Foreign tourists ignore requests by rail operators to watch their manners on trains in Japan. 

The 2019 Rugby World Cup is currently underway in Japan, with thousands of fans from around the world travelling to stadiums around the country to support 20 international teams competing in the tournament.

While there have been positive tales of fan behaviour so far during the World Cup, unfortunately, there have been a lot of negative stories floating around online as well, and one of the main issues making news in Japan is the conduct of fans on public transport.

Last month, we saw French fans performing a lineout on the floor of a Japanese train, and now more videos have surfaced, showing fans from other countries behaving badly on public transport. The video below shows Australian rugby fans attempting to form a human pyramid at the end of a carriage, in front of priority seating that’s meant to be reserved for the elderly, people with disabilities, and pregnant women.

“When I got on The Toho Line, I wasn’t in Japan”

Australian fans weren’t the only ones caught acting up on a train, as this video shows England supporters singing the rugby anthem “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” onboard the Toho Line in Sapporo, Hokkaido.

While some may argue that this type of behaviour is harmless fun and simply a case of rugby fans getting into the spirit of the game while on holiday, people in Japan aren’t being so lenient. Here in Japan, a lot of importance is placed on “wa”, or “harmony” within the group, and this extends to behaviour on public transport, where rail companies use posters and automated announcements to set out simple rules that include: no talking on the phone, no sitting on the floor or crossing one’s legs, and no loud voices when talking to others on trains. 

“Good manners will bring smiles all around you.”

When passengers respect these rules, Japanese transport runs smoothly and efficiently, making it a marvel for foreign visitors that’s a world away from the way things are run back home. However, when passengers don’t respect these rules, it comes across as arrogant, selfish, and rude, as it creates a rift in the harmony of a public space, and interferes with the comfort of others.

Given this context, people in Japan were understandably appalled by what they saw, leaving comments like:

“Are your minds empty? Are your morals empty? Are you kids?”
“It’s like they’re thinking, ‘What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas’ and they’ve confused Japan for Vegas.”
“If this happened overseas, it would be shared online and everyone would love it, but Japan has stricter morals.”
“This type of behaviour is unthinkable for Japanese.”
“Isn’t Japan the host country? Is this how you treat your host?”

It’s true that this is no way to treat your hosts, no matter what country you’re from. And with the Tokyo Olympics on the horizon, and Shibuya’s unofficial annual Halloween gathering looming even closer, people in Japan are now hoping that international guests will tidy up their act and show some more respect for the “wa”, especially on the country’s trains.

Source: Hachima Kikou
Featured image: Twitter/@SixprideBw

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