Being polite is practically the national pastime in Japan. Along with baseball, being considerate of others at all times is deeply ingrained within every Japanese person. This is one of the many many beautiful things about this country. You never have to endure listening to loud private conversations on public transport, road rage is pretty much non-existent (at least from what I’ve seen) and people are constantly apologising and thanking one another.
It’s all very nice and civilised. It has to be, considering that the population density in Tokyo is like a gabillion percent. It doesn’t pay to piss off your neighbours and fellow Tokyoites.
Public transport is a classic example of where all eschelons of society converge and have to live with each other. The impeccable manners of the Japanese people ensures that the trains are always pristine, punctual and polite. If a train is more than five minutes late you can receive a special note with an apology from JR that you can give to your punctual and polite boss. Amazing.
You are constantly reminded when you are on the train, that you cannot speak on your mobile phone. If you are standing in the general section of the train you must turn your phone to silent, and if you are near the priority seating (the haven of the elderly, the disabled and the pregnant) you must turn it off entirely. In most of the commuter trains in Tokyo you can hear a pin drop. It’s bliss.
It might then surprise you all to learn that the Japanese still believe, however, that everyone must be constantly reminded of the rules of politeness on the train. Even though they are drummed into even the tiniest of Japanese kids. Therefore, you can frequently see helpful and instructive posters on how to behave on the trains. Oddly (or not so oddly) they seem to be centred around the train stations in the foreigner districts. I can’t imagine why.
Here is a very special gem that Tamago and I found the other day on our local train platform…
Zooming in to take a closer look at my personal favourite. I particularly like that the writer has gone for a tricky idiom but somehow pulled it off:
And finally; when riding the train in Japan, always ensure that your seat is only as wide as your bottom. No room for self-esteem issues here…