Train Etiquette in Japan

Trains or rail transport in Japan is an important means of commuter transport between major cities and urban areas in the country. The Shinkansen network or bullet trains that presently link most of Japan’s major cities on the islands of Honshu and Kyushu with the Hokkaido links. Visitors to Japan are amazed by the trains, its punctuality and how clean they are. The Japanese take pride in their high standards for public transportation and they are known for having flawless manners.

The Japanese also observe high standards for public transportation etiquette. It would be useful to know the common things to avoid doing while on a train in Japan.

Trains in Japan.

Air Trip, a Japanese travel provider recently conducted a survey asking Japanese train commuters what type of behavior they find impolite while riding public transportation. Here are a few don’ts for non-Shinkansen trains:

Leaving trash behind – it is a well known fact that Japanese are very conscious of keeping everything including public places clean. Avoid littering and if you happen to have trash, look for the proper place to dispose of it or place it in your bag and throw it away when you find the chance.

Commuters, Japan. | Derek A.

Riding the train while inebriated – some people who are drunk have a tendency to be belligerent, slouch across their seat, or some other form of drunken behavior that can be uncomfortable for other passengers. It would probably be best if you wait to sober up before taking a train ride.

Taking up more space – Japanese train seats are not made for a lot of extra space. Avoid stretching, slouching, spreading, crossing your legs or placing your bag in the seat next to you when taking the train.

Talking in a loud voice – whether on your phone or talking to someone on the train with you, other passengers would prefer not to be subjected to having to listen to your conversation. Some people would rather take the time they have on the train to relax or take a nap.

Ill-mannered baggage holding – It would be best to not wear your backpack while riding the train as it would take up more space than necessary.

JR Yamanote Line, Shinjuku Station. | Steve Boland

Hold you backpack to the side or in front of you. There is also a parcel shelf above the bench seats of trains where you can store your bags and other carry-ons.

Always keep in mind that public transportation is shared by everyone including complete strangers that happened to be on the same train with you. If you happen to have done something you think is impolite, a polite it would always help to say a quick “sumimasen” (“excuse me”). Happy travels!