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Do it at home: Train manners in Japan

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By Japheth Worthy

I must say that I really enjoy the rail system in Japan. Coming from Motor City (Detroit), that statement can be seen as a form of heresy. When I first came to Japan, though, I would use trains to venture out into the city almost every weekend, but ever since I moved an hour and a half away from my job, I use the train every single day. While riding, it is not unusual to see someone engaging in “inappropriate behavior.”

Awhile back, there was a survey that asked the average Japanese citizen this question: “What do you consider bad manners on a train or subway?” This survey showed that an overwhelming number of Japanese people thought that sitting improperly – one person taking up two spaces – was by far the worst way one could behave on a train. I have asked Japanese friends/colleagues their thoughts and almost everyone had “sitting improperly” first or second on their own personal lists, thus somewhat validating the results of the survey. This got me thinking as to what I consider bad manners on a train.

It goes without saying, that bad manners are subjective – what is bad to one might not be (so) bad to another. Personally, I am not offended when someone takes up more than one space on the train bench. My reasoning comes from the fact that Americans value their personal space. We don’t really like sitting or being so close to people so we don’t mind if some individuals take matters into their own hands and try to create “breathing room.” In fact, we (fellow Americans) may be some of the same culprits taking up more than his or her share.

First of all, I do not like people sitting in the priority seats when they know good and well that they are neither disabled, pregnant, nor elderly. I have had to tell a young man to get up out of his seat and allow an elderly woman – holding a shopping bag in one hand and a cane in the other – to sit down in his place. This kind of behavior can be considered gauche no matter where it is, but it is especially deplorable when it takes place in the priority seat area. I have even seen older ladies lose their balance and fall in the lap of someone sitting and that person still refuses to give up his or her seat.

Another thing I hate is seeing a man shave or a woman put on makeup in the train – a moving train, nonetheless. I really think it is irrelevant if that person is running late and had no time to do it at home. My female friends tell me that I don’t know what it is like to be a woman and how interminable it is to get ready in the morning. That is very true; I have no idea about having to blow-dry my hair, curl (or straighten) it, and put on makeup in preparation for the day. But I do know that those activities should be done in a restroom; they can be done in the train station’s restroom or the one at your job, not in the train. Simply put: I find it very crass. It is equally as bad when I see a man break out his electric razor and begin shaving, sometimes with hilarious consequences (remember that the train is moving.)

I know many people have experienced this: You are riding the train, checking your email or reading a book, and suddenly someone’s head drops on your shoulder. The head is from someone who has just fallen asleep. I understand the monotony of the train can induce sleep, especially if you had a particularly busy day, but I think more people have to control themselves. I do not want anyone, regardless of age, sex, or sexual orientation, violating my personal space by placing a part of their body on mine. Infuriation sets in when the person in question reeks of alcohol and sweat.

Like I said, I enjoy the trains in Japan, but every so often there is a need to vent.

© Japan Today

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79 Comments
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Well said.

Especially the parts about priority seats and people sleeping on your shoulder. I've shoved them the other way in my time, the alternative being to suddenly stand up so they fall sideways. I've never seen a man shaving on a train though, but whenever I see a woman putting on her face I hope the train will jerk unexpectedly so I can see how much mess her mascara or lipstick make when streaked across her face. Unfortunately they seem capable of avoiding such mishaps though. Shame.

When it comes to priority seats, I feel that the class of person who sits in them despite being perfectly healthy, fit, and able, is just the sort of person who would refuse to give up their seat to someone in need, and also the sort of person who would use their mobile phone despite clear signs telling them not to. No surprise that it happens all the time then. But the people in the normal seats are actually more likely to give up their seat to someone in more need, as happened to me frequently when I was pregnant. I never bothered going near the full priority seats as I know what people there are like, but standing in front of a young lady in a normal seat always resulted in her jumping up and kindly offering me her seat. Very nice of them I must say.

The thing he forgets to mention is that Japanese people force their way onto trains that are already dangerously full. I really hate that, and refuse to go near a train in rush hour because it's just plain rude and nasty.

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Fussing with hair, doing make up, and the head on the shoulders are my biggest 3 gripes. the priority seating is annoying, but since I cannot know the physical condition of the offending person I will not raise a stink - it is a self-regulating system, not a system for self-appointed seating police.

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I'm surprised no one complained about eating,then again,not too many people do it,save we heathen foreigners. I've been glared at for snarfing down an onigiri or pastry ,on the regular JR lines in Tokyo .What can I say. If I'm hungry,I have to nibble en route.

But I ,personally, hated being groped and harrassed by drunken ,stinking ,salary men and the like. I guess its a gaijin girl issue if no Japanese women complain about it.

