People ride on a escalator at a subway station in Tokyo. Photo: REUTERS file
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Stand and be delivered: Japan's evolving escalator etiquette

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It gets really old having alleged etiquette in Japan shoved down our throats and/or dissected constantly.

19 ( +29 / -10 )

Current system works for 99.99%. Stand or walk up is the choice. People walk on escalators for exercise or they want to be somewhere else. There is NO problem. Leave the walkers and standers a l o n e.

38 ( +44 / -6 )

If you are in a rush, use the stairs!

-10 ( +20 / -30 )

if that’s the case then I’ll consider getting my own badge made stating “I am walking up this escalator for a reason”

19 ( +30 / -11 )

What would we ever do if no one told us what to do...

20 ( +25 / -5 )

How about encouraging people with special needs to use the elevator? It seems like backward thinking to encourage 95% of commuters instead of the 5% of people that require special assistance.

20 ( +28 / -8 )

if that’s the case then I’ll consider getting my own badge made stating “I am walking up this escalator for a reason”

How utterly disrespectful and offensive a statement - to consider your need to be somewhere a few seconds earlier on a par with the need for physical safety of those with impaired mobility.

I walk up /down the escalator when the way is clear, but if someone is standing, I certainly will not push past.

-3 ( +20 / -23 )

I think the real reason behind this discussion is that they want to decrease the cost of escalator maintenance.

13 ( +20 / -7 )

Telling train / subway passengers how to behave / "proper" etiquette is so ingrained in these companies. There are literally groups / sections / departments devoted to it.

It is always something..... because they have to have something to do.

15 ( +20 / -5 )

Is there actually an evidence to support the claim that standing is safer? From what I’ve read the majority of injuries on escalators involve drunken accidents and people falling while getting off. Would not walking prevent these type of accidents?

21 ( +25 / -4 )

I find it amazing to see long queues of people including many young, lining up to get on an escelator when there is a relatively short set of stairs right next to them to WALK up.

How did we humans get so lazy?

22 ( +26 / -4 )

Ah, the minutiae of details that life in Japan brings up...

8 ( +12 / -4 )

The guy with the disability and not being able to grasp the handrail with his left hand is a probably a 0.01% case.

Most people will probably ignore this objective. Hardly anyone I know objects to people walking up.

If someone's standing on the "stand" side most people are understanding esp. if it's a disabled person or someone with big luggage.

I'll ignore this one like I did with Premium Fridays.

17 ( +21 / -4 )

Sorry, I mean, "If someone's standing on the "walk" side most people are understanding."

0 ( +2 / -2 )

If you are in a rush, use the stairs!

but even stairs have rules, like direction arrows that everybody, especially tourists seem to ignore.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

It’s the difference of catching and missing the express train which can be several minutes to a half hour depending on the commute.

In many cases there are no stairs for people but only escalators; e.g. Chiyoda line Ochanomizu Hijiribash 聖橋 exit.

10 ( +14 / -4 )

I nearly always walk up or down escalators. Not because I’m in a hurry, but for the exercise. However, I do not barge past people.

The problems come from these discourteous and reckless people that have to run up or down the escalator barging through people to catch a train that comes every three minutes. And sadly, there are many of these idiots. This kind of behavior is deeply routed in Japanese city culture. There are always people who have to barge their way off the trains and run through the stations, no matter how crowded it is. In fact, the more crowded it is, the more of these idiots you see. To change escalator manners they will have to change the culture.

6 ( +10 / -4 )

Instead just pushing through, Is it very difficult for Japanese to say 'Excuse me'? This happens to me a few times when a person in a hurry find me blocking his way on escalator.

7 ( +10 / -3 )

@zones

It is always something..... because they have to have something to do.

sounds like the precise definition of most jobs, companies, organizations, government at all levels....

spot on!

7 ( +7 / -0 )

As next year's Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics approach, a campaign spearheaded by the Tokyo Physical Therapy Association is gaining traction

Is this really "gaining traction"? So far I only see the endless stream of posters and articles like this trying to lecture us, but the population seems to ignore this, thankfully.

15 ( +18 / -3 )

if that’s the case then I’ll consider getting my own badge made stating “I am walking up this escalator for a reason”

Exactly.

Could also be used for other situations in Japan...

6 ( +8 / -2 )

but even stairs have rules, like direction arrows that everybody, especially tourists seem to ignore.

Odd, allthe people I have seen ignoring those arrows have been Japanese people, or other Asians that dress like Japanese people and speak fluent Japanese.

