming from the polish. I asked her, politely, to stop doing it. She didn't even acknowledge me. That's when all hell broke loose. An alarm started beeping near us! The entire stewarding staff approached us, realized what had happened, asked the woman to put away the nail polish, which, fortunately, she did (I guess she only pays attention to authority figures), and the rest of the flight went uneventfully. After we landed, I asked the head stewardess why the alarm went off. She said the alarms are sensitive to smoke and certain odors. I can't tell you how long it took to get the smell of that nail polish out of my nose and mind. I've also seen women putting on make-up in their mirrors WHILE DRIVING A CAR, as well as men doing the same thing. Do one's toilette at home or in a work bathroom, not in public. And no taking selfies in bathrooms; it's disgusting and demeaning!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

women who board overcrowded trains with big baby strollers and run into people or over people's feet.

12 screaming babies on commuter trains during peak hours.

people who push and shove others to try to get a seat, but then get off 1 or 2 stops later.

talking on cell phones -of course
-4 ( +0 / -4 )

1) why would someone be bothered if another person is doing their makeup?

Powders and sprays end up on the poor sods near the user, also many people have health issues with certain sprays and smells, the products can also end up on seats. To use such products in an enclosed or crowded space is anti-social and demonstrates a basic lack of manners. Ditto for those who insist on eating on public transport.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I'm surprised that neither the article nor people commenting here have mentioned tobacco stench. Some guys...

And how do you think you smell to others? I can almost smell the muscle tension from here. We all smell, just differently.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

By this standard, Japanese people would died of heart attack if they visit china. Even on the high speed rail, you'll find families slurping on instant noodles, men playing cards, people talking loudly on phone, etc.

I only drink red wine when I travel on high speed rail in china.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

I think a HUGE problem with commuting on trains and subways in Japan is all decorum goes out the door during the peak commute hours. I've seen videos on YouTube of commuters squeezing onto trains on the JR East Saikyo Line in Tokyo, the Tokyu lines as the trains get closer to Shibuya Station, and Okakyu and Keio trains as they approach Shinjuku Station from the west. I'm actually kind of amazed at the reasonably well-behaved commuters considering the crowded conditions on the train.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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