Butr I did once have a very unusual experience on the Inokashira line. I was coming back from Kichijoji,going to Shibuya,and the train was packed .So my friend and I were smushed next to a Japanese woman,that had to be over 65.

She had on a sporty ,short, Ava Gardner wig,but her thin, purplish white hair, was peeking out from underneath. She was completely engrossed in a J trade newspaper of some kind,so she didn't pay us any mind. My friend and I couldn't help but glance at her,and we both spotted the pictures and ads in the paper. They were for lesbian trysting and hook ups. The whole newspaper for for lesbian woman in the Tokyo area,looking for love and lust.

And hey,I'm not homophobic in any way.I'm from NYC for Gods sake,but it was just somehow disconcerting to see this little old woman ,apparently salivating over the ads and articles. It would have been just as odd,given this womans age, if it were full of heterosexual ads of the same kind.

So she must have felt our eyes upon her,and she closed up the paper and put it aside. That lasted all of about 5 minutes. It was open ,with her nose buried back in it for most of the remainder of the trip. I always wondered if she was gay,and led a straight life,so she could only indulge herself on he train.

It didn't bother me ,but it was one of the oddest experiences ,which didn't involve slary man groping or leering ,that I ,personally,had on a train in Japan. Yatta ....

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I don't understand what's wrong with putting makeup on in public... It's not gross, revealing, doesn't make much noise, usually does not make a mess... However, nail polish is terrible because of the smell... definitely something for home or salon only. I've never seen a shaver though... If electric, the electric buzz would be annoying.

Other things that don't bother me are phones (as long as not obnoxiously loud), magazines, pocket consoles, etc.

Anyways, one should not take up more than one seat on a crowded train, should trade with an obviously struggling person standing up, and should keep to themselves as much as possible (head on shoulder is just weird).

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Kids, they should never use public transportation. They cry, they play.. They're dumb

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I hate it when people clip their nails on the train. Yes, I've seen it. Some women put on makeup to get attention, so I just ignore them.

The absolute worst behavior I've seen is people spitting on the floor in buses and trains. I will not stand for that, no matter what country, and have called out several people for doing it.

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Actually I like to see women putting makeup on trains, its entertaining. Stand in front of them and STARE, eventually you will see the hand putting on lipstick etc begin to tremble. Works even better in summer if your wearing shades.

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I agree with Icewind007. Could someone please explain why putting on makeup on the train is considered bad manners? Activities such as taking up two seats, sitting in the priority seats, groping someone, listening to music that is too loud, eating food that has a foul smell, playing video games with the sound on, picking one's nose, or reading a large newspaper on a crowed train all directly disturb others on the train in someway. Putting on make-up does not seem much different than reading a small book on the train or playing with a Nintendo DS. Japheth Worthy claims putting makeup on the train is 'crass', but that is not really a strong argument.

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The other day someone went for a smoke in the toilet and it stunk out the whole carriage. That was really incredible, I was tempted to pull the emergency cord and claim I smelt a fire.

I hate when people do not stand aside to let people off the train, instead barging through them to get on. (old women seem worst offenders of this).

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The more people complain, the less sympathetic I am. Sure people will seem to have their worst behavior saved for the train, but there is nothing to do about it. Let's face it, when we enter a train, we are not going to a night at the opera, we are entering the monkey cage at the zoo.

Eating, sleeping, staring... really... what can one expect? If people have no self respect, how am I supposed to give it to them? Are they going to read Japheth's column, with all of its "nonethelesses," "gauches," and "interminables?" Probably not. Look people, you can get twisted up about it, or just sit back and enjoy the show.

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Yeap, I've seen it all too in Japan. Spitting by salarymen inside the trains, projectile vomiting, make-up to get attention (I, like The758, ignore them), men shaving themselves, fights (and making-up by cowards), drunks, mentally disabled (who should have been with their parents) running amok, young people sitting in priority seats, people eating junk food that stink up the whole carriage, transvestites in miniskirts who couldn't be bothered to shave their legs, etc. I've had two high school girls eat RAMEN next to me on the Keihin line in the morning. Ironically, I've never seen chikans in action though.

The writer says:

Personally, I am not offended when someone takes up more than one space on the train bench.

Which is why fights break out on the buses in San Francisco. Go to youtube and type in San Francisco, bus and fight, and you'll see why it's never a good idea to put your bags on the seat and refuse to let others sit down. And throwing the first punch does NOT help.

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My top evil behaviors.

Don't cough on me, cover your mouth! Same applies to sneezes and other gotesque expulsions of germs.

