There’s an important reason, and no, it’s not so you can see how good you look.

Our Japanese-language reporter Masanuki Sunakoma is a curious guy. We’re not saying he’s weird (though a certain amount of personal peculiarity is practically prerequisite for members of the SoraNews24 team), but rather that he’s a deep thinker who wants to learn more about the world around him when he spots an opportunity to do so.

So the last time he hopped in an elevator, he found himself wondering “How come there’s a mirror in here?”

While you won’t find a mirror in each and every elevator in Japan, they’re very common equipment…but why? Maybe it’s to let people examine their hair or clothes, Masanuki thought, so that they can make sure they’re looking their best for an important business meeting or admire their freshly styled pompadour.

But what about elevators that have that smaller mirror mounted in a corner of the elevator’s ceiling? Is that some kind of crime-prevention measure, so that you can keep an eye out for pickpockets, gropers, or literal backstabbers?

Thankfully, there’s an authoritative source for the answer to Masanuki’s mirror question: the Japan Elevator Association. We were actually a little surprised to learn such an organization exists, but we suppose it makes sense, since you’d ideally like there to be some sort of governing body certifying that the metal box you’re hanging in half a dozen stories above the ground has been installed safely.

And apparently Masanuki isn’t the only one to wonder about the mirrors, as the Japan Elevator Association explains the reason for them in its website FAQ, stating:

“Mirrors are installed in elevators for the benefit of passengers using wheelchairs, who might not be able to rotate the chair after boarding and will need to exit the elevator while facing backwards.”

Yep, it turns out that the real reason for the mirrors is to help wheelchair users. Even if there’s room enough to wheel the chair in, there might not be enough empty space around it to spin a 180 when the passenger wants to get off. Having a mirror, though, allows the wheelchair user to move straight backwards through the door, then turn around once they’re in a more spacious area.

Sure enough, after learning this Masanuki noticed that in the building where he took the above photo, the handicapped call button summons the elevator on the left

and that elevator has a mirror, while the one on the right doesn’t.

Of course, people in wheelchairs aren’t duty-bound to use the handicapped elevator call button. Japanese law now requires government buildings to have mirrors in all elevators, and some local municipalities have their own similar regulations for certain types of buildings.

So sure, feel free to check yourself out in the mirror next time you’re inside an elevator, but keep an eye out that you’re not blocking the view for someone who needs to consult it before they get off, since it turns out those reflective surfaces, like those bumps on the sidewalk in Japan, have a very important purpose.

Source: Japan Elevator Association
Photos ©SoraNews24
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