If you’ve been on the train in Japan, you’ve likely seen the stickers and signs plastered everywhere around the priority seats asking people to make room for those who need and to turn off cell phones. While you should definitely continue to give your seat to anyone who needs it, starting next month, you’ll no longer have to feel guilty about playing Angry Birds in the priority seating section—unless it’s rush hour.

Starting on the first day of October, all JR and most private train lines in the Kanto (Tokyo, Kanagawa, Chiba, etc.) and Tohoku (Akita, Aomori, Fukushima, etc.) regions will be changing their rules about cell phones around priority seats. Currently, you’re expected to turn off your cell phone in the priority seating area, though we have to admit we’ve never actually seen anyone do that. In fact, it’s almost weird to spot someone not looking at their cell phone around the priority seats…or anywhere else on the train for that matter.

From October, though, you’ll be allowed to use your phone wherever you like except during rush hour.

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It used to be that you couldn’t use your phone around the priority seats due to concern that it would disrupt pacemakers and the like. However, its seems that phones have to be within 15 centimeters (just shy of six inches) of pacemakers, etc. to have any effect, hence the change in the rule. We’re not exactly sure why the rule will still be in effect during rush hour, but we’re also pretty sure people will continue using their phone regardless of the time or congestion.

The ruling change comes after Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications released a report saying that the possibility of cell phones affecting pacemakers was extremely low. However, the rule against phone calls on trains will remain in effect, a rule that generally seems to be upheld by commuters.

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Internet commenters had a few thoughts on the matter.

“Even so, those old geezers will still get angry at you.”
“I’ve never actually seen anyone turn their phone off anyway…”
“They still have that rule in the Kanto area? LOL!”
“That’s all well and good, but what all those people who get in way by walking around with their faces glued to their phones?”

“What about those jerks who make phone calls, acting like, ‘Oh, it’s for work, so it’s okay, right?'”
“If you’re scared of electric waves, there’s no way you could go outside in Japan!”

While we imagine there will be some folks who prickle at the sight of people playing with their phones in the priority seating area, at least now we can do it without feeling guilty, right? The rule was never particularly effective in the first place anyway. And we have to say that we’re pretty happy the rule about not using your phone to make calls will be maintained. We really don’t want to hear about anyone else’s dinner plans!

Sources: Hachima Kiko, NHK
Images: Wikipedia (Namazu-tron)