Voices
in
Japan

have your say

How would you compare people's manners in public in Tokyo with other cities around the world?

44 Comments

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

44 Comments
Login to comment

Much worse than Vancouver, but not so different or worse than London, and a world better than Hong Kong.

It is more the total lack of manners amongst 90% of the 'droids in public that is annoying, more than any overt rudeness.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This topic should get a lot of hits today.

Let's see.

Are there "Women only" train cars because Japanese people can't keep their hands off each other. (japan only I think) -1 Japan. Are trains over packed and the train companies doing nothing about it? -1 Japan. Do people urinate anywhere they want, even on busy streets? -1 Japan. (I think most countries have this, but most have laws to the effect that this is illegal. I don't believe it is illegal in Japan, but I'm not 100% sure.) Must I go on?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Hmmm... My broadbased generalization (and I admit that it is) would be that while stationary, the Japanese are very polite and a joy to be around. When in motion...not so much. My theory on this phenomena is this: Not so long ago, it was understood that if someone bumped into you, cut you off on the road (or something similar) by accident, it would be forgiven because the person was unaware of doing so. Therefore, the polite thing to do would be to forgive them, as it was an accident. Over time, some of the more unscrupulous of us humans decided to do the offensive things purposely and that as long as no eye contact was made, the claim of innocence could still be used, thus guaranteeing forgiveness. Now, I see people do things that are obviously rude (in my opinion) and then make a concerned effort to not look at the person they have offended, in order to avoid the shame of being rude to someone else. I see this more while driving than anywhere else (on the trains would take 2nd place). I can't say that it is a Japanese-only phenomena because I really haven't lived in a major city anywhere outside Japan long enough to judge if it occurs anywhere else.

Overall, I think the Japanese are still relatively polite, just less so while in motion.

Also, I think that the people here in Yokosuka are far more polite than Tokyoites.

Taka

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Taka, DEAD ON! You should be a writer.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Tokyo is similar to Sydney, except for the fact that, if you fob somebody or push them out of the way they will turn around give you a good thumping! The blanket ignorance in transit does have its good points in Tokyo although, it does lead to an identity crisis for people with no strength of character, of which, there are many.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Not overtly rude or polite. Certainly not anywhere near friendly, which I consider the highest form of manners. Cities in the southeastern US rank at the top of that scale in my experience.

When our two children were very young, and my wife had to travel with them and without me, she would always be helped by ordinary people at airports in Atlanta or Dallas. Even Chicago people would lend a hand. Never, ever, ever in Tokyo. People seem to be very wrapped up in their own lives and don't have space to care about others -- other than to leave them to fend for themselves.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

They do pretty well, considering the chaos you'd get if you packed people in other countries together that tightly.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Robotic manners...deprives me of camparison base.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I think Taka has brought up a few good points, though I can't back him up on the Yokosuka thing - never been there.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

the definition of manners is how you behave towards ANYONE including people you don't know. yes, Japanese can be polite to people they know, if you are a stranger they can be incredibly rude. try holding a door open for someone in Tokyo and you'll more often than not see what I mean

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I've been to Tokyo and they are the same as anyone else in the world. Sorry if the bitter people here are upset that every single Japanese don't cater to their every whims or act like some fantasy land where everyone is all smiles and happy go lucky. That stuff is straight out of the movies.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

lipscombe - spot on!

And Fair Dinkum - I've seen flying fists here in Tokyo. Not too often but I have seen it

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Compared to Berlin (as it was about 17 Years ago), the most surprising 'manner' related behaviour(s) in Tokyo which I noticed are yawning without covering the mouth, all kind of snorring sounds, noise coming from mouth during eating, noise coming from feet while walking. *nose picking (and EATING the dug material). Surprising to me is, that 'adults' here do all that but I remember to have learned in early childhood, not to do such. Above samples are -of course- only very err .. rare cases :-)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Taka - "while stationary, the Japanese are very polite"

Could you give us an example of when the Japanese are stationary?

Also, do you really think that a higher percentage of people do rude things now than a few years ago?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Smokers are rude and inconsiderate, and Tokyo is full of them. I can hardly go long without getting blasted by tabacco smoke.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I wouldn't say rude. I would say self-centered, ignorant. I think nobody would notice if someone would start having sexusal intercouse in the middle of train station (has happened before, according to this porn flick)

Are there "Women only" train cars because Japanese people can't keep their hands off each other. (japan only I think) -1 Japan. -- this is bizare. Sexual discrimination, anyone? If women cannot protect their own dignity, their problem. A bit of training and stun gun would help

Are trains over packed and the train companies doing nothing about it? -1 Japan. --Well, they do. They have pushers. Really, not much that can be done. All companies start at 9 and people prefer to live in suburban areas.

Do people urinate anywhere they want, even on busy streets? -1 Japan. (I think most countries have this, but most have laws to the effect that this is illegal. I don't believe it is illegal in Japan, but I'm not 100% sure.) Must I go on? --Don't know if there is a law, but i saw a dude in NYC relieve himself all over this building in Soho, until a guy who worked there came out and told him to get the f00k out of here with heavy Italian accent. That was funny.

