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Etiquette for Riding the Train in Japan

Many people travel by train when on vacation, so this time, we discuss some things to remember when riding on the train in Japan.

Wait for the Train at a Designated Spot

When waiting for the train, form a line at one of the markers drawn at your feet that indicate where to get on the train. The markers may be in writing or symbols, such as circles and triangles, depending on the train line. There may be lines showing the direction to queue in, so in that case, line up in accordance with the lines. The people getting off the train take priority, so be sure to wait until those who need to get off have alighted. It is not appropriate to cut in line. It is also dangerous and frowned upon to jump on a train when the doors are closing.

Do Not Talk on the Phone

Trains are public spaces so you should be considerate of others. It is not appropriate to talk on the phone on the train, and phones should be put on vibrate or silent so they do not ring. If you want to play a game on the phone, be sure to mute it or wear headphones or earphones so the sound does not leak.

Be Considerate When Chatting or Using Headphones/Earphones

Many people are bothered by loud conversations, even if they are in-person and not on the phone. So if you are chatting on the train, talk quietly. Also, if you want to listen to music or recordings using headphones or earphones, make sure the sound does not leak.

No Eating

It is okay to eat chocolates, candies and gum on the train, but not soups or anything with a strong smell. Snacks or any other items that may leave crumbs are not appropriate either. Drinks can be a problem as they may spill. Avoid them when the train is crowded, and if you must drink, choose a container with a small opening. Eating and drinking is usually acceptable on long-distance trains, such as the shinkansen, but it is still considerate to avoid food with strong smells.

Be Careful with Large Bags

If you are carrying a large bag in a crowded train, you may bang others with it or get in the way of people getting on and off. So it is better to put larger bags on the rack. If you have a backpack, be considerate and carry it in your hands or in front of you. On trains such as the shinkansen with aisles in the middle, it can be dangerous to leave anything in the aisle, so put your luggage on the rack.

Be Aware of Priority Seating and Women's Only Cars

Priority Seating

Some seats are designated as priority seating for the elderly, pregnant women, passengers with infants, disabled passengers and passengers with injuries. They are usually in different colors from other seats and have illustrations to identify them. Anyone can sit in the priority seating area, but if you are not a priority passenger it is better to avoid them if there is other seating. When the train is crowded, you must turn off your cell phones near the priority seating to avoid interference with medical devices. Regardless of whether you are in a priority seat or not, it is appropriate to offer your seat to the elderly or people with difficulties.

Women's Only Cars

Some trains, primarily in larger cities, have cars reserved for female passengers. The cars are reserved at specific times and days of the week. On some trains, children who are elementary school age or younger, people with disabilities and their caretakers may also ride in the cars.

Trains in Japan are often quite crowded during certain periods and times such as rush hour and major holidays. Be sure to keep these points in mind when riding on the train, especially when it is crowded and you are in close proximity with others.

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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