Photo: KAMASAMI KONG
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Subway manners

12 Comments

A poster at Ginza subway station offers advice on how to be polite in four languages.

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12 Comments
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Well done. It would be great to have more kind and helpful human interaction in Japan.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

I worry that telling blind people there’s a post in their way might be seen as a micro-aggression. Maybe that’s just the Canadian in me talking.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Any foreigner I’ve seen on trains, apart from Chinese, have been very courteous. I think more signs like this in Japanese only are necessary

9 ( +11 / -2 )

This is why context is everything.

By itself, it looks like only a serial complainer could find something wrong with this poster. But if you live in Japan, you will have noticed a trend that has emerged in recent years. Information on products is only sometimes, and not often, available in store in other languages. Likewise information on membership schemes, discounts, special offers, promotions, local events, coupons, or numerous schemes of various varieties that can make life more comfortable. Of course, this is Japan and we should learn Japanese, so the above is I guess not necessary.

But do you have advice on how to behave properly? A lesson in manners? A security notice telling people not to steal things? A notification that security cameras are watching you? Then, for some reason, the text is most often available in every language under the sun. I have seen the "shoplifting will be prosecuted" warning in everything from Vietnamese to Russian in the depths of the countryside where, by contrast, there is absolutlye no helpful information that could actually assist the non-Japanese speaker.

"Non-Japanese are immoral. Non-Japanese are not to be trusted. Non-Japanese are to be looked down on."

Of course, Japan is full of great people and not everyone thinks like this, but that message - the message that we not not customers or clients, but rather bothersome interlopers who need to be told how to behave - it comes across extremely clearly if you look at what kind of information is, and is not, rendered in foreign languages in public in Japan.

I notice this trend becoming more pronounced too. I wonder if any other readers agree with this? I would be happy to be told I have got this all wrong.

(Note that I am not saying there is never any helpful foreign language information ever, it is a matter of degree).

7 ( +8 / -1 )

A lesson in manners?

But they aren't manners, they're rules. You can dress them up as etiquette or manners but they're just orders, rules.

If they were really concerned about manners there would be huge signs in every station toilet saying, "Now Wash Your Hands." But there aren't...

5 ( +5 / -0 )

To be honest I think the English speakers need the least prompting for this kind of thing but including them makes it seem like they are part of the problem.

It's also pointless anyway because Japanese people won't understand what they're saying, or any other language even! The best way as a lingua franca would be to be point to the seat, gesture to them (open hand for the Japanese) and move as if to get up. A Japanese person is either going to wave at them to say no or bow and say ありいがとうございます to accept

5 ( +6 / -1 )

"Please cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing" would be so much more beneficial to the public than "Feel free to patronize mothers, the elderly, and the handicapped."

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Above points all very interesting, indeed, and well understood. Question for those of you living there presently: I notice the largest language on that sign is Japanese. How are the locals doing with the suggested etiquette? In my experience [many protracted visits over the last 17 years] most Japanese won't show deference to handicapped, elderly, or even pregnant women. Most young people, salarimen, kogeru, etc. will usually adopt the eyes-closed-furrowed-brows posture instead of giving up a seat on the train... Please tell me I'm getting that wrong?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

very few Japanese observe the priority seats as it is, youngsters to adults rush to fill them while glued to their smart phones and how many Japanese have you ever seen hold a door open for a person about to walk through behind them? these concepts of manners have not been taught to Japanese children, would be simple to teach in manners etiquette classes in primary school but officials in charge in the ministry of education have never been taught them either.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Personally I love these signs. I am Canadian and have been fortunate enough to travel to Japan on 3 occasions and think that these signs are just visual reminders for anything from 'don't talk on your cellphone on the train' to 'don't be drunk on a platform' and I think that the rest of the would could use these friendly reminders for all sorts of things. This is why Japan is clean, courteous and thinks everything through so thoroughly.

Even at work here in my office, what would be the harm in having a sign on the hot water kettle to say 'if you see me empty or take some water, refill for the next person!'....it's not rude or anything like that, it's just a little reminder to be your best and be helpful and if everyone does this (or more people the better), the interaction or experience will be just that much better for everyone.

People may laugh at that, but how many times does one approach an empty kettle and think "Why is it ALWAYS empty!?! I'm ALWAYS filling it up..." when the alternative would be seeing it's a full kettle, pouring my water in my cup and filling it for the next person and going back to my desk.

Thanks!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Why is the kettle always empty? The answer is simple: due to peer pressure. No-one wants to be seen opening the kettle -- there are documented cases on record where a disgruntled company worker has poured a noxious substance (such as bleach) into the kettle in order to exact revenge upon co-workers over some perceived or imagined slight. Everyone understands intuitively that rules such as those depicted on the Subway manners poster are only meaningless window-dressing. A visitor to Japan will not see the ever-present peer pressure that keeps the populace in line.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

3RENSHO

my work kettle is always full.

Please explain how this jives with your theory.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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