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In plenty of situations, Japan’s reliance on public transportation is a life-saver. Need some extra time to study for that test in first period? Pull out your notebook and review on the train to school. Had a few drinks too many? Park yourself in a seat on the subway, take a 30-minute nap, and arrive at the station with just enough power to walk home and get your key in the door.

Now, a railway in Chiba Prefecture is looking to give a hand not just to procrastinating students and heavy drinkers (who are, of course, often one and the same), but to young lovers, too, with its special priority seats for couples. That’s right, singletons, you just got one more reason to hate clingy couples.

On most Japanese trains, the bench seats in the corner of each car are designated as ‘courtesy’ or ‘priority’ seats. While technically anyone can sit in them, passengers are asked to give priority to the elderly, injured, or people travelling with small children and relinquish the seat as soon as someone more in need steps on board.

Rail operator Ryutetsu is still earmarking 75 percent of its corner seats for such groups, but starting April 1 the company has also been designating one corner seat in each of the five cars in its trains as being for couples.

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The special seats can be found on trains running along the Nagareyama Line, which connects Nagareyama and Mabashi Stations, located respectively in the cities of Nagareyama and Matsudo. Both towns are low-key communities in relatively quiet Chiba Prefecture, and neither one is exactly what you’d call a hot date spot. This makes Ryutetsu’s choice of promotion a little surprising, until you remember that Nagareyama is also the city where couples (or even lonely individuals) can officially register their feelings of affection.

▼ Nagareyama’s koitodoke, or Love Declaration Form

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Over 4,000 koitodoke were submitted in the first month since the forms became available. The romantic paperwork is part of a local publicity effort playing up Nagareyama being the filming location for upcoming romance movie Momoso, Kochi wo Muite, which comes out May 10.

In addition to the scenes which take place in the town itself, Ryutetsu trains and stations also appear in the film, which led to the rail operators idea to decorate one bench seat (which naturally seats two people) in each car with romantic images. Each car features different decorations, such as miniature samples of the koitodoke, the high school uniforms worn by the movie’s main characters, and a paper recreation of the blackboard scribbled with romantic messages.

The seats are officially known as the koitodoke seats, and Ryutetsu is betting they’ll give a boost to local tourism. “We’re hoping couples will sit in them as they make the rounds of the places where the movie was filmed,” said Ryutetsu Rail Division Deputy Manager Koji Kitahara.

The koitodoke seats will only be around until the end of May, though, so if you’ve got your eye on someone but you’ve been dragging your feet about asking him or her out, you’d better get off your butt if you want to put it into one of these special seats.

Source: Hachima Kiko
Top image: Ryutetsu
Insert images: MIF Design