15 ( +16 / -1 )

In Kansai we stand on the right!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Instead just pushing through, Is it very difficult for Japanese to say 'Excuse me'?

It sure seems to be difficult for them to say excuse me.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

... even stairs have rules, like direction arrows that everybody, especially tourists seem to ignore.

Sure, in areas that are packed with tourists, perhaps that happens. Yes, it's a nuisance, but it's not the end of the world. Especially since away from tourist hot spots and in various local neighbourhoods, I find way more locals ignoring the stairway rules than non-existent tourists. Since I am a non-national I take extra care not to flaunt the conventions; however, I regularly found people walking two and three abreast in "my lane."

10 ( +10 / -0 )

It sure seems to be difficult for them to say excuse me.

I'd actually say すみません is probably in the top ten of words used by the Japanese!

4 ( +7 / -3 )

I tend to walk on the escalators, but most because I feel they move waaaay to slow in Japan. I've been on escalators elsewhere, like Singapore, that move at a brisk pace. Wouldn't that solve the dilemma?

7 ( +8 / -1 )

the Tokyo Physical Therapy Association is gaining traction

Nice word play.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Maybe if they doubled or tripled the speed of those slow escalators, people would stop walking on the escalators.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

The current system works well. Why change a good thing?

8 ( +11 / -3 )

If anything is needed it would be a campaign to tell people to be more careful of their luggage and others as they rush to catch their train...and they may be rushing to catch their train FOR A REASON! Got all day? Stand aside. Able bodied and got time? Use the stairs. Got a handicap that will inconvenience others? Use the elevator. They weren't cheap!

And an important side note....some areas have no stairs but only escalators and an elevator.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Do the hustle

Its deeply ingrained (in some you way) “in our culture” to dash off of a train no matter how crowded...sorry I had to laugh.

In a sea of people there’s always a few nutters and some people who will do weird things.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

StrangerlandToday  08:39 am JST

It sure seems to be difficult for them to say excuse me.

I'd actually say すみません is probably in the top ten of words used by the Japanese!

Exactly! Don't see how anyone couldn't reach that conclusion unless they always use mass transit wearing headphones. Or don't know what that phrase means.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

we want people to realize there are those who prefer to stand when riding escalators

Fine. Stand on the left.

Many advocates of the change argue that escalators were never designed for walking up and down.

Why not? They're stairs.

I've been in Tokyo 30 years and have never once seen an accident because of people walking on escalators.

Another propaganda piece from Kyodo.

13 ( +15 / -2 )

Will the etiquette change for walking belts at airports too?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Having people stand on both sides of the escalator at peak times to cut congestion? Really? You know, the other day I almost crashed into a more elderly gentlemen riding the escalator down in front of me. Once at the bottom he was moving slowly and I was not sure I and those standing behind me could get around him in time. This is how pile ups happen. Now I wonder if this is the reason the Holborn Station initiative hasn’t been rolled out - packing the escalator will result in a lot more injuries guaranteed. Common sense folks.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I thought this was a problem of impatient Japanese only. I did not know they also have the same thing in the west.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Why don't the railway companies standardize on installing wider, slightly faster escalators?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Never really been an issue. Don't walk in the standing section, don't stand in the walking section, remember to observe the escalator before you get on. Don't be polite or make time for those who don't make time for others. That nudge and brush is rude, but it's good reminder to think about everyone when thinking about yourself.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

It sure seems to be difficult for them to say excuse me.

In a place as loud, busy and crowded as Tokyo you could well find yourself saying "SUMIMASEN!" very loudly over 100 times a day until you come up so hoarse you literally can't anymore. Maybe someone needs to make an app for that?

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

Yet in 2016, Holborn Station experimented with standing-only escalators to see if they improved efficiency. The result? By having people stand on both sides, they were able to carry more passengers at peak times and cut congestion -- although the initiative has not been rolled out.

Used Holborn Station for several years to go to work. I think it has four escalators. Many stations don't have lifts unless like Hampstead which is very deep so it's lift or stairs and man those circular stairs will kill any unhealthy obese person.

Holborn has been modernised since then.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I have always felt the the reason people walk up escalators is because the speeds are set slower than other countries (i.e. HongKong subway). Another alternative would be to set the speed faster? This would also "push" those who have problems navigating the moving stairways to use the safer elevators. Travellers and others manage the escalator speed in HongKong so it should work here too?