Don't block the door!!!!!!! Let people on or off the train geniuses.

Agree. Don't occupy priority seats if someone deserving needs it more than you do.

Stop sleeping on me.

The absolute worst. If you are so drunk you are going to get sick, do it somewhere other than the train. This is the one act that makes me feel like harming the culprit. Disgusting.

Please make your porn viewing habits a private matter. This is far to common. And often some old guy leering at naked photos or drawings of school girls. It is bad enough that you are lusting over children or images designed to inspire thoughts of children, but doing it on the train?!?!?!

Anyone who thinks Japan is highly mannered just needs to ride Chuo line any evening of the week. And for a vivid example of reality, try Friday night.

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The other day someone went for a smoke in the toilet and it stunk out the whole carriage.

Would you rather smell cigarette smoke or another smell he may be producing? I think you should be glad you smelt a smoke...some of those on board toilets are revolting.

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I totally agree about the priority seats. It also offends me that a lot of the people who do that see a perfectly fine spot that just happens to be near (not even next to) a gaijin, but they won't take it. It's not that I'm mad that they won't sit next to me or my friends personally, but that they would rather take away the seat from an old lady who needs it just so they don't have to be next to foreigner. What sense does that make? It doesn't happen all the time, but when it does, it's kind of irritating.

Other than that though, most of my train rides have been fairly pleasant. I've never seen groping, or spitting, and people eat on the trains, but that's never bothered me. Though a high school kid did once have an entire carton of juice and he spilled a bit of it and didn't bother to clean it up. Rude that he would just leave it on the floor, but that's probably the worst I've seen.

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If it directly affects me, I'll do something about it. This would be guys taking up too much space, etc. Nobody has ever fallen asleep on me.

I could give two rips about girls putting on makeup.

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Ive never understood why people get offended by a girl putting her make-up on whilst riding the train. Its not gross, and it doesnt affect me at all. All the other stuff (violating personal space, unhygenic behaviour, selfish behaviour, guys looking at porn etc) I understand completely.

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Add one more. The bully.

I have seen several arrogant guys bully people out of their seats. Usually they bully some poor solitary girl. When I tried to intervene once my Japanese friend freaked out and stopped me. But I was shocked to see guys sitting right by the young girl let this old dirt bag shout and intimidate this girl.

A few of these guys have tried this stunt with me too. And I stared them down. In truth I look and am pretty harmless. But a bully will almost always back down when confronted by someone unwilling to be bullied.

I wish more people would defend the weak on trains. I see far too many examples of dirtbag guys acting out against women or other softer looking people.

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seems this topic never gets boring to most people. will we get the 'what bad manners on planes annoys you most?' one again soon? it's been a few months

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I was going to say, didn't we have an article on this like a week ago??

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"we (fellow Americans) may be some of the same culprits taking up more than his or her share" --- well if you are talking about the ones that live here, more often than not, this is not the case. However the tourists usually cant help this since they are 42X the size of the average Japanese person.

Getting drunk and stinking up the train is pretty high on my list, as is the attitude, that mostly older Japanese have, where they find it okay to throw elbows and push their way into or out of the train, as if no one else is trying to get out. I saw one drunk *@&hole elbow someone right in the spine and then try to play it off like he didnt when the guy got near punching him in the face. I would have totally gone to the cops with the guy if he would have punched him and acted as a witness that the drunk ass-wipe elbowed him pretty damned hard. Im talking mosh pit style, he REALLY hit him. Had that have been me, im fairly certain id have spent the night in the police station.

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Being next to a fat guy on a train ain't so bad. Unless he tries to steal my ice cream. Then I'd get mad.

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"Crowded" was the Chuo Line from Mitaka to Ichigaya in the late 1960's! Sometimes I had to go to Ochanomizu before I could get off and then go back to Ichigaya. At 75, I'm now able to get away with a little game. When I do get a seat in the "elderly, etc." section and someone gets out a cell phone I point at the sign and then at my heart. Nearly every time they either more or put it away. And, while I've never asked anyone to move so that I could sit down, I have asked so that another obviously "elderly" could get a seat as well as chased junior high brats away when there were still plenty of ordinary seats left. By the way--I don't have a heart problem.

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I also don't like some of the behavior on trains in Japan. However, I find it kind of interesting when I read stories of how us gaijin take it upon ourselves to lay down the law on Japanese trains; especially considering the fact that: a)we are not native to Japan, and b)we are basing our condemnation on our subjective perspective regarding what we consider bad manners.

To quote the article:

It goes without saying, that bad manners are subjective– what is bad to one might not be (so) bad to another.

