As the old saying goes, yesterday’s enemy may be today’s friend.

For a country that’s notoriously polite as Japan is, you’d assume that such good manners would be seen everywhere, including on public transport like trains. People from outside the country might be amazed at how clean, quiet and punctual Japanese trains are compared to most other countries, and it’s likely due to a strict ‘train etiquette‘ that people are expected to follow. Most train passengers abide by these ‘train rules’, but just like in any country, a small minority of bad apples ruin things for everyone else.

While most train manners are pretty cut and dry — don’t eat on the train, don’t talk in a loud voice — one particular ‘rule’ has remained in a moral grey zone for a long time — the priority seating area. Designed to let people who are elderly, pregnant or physically handicapped sit down, priority seating has been the topic of fierce online debates for a while. Is it ok to use the priority seats on busy trains if you are able to stand? How can you really tell when someone needs to use priority seating? When is someone old enough to be considered ‘elderly’?

Such a grey zone means that people that really need to use priority seats are at times left standing, and so it’s not uncommon to see posters dotted around train stations throughout Japan reminding passengers of the importance of giving up your seat for those in need.

We’ve seen train etiquette posters in the past feature some popular Japanese characters like Doraemon, but the star of these new posters is Japanese folklore hero Momotaro, sometimes known as Peach Boy. Momotaro is a tale of a boy born from a giant peach, who gathers his animal friends and goes to the island of Onigashima to fight some ogres.

▼ A modern reboot of the traditional Peach Boy story, retold in this Pepsi commercial

Momotaro comes out on top in the story, which sees him defeat the ogres and come home to his family with a bunch of treasure. But no one ever talks about what became of the ogres that Momotaro defeated… until Twitter user @magami_dai spotted this poster at a train station.

▼ “Aren’t you the one that did this…?”

The latest train manner poster sees a battered looking ogre getting on the train with a crutch and an arm in a sling. As he goes to sit in the priority seating, he notices a familiar face — his enemy, Momotaro, who is already seated there. As expected of a Japanese folklore hero, Momotaro recognises that the ogre needs the seat more than he does and jumps up with a smile, saying ‘dōzo’ (“go ahead”).

While the poster seemingly shows Momotaro promoting good train etiquette, Japanese netizens were amused at the choice of characters used.

“Isn’t the reason the ogre needs to use priority seating because Momotaro beat him up?!”
“Is no one going to talk about the pheasant’s behaviour? It’s outrageous!”

“Must be a scary situation for the ogre to be in.”
“It’d be even worse if Momotaro knew the ogre was taking the train and rode it on purpose.”
“Yesterday’s enemy may be today’s friend.”
“The smile on Momotaro’s face makes him look like a psychopath.”
“I have so many questions.”

A more pressing question may be why Momotaro was sitting in the priority seating in the first place, given he doesn’t appear to be elderly, physically handicapped or pregnant. But seeing as Momotaro is something of a Japanese hero, perhaps he was pulling a P.K. Sanjun and sitting in the seat to protect it from those who refuse to relinquish it.

Source: Twitter@magami_dai via Hachima Kiko
Featured image: Twitter@magami_dai
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