However, the system of standing on one side while others who prefer to walk pass is working well here so I say just leave it.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Changing how people should use the escalators is an evolving process and it will not begin to work for next year. It will actually create unnecessary confusion during the 2020 Olympics. Stick with the present system but increase the number of signages is the way to go.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Ultimately people will decide for themselves how they move around. No one pays attention to mandated walking and stair lanes. This is a waste of time.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Agree with the comments about the speed, or lack of it. Not sure if completely correct, but I read that speeds here are 0.5m/second, London is around 0.7 and Hong Kong 0.8. Perhaps experimenting with slightly higher speeds even just at busier times may help those commuters trying to make train/bus connections while reducing the number of people who walk up escalators. A practical approach may be more effective than endless campaigns and lectures.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I walk up and down if the path is clear and there are no stairs nearby. I hate when people try to pass through even though there are small children or people with suitcases. Recently someone tried to get my daughter to move so I switched places with her to block him and told him to go up the stairs (which were right next to the escalator!) if he was in a hurry.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

This seems like a "solution" to a problem that doesn't exist. Standing to one side and walking on the other appears to be working just fine. It's orderly. It's safe. Nobody is asking for the change. If you're not in a hurry or if you're legs or feet hurt or if you have a disability, stand to one side. If you are in a hurry, enjoy the exercise, or just like to move with determination, walk on the other side. It could not be simpler.

Japan is a nation of rules, both written and unwritten. Many are logical and helpful, and help to create and sustain a pleasant experience, or at least less unpleasant.

But, many, like this new one, seem to be rules for the sake of rules that seem to exist because someone needed to justify their job or because of a culture that seems to foster overthinking and complexity, which only serves to make an experience or process more complicated, less enjoyable, and often confusing.

It's a good thing the food is great.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I always stand on escalators. I feel sorry for those people whose lives are so disorganised that they have to hurry everywhere and run to catch trains. And their running is dangerous to other users.

-10 ( +1 / -11 )

the other day I almost crashed into a more elderly gentlemen riding the escalator down in front of me. Once at the bottom he was moving slowly and I was not sure I and those standing behind me could get around him in time.

It is not only a matter of elderly, there is also young people which have trouble changing pass. I remember my first escalator ride in Japan, there was a board at the bottom saying to not stop. I thought it was a joke but I really saw someone stand at the bottom of an elevator. The moving line create an easy way to avoid collision with people not moving/slowly moving/...

I mostly walk on escalator as I feel it safer and more natural. The escalator in Japan do not look like they are made to stand still, regarding design and speed. There is no flat part at the bottom and at the top + slow elevation/reduction which allow people to get ready to board in and off and adjust there luggage. The escalator move slower than walking pass.

Overall, I do not think escalator were made with a wish for people to stand still or walk in. The fact that they are wide enough for two people to cross each other tend to make me believe that walking and standing people are expected to use it.

As lot said before, the current system work fine. There is no need to change it.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Who originally started this idea, so often things like this pop up and we never know who started it???

Politicians wish to rule over you and tell you what to do and what not to do.

"Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters." Now the masters want you to clog up escalators so nobody can pass and next they'll have you parking in the passing lane of which too many people already do, the police used to give out tickets for that or at least pull you over and tell you why they pulled you over. Now, blocking people from moving is considered good etiquette when it used to be considered bad manners????

Daniel Webster

1 ( +2 / -1 )

One only wonders what the rara crowd really thinks about this nanny state behaviour. Stand here, walk here, don't touch that, common sense? twilight zone

3 ( +6 / -3 )

I always stand on escalators. I feel sorry for those people whose lives are so disorganised that they have to hurry everywhere and run to catch trains.

I like being in A, and I like being in B. I like the bit inbetween to be as short as possible. When I move, I move.

So get out of my way, I'm coming through.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Yet in 2016, Holborn Station experimented with standing-only escalators to see if they improved efficiency. The result? By having people stand on both sides, they were able to carry more passengers at peak times and cut congestion -- although the initiative has not been rolled out.

I love the way some people have since tried to debunk this as if their opinion matters more than an actual test done by actual people who are actually involved in the actual situation.

That said, I wonder what percentage of accidents are caused by the presence of moving people. It may not be as high enough to really justify "accident prevention" as a reason to stop walkers.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

kohakuebisu

"Yet in 2016, Holborn Station experimented with standing-only escalators to see if they improved efficiency. The result? By having people stand on both sides, they were able to carry more passengers at peak times and cut congestion"

I love the way some people have since tried to debunk this as if their opinion matters more than an actual test done by actual people who are actually involved in the actual situation.