So I can't help but wonder what I would think if I were a native Japanese watching someone yell at some kid or some old lady based on their own subjective criteria of what constitutes "bad manners." On one hand, if I shared the same criteria for what constitutes bad manners, I imagine that I would be relieved that someone had the guts to speak up. On the other hand I imagine I would also feel like it is extremely pretencious for someone to take it upon themselves to enforce their subjective values on a culture that is not native to them; which imo also kind of shows a lack of understanding of intercultural perspective; something that I personally feel should be understood by anyone living or traveling internationally.

But despite my contemplation of the issue, once in a while I still find myself acting as the 'manner police' on Japanese trains (I can't help but get irritated when seemingly young and healthy people won't give up their seats for the old folk.)

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I think I know why old women barge onto trains. It's because otherwise they have a good chance of not being able to sit down. Priority seats get filled by young people who pretend to sleep (out of sight, out of mind when it comes to old people standing near them).

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typical. There are so many books about "living in Japan" that follow the same line as this commentary. "XY in Japan is really great (actually better than at home), but..." ...if I go ahead and apply my own set of values to the community I chose to live in, there are a ton of things to critizice. Just stop at the "but". Train systems in J are marvellous. That includes people on the train. I would much rather ride a full Yamanote for 5 hours straight than an almost empty metro back in Europe for 30 min. In general, people here are considerate about their surroundings and act accordingly. Now if that doesn't fit your "personal space" concept, how is that their problem? Stinking, being loud in conversation, being loud on the cell phone, asking for money, dealing drugs, drinking beer etc. is not considered "polite" in Europe, yet I saw it every day in the metro. At least the Japanese are well-behaved on their own terms, how ridiculous to go ahead and critizece them for not meeting someone else's, especially when you openly commit that you don't value their rules either (regarding multiple seats per person)... Sure, not everything is perfect, but just blindly staring at the "annoying" side is just another way of clinging to culture shock. Look at the bright side, and imagine how a crowded train back in the US would feel like. Then complain, if you still feel like it.

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The worst behavior/behaviour I have seen on Japanese trains was Western schoolkids from the XYZ International School in a noisy gaggle pointing and laughing and discussing fellow Japanese passengers as if those Japanese could not understand English. Cringe factor 10/10.

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When I go back to my own country I see flagrant stuff on trains that really shocks me, more so because I thought it was only Japanese people who did it!!! (Here I had been all these years sitting smugly on Japanese trains criticizing their behavoiur/behavior.)

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Honestly, can someone please explain to me why putting make-up on whilst riding the train is a problem? I really dont know why it annoys people. Little help here?

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"Another thing I hate is seeing a man shave or a woman put on makeup in the train"

I don't mind that at all. What I hate is if someone leans arrogantly on the seat as if he was on his home couch or talking loud on the cell phone or those old right-wing guys who stare at you (as a gayjin) as if they want to attack you any moment. Sneezing without holding the hand in front of the mouth is terrible too.

i do enjoy it if a girl next to me falls asleep on my shoulder.

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I'm with dbung10. Sorry but, I can't for the life of me comprehend why anyone would be bothered by someone applying make-up in public (especially if they are only applying it to their faces.)

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The worst I ever saw on a train... a person flossing their teeth. I was shocked!

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i have to say that train molesters are at the top of my list for bad manners*-understatement of the year. i have never seen it but almost every girl i know has a story of being touched sexually on a train.

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Where to start? Applying your eye make on the train is: DANGEROUS and ALARMING because the gal is putting sharp objects near her eyes in a moving, crowded train. Eye accidents just waiting to happen. And, it is crass because it should be conducted in private. It is not pretty to watch a gal pretty up. What I do? If I can move away I do. If not, I stare at the show. What the hell, why not? She's in public space mondocus. Oh, and it looks really stupid, self-centered, and juvenile. too. Not attractive. Ladies. Get a grip and Do It At Home.

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The worst I ever saw on a train... a person flossing their teeth. I was shocked!

Well at least he/she was trying to practice some form of dental hygiene - I think it should be made a law that people brush immediately after eating natto and before entering a public place.

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The one thing that irritates me the most is when people put their bags on the seats. Bags go on the racks or the floor not the seats. What amazes me more is that the train staff will tell you not to use your phone on the train but wont say a thing to the people who put their bags on the seats. These people didnt pay for two seats. If you have a ticket you should get a seat.

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unless you're a hot chick, having your head land on my shoulder means you better be prepared for an elbow sandwich

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In general, though, it really is a public circus, and I look at riding the trains like that. I appreciate the many nice touches and kind gestures people make, and laugh as much as I can at the annoying ones. If something really bothers me (loud talk, making up the eyes, stupid buzzing from cheap earphones, stinking old guys....I do my best to move away further down the train. That is my best defense.

