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