In a country famous for its manners and famous for its trains, of course there are plenty of train manners to keep in mind.

Just about every visitor to Japan is impressed by three things about Japan’s trains: they’re clean, they’re punctual, and their passengers are extremely polite. However, it’s not like everyone in Japan has impeccable manners, and the high standards for public transportation etiquette mean that there are plenty of times when Japanese people feel like one of their fellow passengers is doing something inconsiderate.

Japanese travel provider Air Trip recently conducted a survey asking its users what sort of behavior they think is impolite while riding public transportation, so let’s take a look at the 930 responses for trains (multiple responses were allowed).

15. Reading while the train is crowded (10.9 percent of responses)

Unfolding a newspaper is obviously an intrusion on others’ space on a crowded train, but you can make the same complaint about books if you’re standing millimeters away from someone else on a shoulder-to-shoulder train at rush hour.

14. Drinking beer/alcoholic beverages (20 percent)

This is a good time to point out that the list is specifically for non-Shinkansen trains. While knocking back a cold one is perfectly acceptable on Japan’s bullet trains (which even sell beer onboard), for non-Shinkansen trains, especially short-haul, downtown rides, good manners dictate waiting until you get off to get your drink on.

13. Eating (26.3 percent)

As with drinking, this is a bit of a gray area. For long-haul trains going to sightseeing areas, especially those with reserved seats and fold-out trays, eating isn’t a problem. After all, stations where such trains stop sell delicious, region-specific bento boxed lunches specifically because they expect people to eat onboard. But if you’re riding, say, a train or subway in downtown Tokyo? Many people would prefer you limit yourself to, at most, snack foods you can eat in a single bite.

12. Heavily scented perfume/cologne (27.6 percent)

Japan isn’t particularly keen on powerful personal fragrances to begin with, and that aversion goes double for shared, enclosed spaces.

11. Leaving behind trash (28.2 percent)

Yes, it is a pain that Japanese train stations often have few trash cans, and sometimes none at all. Doesn’t matter-stick your trash in your bag and carry it home instead of leaving it on the train.

10. Riding the train while drunk (31.7 percent)

The implication here is that, being drunk, the person is also taking up extra space by slouching across the bench seat, behaving belligerently, or subjecting everyone around them to their booze breath bouquet (in a gross variant of Number 12). If you’re in such bad shape, other passengers would probably prefer you wait until you’ve sobered up a bit before you hop on the train.

9. Making a mad dash to get onto the train (32.2 percent)

Japan’s trains are just about always on schedule, so it’s easy to know what time you need to be at the platform by, and if you can’t get on without barreling through the already-closing doors and potentially slamming into someone who’s already aboard, waiting for the next train is probably the better option.

8. Using a smartphone when the train is crowded (36.3 percent)

We already covered reading print media in Number 15, but with smartphones now being the preferred way to kill time while riding the rails, it’s important to remember that when standing on a crowded train, no one wants their back or chest to be used as someone else’s smartphone stand, especially if there’s some vigorous tapping going on.

7. Applying makeup (40.5 percent)

Another proximity issue, as many people feel uncomfortable sitting right next to someone who’s dusting themselves with powder or applying tints to their skin, lips, or eyelashes, since the don’t want any cosmetic product to ride a draft of air onto them.

6. Getting on or off the train rudely (42.4 percent)

A separate category from dashing onto the train, this complaint covers shouldering people trying to move in the opposite direction as you board or exit.

5. Loud headphone/earphone volume (54 percent)

The point of compact personal speakers is that the sound is supposed to be only for the wearer. If other people can hear the music, it’s too loud.

4. Impolite baggage holding (54,1 percent)

Because of the human body’s skeletal structure, a single person takes up extra space if they’re wearing a backpack, as opposed to holding it at their side or in front of them. The parcel shelf above the bench seats in Japanese trains is also a good option for backpacks or large purses or shopping bags.

3. Talking on the phone (56.3 percent)

Pretty much every rail company in Japan has regular onboard announcements asking passengers to refrain from talking on the phone. Pretty much anything other than a quick, hushed “Sorry, on the train. Can’t talk” is considered too long a telephone conversation.

2. Talking in a loud voice (58.5 percent)

Even if you’re talking to a face-to-face friend instead of one on the phone, most people still don’t want to be forced to hear each and every word, especially with how many people enjoy taking a nap on the train in Japan.

1. Taking up more than your fair share of the seating space (72.8 percent)

Japanese train seats, whether in two-by-two or bench formation, aren’t designed with a whole lot of extra per-person space. Excessive spreading, stretching, or slouching are all seen as definite nos, as is crossing your legs or putting your bags next to you.

That might seem like a lot to remember, but it largely boils down to remembering that public transportation is shared transportation, and that the complete strangers who also happen to be on the same train aren’t there because they really want to smell, hear, or be unnecessarily pressed against you. Keep that in mind, and you should be fine, especially if you remember to give a polite “Sumimasen” (“Excuse me”) to whoever was inconvenienced should you realize you did something on the list.

Source: Air Trip
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Insert images: Pakutaso (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
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