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I hate those stupid little kids in shorts try to push by people waiting in front of them to grab a seat. I grab them by the color and yell at them in English. They run away. Make-up is fun to watch. I think I have a fetish for that. Clown sits down next to me and within a second, starts bobing his or her dirty greasy skin and hair onto my shoulder. That is rude and fake. No one could fall asleep that fast unless they had a very unhealthy sleep disorder. Top of my list though is someone smacking there lips and sucking in air between their teeth. Get a dentist and a clue. No one wants to hear that crap, nor smell the toothpick they have used for weeks at a time.

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collar

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oh yeah! The _ick strappers. Those that are jealous because you have a seat and they try as best as possible to hang on to two straps and grind their privates into your face. I kick those idiots in the shins.

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I rarely wear make up and I hate for people to watch me put makeup on b/c I'm such a newb at it that I get self-conscious.

However, I see absolutely NOTHING wrong with other people putting makeup on their selves. Who cares?

And most of the time it's not dangerous. Brushes are soft, as are eyelid makeup applicators (what are they called?) and most of the eyeliners are not razor sharp pencils but have been dulled after much use.

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i don't understand everyones problem with putting makeup on in a train or in public for that matter, it's not like we are putting bad smelling sloppy things on our face, i usually just put on some foundation and powder how is that offensive? What offends me is when people eat disgusting smelly things near me or when someone wears too much perfume or cologne. Now that's disgusting.

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Make-up is fun to watch, I agree. Why do it on the train, sure, but why do it at home either? Doesn't bother me at all, just puzzles me. Is it something in the genes, or is it societal pressure?

Baggage on seats, a big yes, and all the other stuff above I agree with, but in general Japanese trains tend to be quite bearable as long as I can find somewhere to sit down. Having to stand on the Shinkansen after paying all that money, and then seeing a family of four leave their baggage on their seats while they disappear forever is nuts. One time I stood in a groaning Hikari from Tokyo to Nagoya, and the family came back from the dining-car picking their teeth and laughing. No-one had dared touch their luggage, but we were all staring at it with the same intense thought.

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I love the "do it at home" posters. I wish the sold them on t-shirts. Regarding the putting on make-up in a train...it's like scratching your balls in public...you should do it in the privacy of your own home or a bathroom, not a crowded train. It's not a big deal if she's just re-applying lipstick, or something simple like that, but it's another story when she breaks out the eyelash curler and mascara. Doing that infront of people is classless.

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As long as people are not snoring I have nothing to complain. Watching someone putting on make-up is always an interesting experience. You can watch the before and after effect live and you might even learn something from them. Taking up 2 seats is just rude.

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wontond- you compared putting on make-up with scratching your balls? that made me laugh out loud. I dont see the parallel.

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This topic does seem to get a lot of responses. Well, as someone said, it's a train, not a fancy restaurant so you can't expect people to be on their best behavior. Let's all just try not to annoy others and try to be patient when someone annoys us. To be perfectly honest, I know I have been guilty of some of the bad-train-manner crimes they are talking about. One incident was when me and my husband were going home after a night of drinking. He crahed in my lap and had the hiccups for the first 5 or 6 stops. It was kind of funny for me but I'm sure it bothered a lot of people. Personally, I think Japanese people have a pretty high tolerance for annoyances and are generally non-confrontational so at least people don't end up punching each other.

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wontond- you compared putting on make-up with scratching your balls? that made me laugh out loud. I dont see the parallel.

Indeed, what's so rude about scratching your balls?

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Another one that could run and run. My personal faves:

A guy in his early twenties using a mirror and tweezers to pluck his sparse beard hairs out. An attractive young lady furiously picking her nose and eating it while mailing on her keitai. Middle age men plucking nose hairs manually and sprinkling the results on the train floor. For me, picking and plucking in public seems a bit bad mannered!
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Young ladies who do their make up on the train? Lazy "things" that need to get out of bed 15 minutes earlier but just think "I'll make up on the train and screw anyone who stares." (Figure of speech)

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I do agree with priority sit, but I have no problem with make up in a train. After all it is his or her space. I don’t care as long as the lipstick won’t fly to my face when she tumbles.

I do have problem with some that try their best to stand block the exit door. i see this type of moron every morning. this people won't move into the center of the car, and when some people need to get off they won't open the way easily.

next is the "can't touch this " guy type of ojisan. Usually on the crowded evening train, some oji doesn't want anyone to touch him or even come close or he will get really fussy. But he can grab on the upper handle and elbow everyone in front of him, he won't feel a thing then!

