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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Public Transportation Etiquette in Japan

One of the most common and popular ways to get around Japan is through public transportation. Cars are not convenient for an every day commute to work or even going into the city to hang out with friends. The parking is limited and costly at times, and there's also a ton of traffic in the bigger cities. Cars are convenient for more rural areas outside of the city or to use for weekend getaways. But since we're talking about an every day use, public transportation is the way to go even though it sometimes has its own inconveniences.

There are many forms of public transportation in Japan that are very reliable. Trains is just the first of many. There are regular trains and then there are Shinkansen trains that cut the time of travel in half but are more expensive. Tourists that are visiting Japan for the maximum 90 days can purchase a JR Pass. This is a pass that can get you to as many places as you'd like for a set price. This is only worth it if you are planning to travel a lot. Anyone living in Japan on a visa can't purchase this pass.
Then you've got your subway system. I personally haven't taken the subway much in Japan due to the lack of subways in Louisiana (in southern United States). But when I have taken the subway, it's been pretty easy going from one part of town to the other. And you can even go shopping or out to eat when you arrive at a subway station!
For my favorite form of transportation, the buses. Buses are super convenient in Japan. They run on time and are affordable unlike services such as taxis. Each city has its own bus system so you may be able to get a bus pass during your stay to make traveling around easier.

Now, as these modes of transportation require you to be in public there are some etiquette rules that you need to be informed about. The rules I'll be stating are pretty well known already. If you see people doing the opposite of these rules, know that they are being very impolite and disrespectful towards the people around them.

Don't Talk on the Phone

In America, I have the impression that we are a country of "do what you want." If you want to talk on the phone while on the bus or subway, you go ahead and do it! But this is not so in Japan. It is very rude to be talking on the phone while on public transportation. Japan is a country of people who think about others first. Will talking on the phone bother the people around me? Yes, it will.

On the train from Kyoto to Osaka.

Don't Talk

While we're at it, just don't talk on public transportation. Being loud in general can be disturbing to others who are just trying to relax and get home. There is the option to whisper but as an American we tend to gradually get louder as the conversation keeps going. If you just have to talk, here's a rule of thumb: if you think you're whispering, you're probably not. Japan's definition of quiet is more quiet than an average person. Have fun practicing your whispering skills.

Don't take Priority Seating

There's a reason why it's called priority seating. Those nice seats on the bus or subway have a sign above them. They are for pregnant women, elders, and people with injuries or disabilities. And please remember, some disabilities can't be seen physically. Many people suffer from invisible disabilities that are extremely painful. Be mindful of where you are seated. If you are seated and the bus is full but an elder comes onto the bus you should offer your seat with a "doozo" which means here (offering something). Even if you see other Japanese people not doing this it is a common courtesy.

Have your Money or Card Ready

This is concerning the bus system. When you know you're close to your stop please have your form of payment ready. You can pay with money or a bus card. With the bus card all you have to do is flash it to the driver and you're free to go. If you're messing with money have the exact change ready. Buses usually cost 260 yen (if I remember right), if not less. If you don't have 260 yen but a 500 yen coin or any kind of bill get change from the front of the bus as soon as you get on. Getting change is done immediately after entering the bus. Once you've got your change you can be seated.

Stand in Line

This one is for the train and subway stations. Before taking the train or subway you will be waiting on a platform. If you notice the ground you'll see lines that help people form a line when entering the train or subway. Sometimes you'll even see little feet prints, indicating where to place yourself while waiting on the platform. Japan is an organized country so this shouldn't be too much of a surprise.

No Eating

Once again, think about others. No one wants to smell food on the train, subway, or bus. If you want to have a swig of drink, go on ahead. But please refrain from bringing food onto public transportation. This is rude and disrespectful to the other riders.

Even though it looks neat enough to eat on the train, don't do it!
I hope you learn a little about how the Japanese lifestyle is like through these etiquette rules for public transportation. Knowing these rules you're ready to travel across Japan!

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