Japan is usually willing to look the other way about booze on the rails, but not this time.

Japanese etiquette isn’t nearly as complicated as many guidebooks make it out to be. There is, however, at least one aspect of life in Japan that’s a nebulous gray area governed by unspoken understandings, and that’s drinking beer on trains.

Drinking beer on the Shinkansen bullet trains is A-OK (after all, they even sell beer onboard). On the other end of the spectrum, cracking open a cold one on a shoulder-to-shoulder rush hour commuter train is always frowned upon, since no one wants the smell of your brew of choice filling the crowded space. But between those two extremes, the acceptability of drinking on trains depends on factors such as the time of day, length between stops, and whether the train is going through ordinary neighborhoods or sightseeing areas.

But one thing is for sure: carrying a freshly poured mug of draft beer onto the train, instead of a can, is going to get you in trouble.

Shortly after five in the evening on Tuesday, a man in Hyogo Prefecture’s Akashi Station (about 20 kilometers/12 miles west of Kobe) hopped on an eastbound train. In his hand he was holding a glass mug of beer, specifically a medium size.

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The man had just purchased the beer from a beef bowl restaurant inside the station. In many casual Japanese eateries, especially ones in train stations where diners are in a hurry, it’s common to pay ahead of time, so that you can leave whenever you need to. However, after the man paid his bill and was given his beer, instead of taking a seat and drinking it on the premises he decided to take it to go.

However, once the station staff found out what he’d done, they asked him to exit the train and return the mug to the restaurant. It’s not clear whether they did this out of concern that the contents of the wide-mouth drinking vessel would spill once the train was in motion, fear of safety concerns if the man were to drop the glass mug, or some combination of the two, but if nothing else, when a Japanese restaurant pours you a beer in a mug, the mug isn’t yours to take home with you.

No criminal charges were filed, and the man complied with the instructions. It’s unknown whether or not he chugged his beverage before returning the mug

Source: Kobe Shimbun Next via Hachima Kiko
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert image: Pakutaso

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