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I wonder what it's like in N.Y.C.?

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Why don't the idiots standing directly in front of the door step off the train for five freaking seconds so I can get off without having to give them a shove? One of my biggest pet peeves is not even the idiotic behavior that I see; it's actually the obnoxiously redundant and seemingly unending announcements. "Now arriving at Kita-Senju station; transfer here for the Hibiya line, the Tsukuba Express Line, the Chiyoda subway line, the JR Joban line. The door on the right side will open." (translated from Japanese and then provided again in English). And then the moronic conductor frantically and LOUDLY repeats exactly what has just been read verbatim, in double speed, adding rhetorical gems like "please don't do anything dangerous or rush for the train." Those stupid announcements benefit no one, and people who are acting unmannerly already know they are misbehaving; the noise pollution just makes riding a smelly sweat-car all that much more unpleasant. The announcement should simply say (in a calm feminine voice, or alternatively James Earl Jones' voice) "Kita-Senju". Just ONCE.

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TokyoXtreme:

I wouldn't say the announcements are worse than the bad manners, but I do agree that they seem superfluous. This morning, the train stopped slightly abruptly, nothing serious, and there was a bilingual announcement warning passengers to be careful. By the time the English announcement started, people were already off the train. Imagine the situation in another country where announcements are multilingual (the Taipei subway has announcements for each station name in 4 languages).

Also, I do not appreciate women brushing and flicking their hair right next to me. One women was once standing in front of me while I was sitting down. Periodically she would sway right in front of me, then back. I really did not appreciate her busoms coming close to my face. If it were the other way round, she'd be screaming abuse.

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Nose picking, you missed nosepicking. Followed by ingestion or absent-mindedly sprinkling on the floor.

But basically the trains in Japan are brilliant, if crowded. Trains back home aren't the cleanest- people leave crisps, hairs, papers, cups etc. for the next person to clean up. I could write a far longer article about them.

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I don't miss Tokyo.

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Yes, its a bundle of laughs here on this archepelago and more than that in the big cities. Being one of the "elite" (just joking) I go through the main stations of Shibuya and Shinbashi everyday. Talk about a zoo. A J-policeman friend of mine reminded me, "Remember when you go through places like Shibuya station just remember, 99.9% of the Jpn never have a chance to travel through there, so when the do its like a Marti Gras". That's exactly what it feels like. Don't expect not which way of manners. Its a foot in front of the next one at a time, and in and out, anything (almost) goes. Shinjuku, ikebukuro, Tokyo Station, Ueno and others I'm sure are just like this. This is Japan. They love to congregate and all xxxx hits the fan. When I asked a J-friend about it, he just answers "I don't know why". What I hate the most is when people smell bad or fart on the crowded trains, but what are you going to do? Secondly, I hate when they don't budge away from the doors, and for you to get to the middle where there actually is some space they all frown at you like your a trouble maker, because you have to butt them aside to get through. What else can you do? Its either that or get squashed like a sardine near the doors. Lord knows what is common sense, and what is education?

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Wow, this topic again. I'd have to agree that although there are things that can be unpleasant, it's a far sight better than mass transit elsewhere in the world. And I have taken the Chuo at peak times, which although gives one a new interpretation on the definition of personal space, wasn't overly unpleasant barring the occasional bad smelling individual returning from a company mandated nomikai.

Seeing you girls applying makeup doesn't really bother me either, though with something of a more personal and intimate nature such as that, perhaps it's best done at home. Having said this, there is just something so feminine, and soft about it -- as a guy, I have to say it puts a bit of a smile on my face. Some women have no idea how beautiful they really are.

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I don't particularly object to make up being applied on trains, I can;t reallysee what the fuss is about on that one. In a strange way, I find it interesting to watch, and after 20 minutes effort I feel like saying "shouldn't have bothered - looked better without"!

I think people on trains are doing a fine job - given that there are close to 30 mio people in the metropolitan area (Tokyo/Chiba/Saitama/Yokohama/Kawasaki, etc) I'm surprised that you don't have armed guards to keep warring factions apart (e.g. people who put on make up, and people who HATE people putting on make up).

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It was mentioned that what is considered bad manners is subjective. Ok...the makeup thing, I admit, is very subjective. I don't mind seeing another girl doing a quick touchup, but to do your whole cosmetic routine complete with eyelash curlers and sometimes even curling irons is just wrongness! But fair enough, this doesn't really hurt anyone else, make a mess or smell bad and many aren't bothered by it at all as seen in posts above and I understand that.

But there are some things that are universal and cannot be ignored. Japan's own culture finds putting on makeup in public to be pretty rude.

The things I consider to really be universally rude are

the nose pickers...and Bazza, you forgot to mention the ones who examine it afterward like they just mined a precious jewel (puuuuke!)

the cell phone users in the priority seats

the people IN the priority seats that really don't need to be there and ignore the elderly, the injured and the pregnant as though invisible. (I once saw one of my students on the train one morning standing near the priority seats, both of her legs in braces, (recovering from a sports injury and subsequent surgery), on crutches having a rough time balancing while the train jostled. No one attempted to offer their seat to her despite what they could see right in front of them. I tried to make my way to her end of the carriage to do something about it but couldn't force my way through the crowd before our stop.)

the person behind me who opens a book to start reading and uses my back as a book rest! Ummm...get off me! LOL

oh! and the young, healthy girl who tried to grab my seat the moment I stood up to give it to a tiny, frail, little old lady. I literally had to shoulder the girl and physically block her with my body to stop her from taking granny's seat.
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and right....almost forgot, those who feel the need to "share the love" by sneezing and/or coughing all over all those around them!

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Yeah, the sneezing and coughing at this time of year is absolutely the worst.

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I guess its great that I am built like a truck with a 380 lb bench press. I just don't get any stares in Japan. And yes I CAN fight. I am from the east coast streets. But I digress......make up? who cares. An onigiri..get over it. But I saw a guy eat his boogers not once or twice..but 3 times! Just yesterday! I am waiting for the opportunity to drag some leg stretched teen out of the priority seat for granny. I sit there if there is no choice and I always jump as soon as she gets on. But the ladies that are about 50 act nice n feeble as soon as they get on the train...haha! Funny thing is...if I drag him out of the seat Granny will probably be too embarrassed to sit.

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I take up two seats so I don't have to sit to the drunk guy or girl who is in a state between passing out and wakefulness. Usually waking just as their head hits my shoulder or worse and then passing out the moment they sit up straight to continue the cycle.

Ok I know people work hard and are tired but jezuz, as soon as they sit down and open a book they're gone to sleep land.

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Kids, they should never use public transportation. They cry, they play.. They're dumb

And some of them, hellhound, never grow up.

Anyhow, people who take up more than one seat intentionally should be made to sit on the floor. Especially those without sympathy for the terminally overtired who have a choice of either working 12 hour days and getting drunk with their bosses or having a future without any kind of job security whatsoever.

People who barge onto trains before letting people get out are my favourite targets. Elbows out..oh, so sorry! Morons who destroy their hearing with headphones while sapping the sanity of those around them also make it hard to enjoy any journey on a rush hour train. Parrots who screech into cellphones need typing lessons at least.

However, social rejects who sit in priority seating, or any seat while the elderly, pregnant or infirm stand, well, just keep shaming the hell out of them when you see them in action, good people!

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I'll tell you what annoys me... when you're in the queue for the train and the person in front of you gets on first, spends so long standing in the aisle choosing which seat to sit on that the people getting on the other end of the carriage have moved down the aisle and taken all the seats, so although you were maybe second or third in the queue, you end up standing! Infuriating!

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Give me a carriage full of women putting on make-up over one full of hairy-arsed blokes any day.

Although make up does smell a bit.

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Things I can't stand:

Manners don't seem to apply to "everyone". Why is it that no one will condemn an obnoxious high school girl or an elderly man/woman?

I can't stand it when elderly men are making loud noises, playing with their saliva. Is that really necessary?

People who turn up the volume on cheap headphones which leak noise. Seriously, quit it. That volume is too loud for your crappy headphones. If you want to listen to that music, buy a decent pair of in-ear (canal) noise isolating headphones, so you're not annoying everyone else around you.

Loud high school girls... It seems as if there is some sort of unspoken social contract. School girls can be as loud as they want and even do things like eating highly aromatic foods on the train, but in return they should expect to be felt up by roaming perverts.

Grannies with their "cute" grandkids. I see this all the time. On a packed train, 4 and 5 year olds will lie down on the subway seats, taking up several spaces, all the while their obachan looks on with praise and adoration. Kawaii, ne. WTF? Some people get upset with the kids, but really, those old hags are the ones who deserve to be told off and publicly shamed.

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Altria's had to clothesline a few fools who tried to push onto the train before people had got off. Usually oba-chans.

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What annoys me the most (since this has turned into a survey of sorts in the comments):

People talking at high volume on the phone. Thank goodness Japan got that one under control. It sure as hell isn't under control back home.

