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Some trains to ease cell phone restrictions near priority seats — but not during rush hour

24 Comments
By Preston Phro, RocketNews24

If you’ve been on the train in Japan, you’ve likely seen the stickers and signs plastered everywhere around the priority seats asking people to make room for those who need the seats and to turn off cell phones. While you should definitely continue to give your seat to anyone who needs it, starting next month, you’ll no longer have to feel guilty about playing Angry Birds in the priority seating section — unless it’s rush hour.

Starting on Oct 1, all JR and most private train lines in the Kanto (Tokyo, Kanagawa, Chiba, etc) and Tohoku regions will be changing their rules about cell phones around priority seats. Currently, you’re expected to turn off your cell phone in the priority seating area, though we have to admit we’ve never actually seen anyone do that. In fact, it’s almost weird to spot someone not looking at their cell phone around the priority seats…or anywhere else on the train for that matter.

From October, though, you’ll be allowed to use your phone wherever you like, except during rush hour.

It used to be that you couldn’t use your phone around the priority seats due to concern that it would disrupt pacemakers and the like. However, its seems that phones have to be within 15 centimeters of pacemakers, etc. to have any effect, hence the change in the rule. We’re not exactly sure why the rule will still be in effect during rush hour, but we’re also pretty sure people will continue using their phone regardless of the time or congestion.

The ruling change comes after Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications released a report saying that the possibility of cell phones affecting pacemakers was extremely low. However, the rule against phone calls on trains will remain in effect, a rule that generally seems to be upheld by commuters.

Internet commenters had a few thoughts on the matter.

“Even so, those old geezers will still get angry at you.” “I’ve never actually seen anyone turn their phone off anyway…” “They still have that rule in the Kanto area? LOL!” “That’s all well and good, but what all those people who get in way by walking around with their faces glued to their phones?” “What about those jerks who make phone calls, acting like, ‘Oh, it’s for work, so it’s okay, right?'” “If you’re scared of electric waves, there’s no way you could go outside in Japan!”

While we imagine there will be some folks who prickle at the sight of people playing with their phones in the priority seating area, at least now we can do it without feeling guilty, right? The rule was never particularly effective in the first place anyway. And we have to say that we’re pretty happy the rule about not using your phone to make calls will be maintained. We really don’t want to hear about anyone else’s dinner plans.

Sources: Hachima Kiko, NHK

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Oh the things you’ll see when glancing at a nearby passenger’s phone on the trains of Japan -- Limited edition triple-size Lotte pie snack is so popular, we’re unable to get our hands on them! -- “But we’re speaking Japanese!”: Humorous video confronts lingering stereotypes in Japan

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24 Comments
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It's true - cellphones don't disrupt pacemakers unless it's rush hour. What an absurd exception to an already ridiculous rule!

8 ( +10 / -2 )

I really don't care about the cell phone rules near priority seats. For some years it's been a documented fact that they don't interfere with pacemakers. However, I would like to see them make it mandatory and a punishable offense to use the priority seats if you are not old, crippled, pregnant or carrying kids. I can't count the amount of times I've nudged some orange haired punk pretending to be asleep in a priority seat and told him to move his butt while other more deserving passengers are standing nearby.

15 ( +17 / -2 )

....around the priority seats asking people to make room for those who need and to turn off cell phones.

This sentence confuses me although I do understand it.

...make room for those that need cell phones. ...make room for those to turn off cell phones.

Language is fun.

I have been telling people there is no effect on pacemakers for years. If there were, anyone with a pace maker with a phone in their top pocket would be dead, and that does not happen.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Has there ever been a single documented pacemaker death by a cellphone in history?

4 ( +5 / -1 )

No, there hasn't. But can you imagine a train full of people all jabbering away on their phones? Ugh!

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Dan Lewis SEP. 24, 2015 - 07:39AM JST It's true - cellphones don't disrupt pacemakers unless it's rush hour. What an absurd exception to an already ridiculous rule!

If you believe that cell phones affect pace-makers (I'm not weighing in there), then the rush-hour exception does make a kind of sense. On certain trains it's very common for people in rush hour to be packed so close that it's conceivable that a phone could be within 15 cm of someone's heart. Especially with how carelessly and selfishly many people behave on the train.

Is it a good rule? Not weighing in. But the exception isn't exactly absurd. It has its own internal logic.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I can't count the amount of times I've nudged some orange haired punk pretending to be asleep in a priority seat and told him to move his butt while other more deserving passengers are standing nearby.

It's not just orange haired punks, it's all ages and walks of society. Young, middle-aged, men, women. The attitude to others in need here is appalling. It's another thing that makes me bristle when people (particularly Japanese people) say the Japanese are so polite. Maybe in a 'smile and bow to tourists and customers' type way, but not in any meaningful, consideration for other humans way. After all, they need signs to remind them to show basic consideration on trains. Where I come from it's common sense.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

the brain dead on my train don't follow any rules or manners at any time. i doubt this valiant attempt will succeed.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

"For some years it's been a documented fact that they don't interfere with pacemakers."