Perhaps it's because the escalators in the London Underground move at a faster pace than the glacially-paced ones in most JP train stations?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

If you are in a rush, use the stairs!

what stairs? I hate the older train stations with narrow platforms where there are no stairs, just an up and down escalator. And always a huge crush of people trying to get up the snail pace escalator when the a crowded train disembarks. Stairs would be so much more efficient.

Leave well enough alone.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

we want people to realize there are those who prefer to stand when riding escalators

it entirely acceptable when people with a disability choose to stand on the walking side. Otherwise, please realize that there are those who prefer to walk when riding the escalators

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Haven't people realized Japan is becoming a "very old" country but where technology and works has not been helpful (no more lifts, no more space to take your time, limited handrails, waiting seats...). Hence the pace of snail you undergo.

For someone dynamic like me, I get crazy waiting like in an old people retired house, even on the pavement !

Only Shibuya and the like wards are lively plsce to be.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I love that when I visit Japan how people are orderly standing on one side kn the escalator. I even noticed that they stay in line to GET ON the escalator unlike the chaos I see in my city where everyone is in a hurry and cut in front of you only to get stuck in the escalator as everyone is blocking the path. They don’t care if you are running late.

I like this orderly life. More efficient.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

When I have a gout attack, I stay home. Otherwise I hustle everywhere on the left and right.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Instead just pushing through, Is it very difficult for Japanese to say 'Excuse me'?

I definitely agree. I loathe being elbowed in the back by someone (usually by an older Japanese man) trying to get off the train or in crowded places, when a simple "Excuse me" would work so much more nicely.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Sometimes sometimes I stand on the right side and the person behind me gets mad at me

This this gets me so irritated. Nobody is entitled to forcing someone walk on an escalator

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

If they really don't want people to walk on escalators, it's an easy thing to do. Reduce the width of the escalator. People don't walk on narrow escalators.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I'd actually say すみません is probably in the top ten of words used by the Japanese!

That wasn't in dispute. What was in dispute is them not saying it when they want to get passed you on a train or escalator. That context was painfully obvious from the thread.

Exactly! Don't see how anyone couldn't reach that conclusion unless they always use mass transit wearing headphones. Or don't know what that phrase means.

I never use headphones and know exactly what すみません means.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Origin of escalator etiquette placed in WWII London

According to the Consumer Affairs Agency, a total of 3,865 people were taken to hospitals due to escalator accidents in Tokyo from 2011 to 2013. The majority of the cases were injuries caused by falls. The cases included "toppled over by losing balance while walking up an escalator" and "toppled over as their cane was jostled by a person who was walking up an escalator."

https://www.asiaone.com/asia/japans-escalator-rules-drastically-changed-prevent-accidents

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I like the newer flat type escalators and more safe.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Kazumichi

But your are entitled to forcing someone to not walk on an escalator ? Because the way you write it your are doing on purpose to bully other people not because you have some health issue or the like making you unable to stand on the standing side.

Just wondering : what will chikan and pickpocket prefer ? Being able to stick to unmoving people in the train or being able to stick to unmoving people on an escalator ?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Chip StarToday  08:18 am JST

Instead just pushing through, Is it very difficult for Japanese to say 'Excuse me'?

It sure seems to be difficult for them to say excuse me.

Did it occur to you that those "Japanese" who don't say すみません to you are rude and impolite people, who don't say it to anybody and are seen as rude and impolite by most Japanese people? Especially older ones? You resprented such behavior as being "Japanese" which is silly because you'll hear far less "excuse me"s in US metropolitan cities.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Did it occur to you that those "Japanese" who don't say すみません to you are rude and impolite people, who don't say it to anybody and are seen as rude and impolite by most Japanese people? Especially older ones? You resprented such behavior as being "Japanese" which is silly because you'll hear far less "excuse me"s in US metropolitan cities.

This is rich coming from the poster that constantly disparages South Koreans with blanket statements.