Back to train problem. It seems like Japanese tend to accept real annoying aspects, such as people standing in front of doors when people try to get off, or leaving too much space on crowded escalators, etc and blame on little unimportant things like loud ipods, cell phones, and girls putting on make up. Please explain how these can have effect on your commute.

Overall though, i think people in NY are much more rude and ignorant. They would help out if there is a real problem though

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Taka: Nice post.

Many good points and, when you throw in changes in technology in recent years: cell phones, all kinds of hand-held games etc., you have even more people not paying attention to what is going on around them than in the past. This has been my experience from my first time here from 90-93 and then again the past 10 years.

It also comes down to how different people define good manners. Some of the same old guys who complain unceasingly about women putting on makeup on the train are the same ones looking at pictures of naked women in front of anyone and everyone and planning their next soapland adventure.

All in all, I would say things are getting worse.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Actually in Tokyo they are not too bad. Try living in China............

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Cleo,

never been there

Consider yourself invited. It would be my pleasure and a joy to show you and your family around the area. I'm pretty proud of my adopted home and always enjoy showing it off to those I believe would appreciate it's beauty.

Taka

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Pathat, Good point about the technology making people more rude. I would add MP3 players to that list, but keitais are by far the biggest offenders. And yes, I agree that much like common sense, common courtesy is no longer all that common.

Lastly, thank you for the kind words all. It's nice to reaffirm that I'm not nuts.

Taka

0 ( +0 / -0 )

taka...agree. Good points. And you did not even get into the table manners of salarymen. My God, most are barely house-broken in that regard. Even when they are using a fork, knife and spoon, they insist on: lifting their plates so they can shovel everything directly into their mouths, refuse to cut anything, so they take huge/disgusting bites, and, slurp every kind of noodle/pasta as if it was cheap ramen. Luckily, most of the lady's table manners are inbecceble. Too bad the men don't learn.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Taka and lipscombe are onto it, I think. The theory I've come up with recently is that Japanese politeness generally radiates forward in a 30-degree or 45-degree cone. Come within the cone and you will be treated very kindly; fall outside of it and you don't exist. This is why the average Japanese person, as long as he doesn't turn around, will happily block a narrow aisle in a store for a good ten minutes while disgruntled shoppers pile up behind him.

Car windshields block the cone, and of course the cone can be redirected so as to avoid having to be polite to someone.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Taka313-

Very good post, I couldn't agree with you more. I feel the older you get here, the less likely you are to be polite to someone else. Where in Yokosuka?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

taka, good post...and Honen, your cone theory is balls-on accurate, and extremely funny

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Country to country manners are different and that can't be helped. But some of the things I've seen here defy explanation.

I usually a girls first kind of guy, hold doors for my wife etc, Japanese people aren't that's ok too. But once we left a restaurant, wife goes through first, I look behind to see another group (about 8 women) close behind so I continue to hold the door thinking the first lady of that group would take it from me for her group.

Well, no, she just walks through followed by her entire group, no one took the door or even offered a thanks.

But I do think most countries are pretty much the same, but for one thing. Most other countries seem to acknowledge their flaws, Japanese don't. Their seems to be this attitude of Japanese don't have bad manners, only foreigners do.

I also think the cone theory is pretty valid. I think Honen should write a thesis about it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It's called, the cone of silence!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

First, Tokyo is not all J, Osaka, Hokaido and Kiushu are a litle diferent. i only visited Tokyo once in my life, but compared with Buenos Aires, looked fine for me. Can be better if they dont are allways so busy, but that is just how modern J culture is and Tokyo is the busiest city of J.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Well if I were a bureaucrat I would do it by forming a study committe and devising an international junket with stops in Vegas, Manilla, Bangkok and Paris.

Is that what you're asking?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

You know what is worse than the ketai. Those cell phones that have the "walky talky" capability in the states. They are extremly annoying. With that possible exception, I would have to say that the majority of rude people I encounter SEEM to be the oyaji running around. But, that might just be my recollection of it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

tokyo: worse than thailand, laos, cambodia, burma, singapore...better than HK, china

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I hear Tokyo is better than Osaka and Kyshuu areas. I didn't have any problems while in Tokyo both times. In fact I guess you can say I fell within that "cone" Honen was talking about. Both my guy friends and their friends actually open the door for me and while on a trip to Mount Fuji brought a blanket to cover my legs while in the car in case I was cold. I've heard from others that Tokyo is a little more sophisticated and that's why I haven't had problems like some foreign women who go to Osaka area where they've had bad experiences. They said they had trouble with men grabbing/groping them. I'm glad my experince has been different.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Can't speak for all of Japan but Tokyo definitely seems to be on its way downhill lately. Two females or under 25 in your vicinity means you'll have no peace on your morning train ride. Three females or more over 50 means you'll be debating about getting off early and catching the next train. Catching the same train as an entire girls school on their way to school in the AM will have you wondering if its time to leave Japan-tomorrow. There is guaranteed to be at least one male picking his nose on any given car at any given time. If there are less than 5 people on any car, there is guaranteed to be at least one male with bad hair playing his ipod too loud. If there are more than 5 people, everyone's ipod will be at a respectable level. Parents with children are the new obaasans, never failing to block a door. I could go on but I have a train to catch. Noise-canceling headphones are a lifesaver in Tokyo. If you have the common sense to wear them and still be aware of whats going on around you.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I'm going with Taka's take. And the 'cone.' And a lot of this is pure selfishness. Manners require you to think of the other person, and to reinforce others' impression of yourself. If you don't care about them and you are basically anonymous within a big city, then why bother with manners?

