Raw Japan

Slices of Japanese business, politics and life

Mind your train manners

December 28, 2009

Taking the train in Japan and want to avoid irking fellow passengers? Keep conversation to a whisper, turn down your iPod and put your cellphone on vibration mode.


When it comes to ridership manners on Japan’s vast network of subways and commuter trains, many foreign visitors have complained to me about the pushing and shoving and reluctance to give up seats for senior citizens and pregnant women.

But for local riders noise is the biggest issue, with loud conversation and music from headphones the top two offenders and cellphone ringtones in fourth place, a survey on train manners by a railway association showed.

Applying make-up ranked as the sixth-biggest breach of rail etiquette, worse than drunkeness at No.9, which just edged out bringing strollers onto crowded trains, according to the survey by the Association of Japanese Private Railways.

As for me? Nothing annoys me more than when the guy sitting next to me falls asleep and tries to use my shoulder for a pillow!

Here are the top 10 examples of bad rail manners according to the association’s online survey, with responses from about 4,200 people:

1. Noisy conversation, horsing around

2. Music from headphones

3. The way passengers sit

4. Cellphone ringtones and talking on phones

5. Manners when getting on and off trains

6. Applying make-up

7. Littering

8. Sitting on the floor of the train

9. Riding the train drunk

10. Riding a crowded train with a child stroller

Photo credit: REUTERS/Kiyoshi Ota


The most annoying thing is applying make-up. It is a public nuisance too.

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