People talking at high volume between themselves, or worse, across the isle, optionally with one of them facing backwards to see the other. If you want to talk, take up a pair of seats next to each other. I haven't decided whether it's worse if you can understand them or worse if you can't (I experience each situation roughly equally as often.)

People who board a bus and demand a seat, and then get up 1-2 stops later and alight. Walking two stops is not hard. Refusing to walk one stop is just lazy. I could understand old people perhaps needing to do this, but old people are not the only ones doing it.

And last but definitely not least, the fat guy/gal who thinks that he will fit between two people on a 3-seater.

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The other day I saw an old man pull out a "hair nude" porno mag as soon as a young boy sat next to him. If I'd been the boy's Mother, he'd have had a slap for that.

I treat ALL seats as priority seats, and I don't feel guilty for sitting in priority seats if they are empty and no-one else is using them. It amuses me when people tut at me for sitting there when they'd be empty anyway.

Bad manners also include the pushy obasans who race into the train before everyone's got off and sit down and look smug like getting a seat's the greatest thing that they've ever achieved in their life.

Pathetic.

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Hah, that's right. I sit in priority seats pretty often actually, as they are PRIORITY seats; IF there is someone whose description matches the silhouette sticker, then I'll give up the seat. Otherwise, an empty seat's an empty seat. BOOYAH!

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Yeah, the makeup thing does not bother me, and as long as they are in their own personal space, I don't think it is our place to really say anything. I mean how many times to you see ladies putting on makeup while driving in the states? I think doing it on the train is a tad better. Besides Japan is sexist enough against the ladies here, I don't feel like we can really complain.

Now sitting with a mini skirt and your legs open? Here I will complain. I mean c'mon!

The old man that confuses my I-pod for a cell phone: No! It won't hurt your freaking pacemaker for christs sake, I'm not even sitting in the priority seat, just squished next to one. Why don't you ask the Japanese guy that was closer to you? Why the gaijin..oh wait...

The guy who passes gas on the train: you have all been there, crowded, morning rush and some one lets one rip. Could you please get off before you do that?

The 40 year old guy that moves to the other side of the train and stares at me the whole train ride: Slightly unnerving, and has me checking my back the whole way home. I don't want to end up chopped into little pieces and in trash cans all around the train station thank you very much.

The guy who loudly answers his cell phone and talks on it loudly for 5 minutes, and everyone else who does not say anything. I guarantee it, a gaijin could not quietly answer his phone for 2 seconds without someone saying something. Heck I can barely read my Kindle near priority seats without someone saying something.

That Obasan that jumps in front of me while waiting for the doors to open then hobbles along at .00005km/hour, then gets pissed off when I push passed her.

The empty faced 19 year olds who dress like they just stepped out of a Final Fantasy game on their way to do Kareoke with their friends. (moms money in pocket of course) - No reason, I just don't like them and they annoy me. Sometimes I just want to push them down and take their lunch money.

The empty faced 29 year old guys who fit the same description of the empty faced 19 year olds in the previous paragraphs:(for the same reason) They also strike me as the type of people capable of chopping off my arms and using them to decorate their moms attic with.

The 50 year old greasy dude who looks at giant anime porn magazines on the train with a junior high girl sitting right next to him; I mean I don't think you can complain about make up applications without mentioning this one unless you are slightly sexist....(The first time I saw this, I was like...Wow...just...wow)

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the nose pickers...and Bazza, you forgot to mention the ones who examine it afterward like they just mined a precious jewel (puuuuke!)

the cell phone users in the priority seats

How about someone coughing or sneezing right in your face... Ever experienced this...?

I have to wonder who the hell wrote this article....? Again, no email to send comments to the writer... As is the case in ALL big newspapers and web sites..

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I adore Japanese trains, comparing to European trains they are just a heaven. Take a train in Switzerland, and you will learn a lot about bad manners

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Girls putting make-up on, on the train, or anywhere for that matter, is hot and you know it. The people disagreeing are obviously further down the hot-ladder than the smoking mamas who frequent the trains in Japan.

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LOL @ nemoflow...nah, actually, some of us who don't like it are the ones who ensure that we are hotties by the time we leave home, so we are already hot BEFORE we step onto the train, not stepping onto the train looking like hell then desperately trying achieve hotness after the train starts moving! hee hee! The really hot gals are the ones who know how to start out hot and stay hot.

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worst train manners in japan= masturbation in public. only here. touching up little girls and noone doing anything, not even girls. just the placebo of having womens cars with no real social action on it. old, sick people falling down and no-one helping let alone givng up a seat.

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Train manners, I've seen worse than Japan.

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