The app connects expectant mothers looking for empty seats with passengers wanting to relinquish theirs.

A range of maternity services are available in Japan, including ones that give pregnant women priority when waiting for taxis.

And now the popular messaging app LINE, together with train company Tokyo Metro and Dai Nippon Printing, hopes to provide a service that helps expectant mothers look for seats on crowded trains.

▼ Posters promoting the campaign can be seen on trains.

Passengers who opt into the program will be notified via LINE whenever a pregnant woman enters the same cabin and presses the “I wish to sit” button in the messaging app. An interface tells the woman exactly which seat is being offered, allowing the two individuals to exchange places without so much as a single word uttered.

The service will be trialed from 11 December to 15 December on the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line, running from Ueno Station to Omotesando Station and Shibuya Station to Ueno Station. A total of eight trains are expected to perform this pilot service in their respective last cabins from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and interested volunteers can help provide valuable feedback to help improve the program.

▼ When labels like these don’t cut it anymore.

While this certainly provides valuable assistance to pregnant women, it also highlights some of the difficulties they face when taking public transport in Japan. Seats are swooped upon as soon as they are empty, and many passengers become so preoccupied with their smart phones that they hardly ever look up to notice someone else needing the seat more than them.

▼ People often tend to fall asleep in their seats too.

If pregnant women have to rely on such roundabout methods to guarantee them a seat on a train, perhaps it’s time for society to do a bit of self-reflection. A bit of empathy goes a long way, and the women who help birth our next generation deserve that kindness. Failing that, we reckon trains should resort to using huge pink lights to alert everyone in the vicinity of their presence.

Source: NHK
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert images: Pakutaso (1, 2)