How is a trait in the US reflective of what the Japanese do? It's not, which means it's completely irrelevant to this conversation.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I don’t know if this idea is more of a tyranny of the minority (disabled), or a tyranny of the majority (elderly). Either way, I feel like l’m getting the short end of the stick if I can’t walk on escalators.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

If the campaign fails to change the status quo, a second issue should be addressed, and that is to standardise which side of the escalator one should stand on. International and domestic travellers alike will be less confused, locals will be less frustrated, and safety may improve. Though I'm from Kansai, I vote for standing on the left and walking on the right, as this aligns with Japanese road rules—perhaps this partially explains why Osaka has more car accidents. Oh, and even when walking, keep left unless overtaking.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It always amazes me that as they walk down the escalator or up the escalator how they can walk and keep their eyes on their cell phone. No one misses a beat when it comes to their cell phones. How easy it would be to stumble it would seem. And how disturbing it is to hear someone with very, very noisy shoes approach along side of me as they clop clop their way down or up the escalator. But they do not hear their own shoe sound as their earplugs muffle the sound of their outside world!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I shall continue to walk on escalators when I want to. So bite me.

What I'm not sure about is whether, when I choose to stand, should I leave an empty step in front of me. It seems a waste of space, but not leaving a gap seems like an invasion of personal space of the person standing in front. Plus they might think I'm going to grope them.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I think the real reason behind this discussion is that they want to decrease the cost of escalator maintenance.

Ping pong!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Yet in 2016, Holborn Station experimented with standing-only escalators to see if they improved efficiency. The result? By having people stand on both sides, they were able to carry more passengers at peak times and cut congestion -- although the initiative has not been rolled out.

I love the way some people have since tried to debunk this as if their opinion matters more than an actual test done by actual people who are actually involved in the actual situation.

I do not disagree with the analysis at all. While it is slightly counter-intuitive, a bit of thought shows that overall, it gets the most through in the shortest time.

However, what I think that it means is that:

those who prefer to stand will get up faster; and

those who prefer to walk will get up slower.

This means that those who typically are not in a hurry get up faster whereas those who are in a hurry get up slower. Given that the former are not in a particular rush, the slight reduction in time may be of little increased utility, whereas the latter - those who are in a rush - will be relatively more inconvenienced by having to stand.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The always in a hurry walkers can take the stairs. It will be even more healthy for them. Double row on escalator will increase the passengers flow by at least 50%.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Oh, pish posh.  Y'all are being too harsh.  After all, those in the city, prefectural, and national Safety Department offices have to come up with some mind-numbing minutiae to keep their jobs.  Like preachers who sin, these Safety department employees are walking/running up escalator stairs to be on time to their little jobs.

Lived in Japan for 20 years and went up hundreds of station escalators.  Never saw even one mishap.  Can't say it never happens, but it can only be a fraction of 1%.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Japanese escalator etiquette is one of the things that infuriates me - once I return to the USA.

The first thing that I see when I get off the plane in Seattle is people standing all over the escalator when I just want to get to the Global Entry kiosk to scan my passport and get the heck out of the airport. Even worse, the people who stand on one side and set their luggage on the other.

Japan, don't change a thing.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Interesting that a sub-argument has developed over whether people say excuse me when trying to leave crowded trains or just push there way out, with one poster even going as far as to say that those who don't here "sumimasen" can't understand Japanese properly.

I have been here more than 20 years, use Japanese professionally every day, and can tell you that I have been pushed/shoved/elbowed in complete silence on trains in Tokyo on way more occasions that I can count.

Obviously, as some lines are ridiculously crowded, it is exhausting trying to say "sumimasen" to everyone, but it is bizarre to read some posters deny that this behavior happens at all.

Some people just have to jump on and deny anything that is even slightly critical of anything that happens in Japan. This is very odd.

Anyway, the silent pushing and shoving is certainly way ruder than you could get away with in many other countries.

This is the route of the escalator problem. Sometimes people, who are accustomed to silently pushing to get of trains, just try to push their way past someone on the "wrong side" of the escalator. That could be potentially fatal for someone who can only grip the handrail with one or other hand.

These are potentially serious incidents, but are infrequent. It seems like taking a mallet to crack a nut to get everyone to stop walking because of this. How about just telling people to stop silently pushing?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

kitzrow:

It always amazes me that as they walk down the escalator or up the escalator how they can walk and keep their eyes on their cell phone

Me too! The smartphone zombies are a real issue in Japan, and if the railway companies focussed on them, instead of pushing this new escalator "etiquette", I would totally agree.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Me too! The smartphone zombies are a real issue in Japan, and if the railway companies focussed on them, instead of pushing this new escalator "etiquette", I would totally agree.

They gave up on the smartphone zombies so are now onto the next campaign everyone will ignore.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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