Raw Japan

Slices of Japanese business, politics and life

Mind your train manners


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.

A carriage too far


What are the odds, but on the morning after a few Seibu shareholders asked the transport firm to offer male-only rail cars to avoid the stress of possible train groping allegations, I mistakenly walked into the women-only car in Shibuya during the crowded rush hour.

Whoops, I suddenly realized - no blue suits and ties, discarded racing newspapers and pornographic manga, or slumped-over passengers letting neighbours support their weight, and it smelled decidedly better. Something was dreadfully wrong.