Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Japan acts to avert growing crisis in manners

with 9 comments


I have a suggestion for Mr Falcon. If you really want people to feel more comfortable riding on transit, abandon the fare gates idea in favour of hiring grannies to remind people of the need to be polite.

In Yokohama, a port city south of the capital, transport authorities have had enough. From next week a crack squad of “etiquette police” will patrol subway carriages and – politely – ask passengers to give up their seats to elderly, pregnant or disabled passengers.

Members of the Smile-Manner Squadron, most of whom are well over 60, hope to embarrass young miscreants into vacating their seats rather than allow them to nap or, more commonly, to pretend to be asleep, while those in greater need of a rest are left standing.

They could also usefully tell people to stop shouting on their cell phones, and remind them to stand on the right on the escalators. An Idea Whose Time Has Come!

Written by Stephen Rees

March 25, 2008 at 9:38 am

Posted in transit

9 Responses

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  1. I’m going to have to be bold and say that I often do that. When I see someone napping in the reserved seats, I shout “OH YEAH, THOSE ARE THE RESERVED SEATS. DON’T WORRY SIR/MADAM, THIS YOUNG MAN/WOMAN WILL QUICKLY WAKE UP AND GIVE YOU HIS/HER SEAT BECAUSE HE/SHE KNOWS THAT THEY SHOULDN’T BE TAKING THEM UP”.

    Of course, I get the evil eye all the time, but (and maybe I’m overconfident) I am always successful at getting non-polite people to give up their seats. And if they want to take it out on me, they can try… 🙂


    March 25, 2008 at 10:17 am

  2. Raul, I like your method, but it could be refined to give offenders more opportunity to save face by implying that their offence was not intentional.


    March 25, 2008 at 12:20 pm

  3. The train I rode to work near Kobe had one car at the end of each train where you had to turn your phone completely off, ostensibly for people with pacemakers, but I can tell you it was a dream for others not wanting to listen to one side of someone else’s conversation.

    Japan also has a long tradition of employing the elderly to do fairly menial tasks like being a “safety officer” for a parking lot, or attending checkpoints for elementary school children on their way to school. This program is no doubt related to this practice, but admirable all the same.


    March 25, 2008 at 9:41 pm

  4. I can see the thinking behind it, and yes, a polite reminder to offensive cell-phone users or people reading porn but I’d suggest this is another example of a controlling society. Besides, older ladies in Japan are most notorious for elbowing their way wherever they want to go.

    I’m also interested to note that while makeup, cell phones, and grubby magazines are mentioned (And I’ve seen all three in Japan) the authorities seem less concerned about the mobbing and groping that is routinely experienced by women on trains. I’ve had to insert myself between a lecherous businessmann and a young woman who clearly didn’t appreciate him looking openly down her blouse.

    Andy in Germany

    March 26, 2008 at 12:05 am

  5. I thought I read somewhere recently that they had introduced ladies only coaches on Japanese trains. I recall that because on the London, Tilbury and Southend line they had ladies only compartments right up to the 1970s

    Stephen Rees

    March 26, 2008 at 8:22 am

  6. JR has had ladies only cars going on close to a decade now I believe, but only on specific lines in larger cities like Osaka and Tokyo.


    March 26, 2008 at 8:45 am

  7. Back in 2001 I wondered why everyone in the train was staring at me… I had missed the signs on the doors!


    March 26, 2008 at 4:40 pm

  8. Interesting…

    You guys know about the smoking regulations coming into effect as of Monday? I wonder if us civilians are allowed to enforce that. I’m keeping the published notice in my bag just in case I need to politely ask someone to butt out 😉

    I gaped in awe as a crutch-bound man got on the train, realised there was no place to sit, and couldn’t get off the train fast enough before it closed on him… and then as the train pulled away from the station, he had to hobble clear across it to find a vacant courtesy seat. All the working zombies just ignored him… including, unfortunately, me because I knew the fate that awaited me if I gave up my seat. Harsh reality and I felt awful and selfish. MORE SKYTRAIN CARS PLEASE!

    Erika Rathje

    March 26, 2008 at 10:30 pm

  9. Moderator’s note – I have tried to edit out the offensive parts of this message – it had a number of racist and inappropriate terms. Once they were removed the rest was meaningless.

    grant g

    March 28, 2008 at 12:13 pm

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