Yeah... It's also Japan. It's been hard fact proven science that a static electric spark can not and never will set gas fumes on fire. Yet 100% of every gas station in Japan has a discharge node and message to "de-charge" yourself before filling up gas. Not even a lit cigarette will ignite gasoline.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Some trains to ease cell phone restrictions near priority seats — but not during rush hour

If the train is busy, the train is busy. Get over it. Would I would love to see is signs up warning people about nose picking. I've seen a number of people indulging in this filthy habit on the train. That should be considered worse than talking on your phone

1 ( +1 / -0 )

My friend is a Japanese man in his 90s. He always gets irritated when seeing someone using a cellphone while sitting in the "off-phone" seats. And he lets them know it, too. "Turn off that phone," he growls, while pointing at the sign, sometimes right over their head.

As a matter of fact, I always see some out-of-this world healthy-lookomg nerd fiddling away at his/her cell phone while seated in the special seats. What irritates me is that when someone in need of a seat in this section is ignored by one and all ... and is left standing. See this too many times ...

As I have suggested before, why not just go ahead and make this section for the cell-phone impared idiots who sit here anyhow ... that would save a lot of built-up anger in those who abide by the unwritten rules ...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@edojin

You need to be careful with the priority seats, though. "Healthy-looking" doesn't mean healthy. I can stand for thirty minutes, no problem, but after that my left leg starts to slowly weaken (nerves) to the point where I'm staggering rather than standing.

I get horrible stares when I use the priority seats on a long trip because I look perfectly okay... but I ain't.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

i don't know where all you guys/gals are living, but in tokyo metro hell-land, priority seats don't mean jakk shytte. it is the jungle of jungles, and would make the congo look like a playground.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

'Don't use cellphones on the train.' 'Don't walk up escalators.'

What with all these rules that are nonexistent in other countries? Japan loves, adores, cherishes and worships meaningless rules. But did you know that without these suffocating rules many Japanese can actually asphyxiate for lack of rules?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Meaningless, gabrial888? Please visit China and see how cell phone jabber can be more annoying than good. Isolated usage here in Japan and I am grateful for that.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I've been there, kitzrow, and I don't really mind the noise. If your don't like it, you can just wear earbuds. Singapore, Taiwan, other Asian cities are much more lenient on cell phone use than Japan. Across-the-board ban is Japan's forte. Putting folks in a straitjacket is soothing to many a bureaucratic Japanese mind. They later find out the groundlessness of the rule as is the case with this one. Cell use was totally banned before. It's now easing. Ban first and ease the rules at a glacial pace. That's pretty much the mentality here.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

A more practical adaptation of this rule would be to say "keep your voice down when talking on the phone". Voila

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I would like to see them make it mandatory and a punishable offense to use the priority seats if you are not old, crippled, pregnant or carrying kids.

As there are not always enough priority seats, why not just make it an offense to sit while such people stand IF you are asked to move.

I never hesitate to offer my sit for those who need it more than I. I think someone actually took me up on my offer....once.

Hanging on in quiet desperation is the Japanese way!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

No, there hasn't. But can you imagine a train full of people all jabbering away on their phones? Ugh!

Yeah, that would not be pleasant. But then a ban on phone usage on trains should be implemented for that reason and none other.

Allowing this myth to perpetuate that cell phones disrupt pacemakers in order to achieve the main purpose of peace and quiet is patronizing and insulting to commuters It's effectively saying, "You're too stupid to know any better, so if we just continue to let you think you're protecting the health of fellow commuters, who cares? Win-win, right?"

It's not unlike the ban on use of electronic devices on airplanes because of the wholly unproven assumption -- and that's all it is, an assumption -- that they will interfere with complex avionics. Yes, peace and quiet on a flight is important for everyone. But allowing people to think that using a tablet or MP3 player will somehow endanger everyone's lives to achieve the primary goal of promoting peace and quiet on the flight? That's obnoxious.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I think this is a very bad move

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I think this is a very bad move

why? 3G and above mobiles have no effect on pacemakers. There's no reason to have the rule.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Its not so much for the pacemakers, but more for people who just want a place on the train where they don't have to listen to the idiot who blares their music, or the old men and women who don't disable the "touch tone" sounds and type out long email messages, or those who just don't give a #"$"$" and play games or do other things without even bothering to lower the volume or mute their phones.

Is it too much to ask to have a small area on the train where people can be free from electronics and those inconsiderate people who misuse it.?

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

I literally almost never see these things you are referring to. I have - once or twice. But it's nothing I'd call an issue.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Is it too much to ask to have a small area on the train where people can be free from electronics and those inconsiderate people who misuse it.?

JR and other lines already have women-only cars at certain times. Perhaps you could ask them to introduce an electronics free car as well. If people want peace and quiet, they can go to a library

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

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