I guess I was raised to be polite to strangers, even though I may never meet or see those people ever again. However, I feel that in Japan the fact that you're a stranger means that no special treatment needs to be afforded to you by the majority UNLESS you're a customer/client in a shop, business, restaurant etc. This contrast is always the most shocking in Japan - fawned over in one place, then treated like dirt as you step out the door.

I'm a big one for holding doors open for others, and hoping that they'll do the same for you. Deciding to do this for others to me is a sign of consideration, and I have seen it done in Japan, and I have received thanks when doing it for others. Many of those people have been older folk, and my day is made when I get such thanks. However, I find that it's a rarity with most people here.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I agree with Taka and gurepu and the increase of loonies off course

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I think people are pretty well-behaved here except when it comes to the trains, but I think that's understandable in a way...when you're packed in tighter than a sardine in a can, and you have literally no personal space, the only solution is to really try to detach yourself from the situation and not interact with the other people onboard the train at all.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I saw a pair of mid 30 b/men going at it this morning at the station. A lot of pushing, shoving and a few attempted bitch slaps, but nothing major. Of course, everybody else just had a quick look and kept on walking. I, on the other hand, stepped in and told them both to give up and go to work. Strangely enough, that's exactly what they did. It's clear the pressures of living in the most densely populated city on the planet is having an effect on everybody that lives here. In the eight years I've been here I have definitely seen a decline in the fluidity of this society and the recent events, including Akihabara and the suicide rate are clear indications this society is in trouble. The ignorant silence and anonymity in transit is both convenient and concerning. Manners? 70% OK! 30% Worrying!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

thank serindipity and gurepu for your comments. I was just censored beyond recognition after I detailed very specific examples of what we all experience everyday on the trains and at the companys. O.K. I'll try again and see if this goes through. Lets try to limit the number of Mickey Mouse dolls allowed on school bags, and let's try to speak out in Japanese everytime someone says something negative about our native language or country. Will this make it through? Peace be with you.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

thank serindipity and gurepu for your comments. Concerning the trains wouldn't it be nice if they limited the number of dolls allowed on bags and if the natives were made aware by an announcement that "foreigners might be on the trains that we ride, so please refrain from talking about Eego and their countries" while on the train. Peace be with you.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Tokyo is very rude and unfriendly compared to Nagasaki or even Fukuoka. Definitely not as rude as Osaka or Chicago for that matter. Of all the places I've been Seoul is the absolute worst. I would say Tokyo and New York are on par maybe throw Toronto in there as some of the friendlier major cities. (Before the complaints come about putting New York in there, I think New York gets a bad rap, spend some time there and you'll see what I mean)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Hello? Chicago more rude than Tokyo? woe is the olympic bid of 2016. May I ask which part of Chicago? The whole lot?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I'd say downtown Chicago the burbs are as bland and faceless as anywhere and you don't need to interact with people very often so rudeness doesn't apply as much. Maybe I'm jaded because it's home.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Most of the time when I'm in Japan I'm there on a laid back schedule. I'm not working an office job per se. I'm not traveling during peek hours, the trains aren't crowded. As such, the people around me aren't rude.

I would also say, people working service jobs (Hotel Staff, Taxi Drivers, Clerks, etc. ) are way more polite than their western counterparts.

That being said, based on what I have seen and read, I could never see myself working/living in Tokyo. Perhaps Osaka, however, I'm pretty sure my love of the 38 hour work week doesn't play well there. Certainly not at the rates I'm used billing US companies at.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Well... I've never been to Tokyo but some say it's nice most say it's not! But i do know that the US is polite and that we aren't as hostile as some may think! Let's take into account the way african americans are portrayed all over the world.... Most believe we are all wasteful, dangerous, or rappers and hookers. Why? Because that's what the media puts out for the public to see.

Stereotyping is what that's called when others think that, ALL African Americans act the way Channel 10 news or BET portrays us. I know I'm going a little off topic. But whether some people believe that Tokyo is polite or not... almost everyone is guilty of stereotyping. We hear one negative comment (or even a polite one) and assume it's that way completely!

THAT WAS JUST A LITTLE FOOD FOR THOUGHT =)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Tokyo peoples` public manners are non-existant. They have deteriorated very badly during my decades living here. Its sad, but true, Japanese "politeness" is a myth. What I see day and daily is gross ignorance and rudeness.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites