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Young people don't think much of elders' manners: survey

By Philip Kendall

When it comes to manners and social etiquette in Japan, the complaints being made are usually toward the younger generation. People listen to music too loudly on trains, apply make-up or style their hair, use mobile phones where they shouldn’t; the usual stuff.

But a recent survey suggests that younger people are becoming increasingly agitated by their elders’ manners, with many respondents listing numerous examples of instances where an older person has acted in a way that they considered rude or anti-social.

A total of 393 male My Navi News users responded to the multiple-choice Internet survey asking “At what times do you feel that older people’s social conduct is worse than that of the younger generation?”

The results were as follows: -- Spitting at the side of the street (34.4%) -- Throwing cigarette butts on the ground in public spaces (25.7%) -- Their way of grabbing seats on public transport (24.7%) -- Using mobile phones in places like trains, buses and cafes (24.2%)

The top result, however, with a whopping 43.3% of respondents saying that they had witnessed the behavior, was “older people embarking and disembarking public transport”, with many responders commenting that they often saw old people pushing forward or in some cases boarding a train or bus before passengers had even had a chance to get off -- something that is considered a common courtesy in most countries and something of a golden rule as far as transport in Japan goes.

“I appreciate that older people want to sit down on public transport, but I wish they could respect the social rules more,” commented one man. “There are some old people who actually charge into trains just to grab a seat,” said another.

In Japan, there are designated priority seats available in every train carriage that are specially coloured and plastered with signs in Japanese and English alerting train users to the fact that the seats must be given up for elderly or disabled people or pregnant or expecting mothers. And for those whose language isn’t listed, there are clear cartoon images emphasising who the seats are mainly intended for. Anyone can use the seats, but they are obliged to give them up should a “priority passenger” board the train.

Of course, these seats often fill up quickly, but the sight of a person standing to offer their (non-priority) seat to an elderly person on a crowded train is by no means uncommon, begging the question why so many older people are so quick to forget their manners and shove their way onto a train to grab a vacant seat.

“I see older people jumping onto trains before others have even had a chance to get off pretty much every day,” said a 25-year-old finance worker. “There are a lot of people in their forties and fifties who are entirely physically able but who don’t give up their seat to elderly people,” added another.

Meanwhile, the topic of older people using mobile phones on public transport, while only coming in fourth place on the list, clearly irked a number of internet users.

“When it comes to people talking on their phones on trains, older people are by far the worst. I often see them chatting away while everyone else is being quiet, and they always have the most ridiculously loud ring tones,” came the response from a 27-year-old electrical engineer. “There are a lot of people who make business calls on the train,” added another.

There might be more than a grain of truth to this.

More often than not, if a phone goes off on a train or bus, it belongs to a person of more advanced years. Everyone makes mistakes, and I’m sure we’ve all been caught out and forgotten to switch our phone to discrete or “manner” mode at some point when using public transport, but the worst offenders are those who, having let their phone ring once, put it back in their bag without switching the sound off, only for it to ring again moments later, or those older guys who actually take the call in order to say that they can’t take the call. Were we 20 minutes from the next station, passengers might be a little more forgiving, but when the average duration between stops in Tokyo is around two minutes, commuters are perhaps entitled to be annoyed when a fellow passenger can’t hold on a little while longer to take their call.

On the subject of those cigarette-butt flickers, the respondents to the survey were equally vocal.

“It’s almost as if, up until now, throwing your used cigarette onto the street was the correct thing to do,” sparked a 29-year-old engineer. A 31-year-old, meanwhile, simply can’t get over how blatantly some people discard their cigarettes, saying: “It amazes me how they do it with such a blank look on their face.”

Many municipalities are introducing smoking bans on their streets, and have created dedicated smoking areas in front of station and bus stops. Of course, this often results in commuters having to walk alongside a small cornered-off area filled with smokers like some kind of warped human zoo, and avoiding their smoke isn’t always possible, but at least it helps stop people strolling through the crowded streets sharing their smoke like the guy I had the pleasure of meeting last weekend.

As well as hoping to cut down instances of smoke annoyance, many cities’ smoking bans were introduced both to cut down on the number of improperly disposed cigarettes, but also because of the danger carrying a lit cigarette in a crowded area can cause, as exhibited when a young girl lost the use of an eye when one man’s cigarette, held at waist height, accidentally found its way into her face…

As for those dirty spitters, respondents had some pretty harsh things to say:

-- “It’s disgusting. I wish people wouldn’t do it.” -- “When people do that, it really shows how little they care about their surroundings and keeping their town looking nice.” -- “I wish they wouldn’t do it- it makes me feel physically sick.” -- “When it comes to spitting in the street, it’s nearly always older people. The public street is not your home.”

We’d never go so far as to argue that the younger generation is entirely without sin, and there are, of course, plenty of 40-plus folks out there who would be just as shocked at these displays of abhorrent behavior, but perhaps it’s time that we saw a few more commercial and public service announcements aimed at a wider age group and not just the younger generation? After all, how can we hope to moan about “the youth of today” while the older generation are providing such an awful example?

Source: NicoNico News

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Agreed with everything said, lets hope the young people dont pick up the same habits. Ive seen old people spitting inside the station on the stairs, wtf is up with these people, seriously.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

It floats both ways. One thing I don't like is the way old people stare at me with judge full eyes because I am white... Don't think I am being overboard, to all other gaijin, you must agree with me right?

-1 ( +6 / -7 )

I don't disagree with the article but it does go both ways. The other generation are rude in the own ways and the younger generation in their own way.

What irks me the most is when I see younger generation in the priority seat of the train. I've seen old folks (and I mean old) standing right in front of them and these people don't give up their seat! When I was pregnant, my family and I went on a trip to Hokkaido. I wasn't offered a seat when I was hella big. I even asked these kids to get up and they just looked at me. WTF?! But...When I got to Hokkaido, EVERYONE around me was nice!! They offered their seat, helped me out of the train (hubby had the luggages and I was holding my other son's hand), showed us where the elevator was, etc. Then I come back to Tokyo and back to rudeness!

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Totally agree, the latest subway posters irritate me. It's usually not the teenagers who are the problem.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

yeah, i see it both ways too.........older people are a bit oblivious, especially in the supermarket......but heh, if ya live here, ya live it there way!!! :)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

lol, priority seats in japan are always occupied by young people that have the "stare at your knees" syndrome: they never look up from their knees, and never notice that an elderly is standing right in front of them.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Totally agree.

When old people try to barge past me to get on the train for a seat, they get a body check.

Why should they get away with being bad mannered just because they're old?

2 ( +5 / -3 )

I don't think Japanese people are rude at all. I hate to stereotype but the worst are Chinese tourists in Japan have an attitude of first in first served, I was waiting in in front of a seat on a train the person got up I went to sit down and a young woman just jumped in front of me from the side, lucky there was another seat next to her but had there not I would have asked her to kindly move as I was waiting.... the same thing happened to me at disneyland, a group of chinese tourists took it upon themselves to push in front of me as I had not moved the required 30cm's forward when the lined moved, I kindly moved forward anyway pushing them aside.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

well , I offered one time my seat to a old lady , but she noticed I was foreigner , she got angry and moved to another car, cursing me and stuff , I just chilled.

train manner starts from outside , if you go through some alley , you will see ojiisans peeing on the side of the streets or picking their noses and looking the size of it, also old ladies on their bicycles expecting you to move away from their way as if they own the sidewalk , Elders become the example , dont be part of the problem!

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Ha, ha! Take that, old people!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Totally disagree with the perception. . . Surveys are not necessarily "ACCURATE" because they can be demographically - biased. . . .It is the younger generation -esp those in the late teens and early 20s- - - --that lack a sense of social propriety - - ............Girls putting on makeup in train, sitting with their short little skirts and legs apart - - and guys just generaaly being cocky and also legs spread way asunder . . . WHAT A TURN OFF !!! !

-10 ( +2 / -12 )

Why did this survey only ask men for their opinion?

I ride the trains and subways all the time in Tokyo and really, the %age of rudeness is pretty tiny.

Love those chikatetsu manners posters, although I prefer the pre-3/11 series the same ad agency produced, which were quite nuanced and often comedic.

Still wish the ladies would stop the eye-making-up with pointed objects near their eyes in the swaying train. That is just idiotic.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Girls putting on makeup in train,

Why is putting make-up on so bad??????? It doesn't bother be in the slightest. Salarymen who stink of cigarettes and coffee are a billion times worse.

Still wish the ladies would stop the eye-making-up with pointed objects near their eyes in the swaying train. That is just idiotic.

So what?! It's their eye they're doing it to.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Not only on trains. Anyone else had an elder push in front of you in a supermarket with a basket full of items? I have like 1-2 things and then that happens.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

i've been on trains for years albeit only in the US and seen many people work on laptops, listen to music, talk on phones, putting on makeup...never an issue

how is it that its such a peeve in jp?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Two of the most annoyingly loud Japanese people I sat near in a Shinkansen, were drunk and proclaiming that Chinese people had no manners; and random things that "only exist in Japan". Typical.

c1400, you mentioned supermarkets and the oldies there are pretty territorial, but in my experience...Hell hath no fury like an old Japanese woman rushing to an ATM- it's like getting between a hippo and its mother!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

" the sight of a person standing to offer their (non-priority) seat to an elderly person on a crowded train is by no means uncommon"

I agree. I think you will find a leprechaun riding a unicorn before you see that especially during rush hours

"It floats both ways. One thing I don't like is the way old people stare at me with judge full eyes because I am white... Don't think I am being overboard, to all other gaijin, you must agree with me right?"

That used to bug me. Now they get the Heath Ledger joker smile anytime it's longer than 3 secs.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Japan has the highest population of people over 60. Some may not have refined manners, but the same goes for younger people. The survey tells little if nothing about actual numbers or instances where either group is at fault. Give the elderly a break and vow not to repeat what irritates you.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I called the attention of one elderly guy when he was about to dispose his empty can coffee on a bush in the sidewalk...this was the second time I've seen an elder do such thing...so..it's not only the young.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I wanna add to the least: yelling and talking down to people because they are older. If they wanna tell a high school student to not talk on the phone while on the train, fine. Yelling at them like teachers do to students in public schools and making a whole show, that pisses me off really bad. And I'm sure everyone around feel the same way.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

“When it comes to people talking on their phones on trains, older people are by far the worst. I often see them chatting away while everyone else is being quiet, and they always have the most ridiculously loud ring tones,” came the response from a 27-year-old electrical engineer. “There are a lot of people who make business calls on the train,” added another.

Hit the nail on the head. They'll more often than not happily answer their phone (which isn't on vibrate of course) and proceed to talk about their day's plans.

Worst for me is elderly women barging their way into places like they're owed something. Then I think "our generation are the ones paying for YOUR healthcare" (which happens to be outrageously expensive).

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Ok, there is a lot to unpackage here. So here's I go:

-- I tell you, how many countries do you see the younguns complaining about the bad manners of their elders?

-- Anyone who doubts the bad manners of older Japanese are invited to ride the Nankai line in Osaka. Holy Crap!

-- This is a class issue, as my Nankai example shows. The sad thing is there are plenty of poorer working class Japanese who never finished their schooling. They wear cheap, garish clothes, or cheap drab cloths, and have, well, have the manner of that working class people often have. Thank goodness Japan is civilized enough to provide everyone with health care....

-- The flip-side to being well-mannered, as many Younguns are, is they have no balls. I mean, they got no balls. They would wait in line even if it killed them. Sheeeeee0%t, they, do.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Well these young folks sure make some real good valid points. I for one absolutely hate those that spit in public, especially those that spit right in front of you, as though they are disrespecting you or something. Really wtf is up with that i don't know. I've also see the odd obasan pushing and shoving their way into the train, before all the passengers disembark properly one too many times.

2 ( +2 / -0 )


"Manner working class people often have" What are you a middle class mummies boy, a toffee nose twit or troll?

I am from working class background and have more manners than stereotype a large segment of society th way you have.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Well since in Japan nobody will call out old people for doing something rude out of 'politeness' they can do whatever they want. I once saw some good lady practically sneeze on some guy on the subway and he didn't even give her a disapproving look.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

It goes both ways and not just in Japan. I get tired of being pushed at the supermarket by obaasans....I usuallly tell them not to push! It was worse when I was pregnant, it didnt matter that I was the size of a small house...they are just in a hurry to go wherever!!!! I even yelled at an ojisan for pushing me off the train......(blame it on the hormones!)......funny he was very apologetic!!! But I had the same argument with my grandmother a few years ago about how some older generations are quite rude! Its everywhere!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I really can't understand why it is rude to talk on your phone on the train or bus, it's not rude in any other country. Sure if you are yelling and making a fool out of yourself but rude?

I think it rude that people think it is rude.

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

I first got to Japan in 1970. At that time, it seemed to be accepted that little old ladies would be pushing you in the small of your back (with their hands if not with their umbrellas) in their efforts to get out of a crowded subway before others. Also, because it was so common in the 1970s, I find it curious that public urination was not mentioned in the current survey.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

At last! It has been a long time coming, but finally we're allowed to mention the nausea that dare not speak its name.

When there is a young lady on one seat beautifying herself, and a shiny-suited 50something, finger up his nose, sighing those paint-blistering coffee-cigarette-and halitosis yawns with his legs spread across two seats, or standing, locking his hands on the handrail right next to the door, treating every attempt to get past him to the area of space further along the carriage like the Battle of the Bulge, leaning into the incursion with the yellow armpits of his white shirt sending out olfactory headbutts, guess what? The popsy with mascara isn't the problem you have to print posters about.

And cechanju - you're absolutely right. In 17 years here I've never seen the courtesy seats obstructed by two canoodling teenagers. But Two-arse Tanaka is sucking his denture plate or picking his ears in there three times a week.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

They should just make an elderly car, like the women's only car. Course, I never sit on a train, except for long distance rides (like 30+ minutes). Although, even then, I tend to stand. Like the ride from Tachikawa to Shinjuku.

Course all of that stuff is something you'll see in Japan or any other country really. I don't do any of that stuff, but I've become indifferent to it. Maybe it's just cause I'm very tolerant.

I do think they should disallow people to smoke while walking down those crowded streets, but if such a thing happens, they need to create more smoking areas. I can only think of like 2 locations in Akihabara. Unless more have popped up after I left. I'm a smoker myself and I don't smoke and walk, but I don't search out these smoking areas. I simply walk to an area with no people and smoke there. I hold onto my cigarette butts until I find a trash can or a storm drain. I smoke Camels, they're bio-degradable, so no biggie to toss it. Don't think any other brand is, as they use fiberglass/plastic type filters. Not cotton like Camels.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

In a sushi restaurant the other day and saw two jhs girls sleeping at their table....must have been the cesium tho...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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