Hi, I’m Sergio.
I’m from Spain, lived in the UK for seven years and came to Japan in 2012.
I majored in journalism in London and have been teaching English in Tokyo.
I like traveling, cycling, photography, movies, and spending time with friends.
I wrote articles about life in Japan as a foreigner and anything that I might find interesting.
What you should know about train etiquette in Japan
One of the things people are most pleasantly surprised about when they come to Japan is the efficiency and convenience of the transportation system. There are train stations everywhere and the trains come just on time. The station staff will help people with disabilities get on the train, and will even personally bring your baby carriage up or down the stairs if asked. This convenience means that most people don’t drive in Tokyo, and you won’t ever have to worry about traffic jams.
However, there are a few rules you should follow if you don’t want to get the side eye. First of all, while you might see someone breaking this rule now and then, talking on the phone on the train is frowned upon and you should avoid doing so if possible. Japanese commuters tend to appreciate silence, as they are often exhausted from work and want to take a nap. If you must absolutely make a call, try to leave the train or be as quiet and brief as possible.
Something else to keep in mind is that many Japanese commuter trains have carriages for women only. This is due to a groping epidemic that affects particularly school girls in uniform. Men should avoid getting on this train during the designated hours, normally in the morning. You don’t want to be the one man standing out and getting stared at!
Priority seats should be offered to elderly people, people with disabilities, and pregnant women. There are rules in place trying to prevent people from using their phones near these seats, in order for them not to interfere with pacemakers. This rule is hardly ever followed by anyone and, let’s be honest, a pacemaker that laughably flimsy would be a guaranteed death sentence and would never be actually installed. So don’t worry about it.
Finally, we have to talk about crowded trains and lines. Japanese people seem to love lines. If something has a line, it means it’s popular, right? 80% of the Disneyland experience is lines, and everyone loves Disneyland! When it comes to taking the train, too, you should respect the lines outside the doors. You might be surprised that people dash to empty seats as soon as the doors open, as they are desperate to sit down after an exhausting day at work and an hour or two of commuting time ahead. You will also probably have seen Japanese train staff pushing people into the train on TV. These are real and you’ll see them on particularly busy lines and at busy times. Avoid the rush hour if possible and you’ll have a great time. If you can’t, at least you’ll have a wonderfully Japanese experience.