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Tokyo is full of trains. You can go almost everywhere on one. But there is certain etiquette that must be followed in order to use this form of transportation. Here are 12 things to keep in mind that are essential when riding Japanese trains.

1. At the platform, stand beyond the yellow line.

At the platform, always, always, always stand behind the yellow line (on the side that isn’t the tracks). The number of accidents that occur because people fell or were deliberately pushed into tracks has never decreased. Some train companies have innovated home doors (see image below) that prevent this, but it’s always good to be safe. Also, there are raised bumps on the tiles, so keep your luggage off it too.

2. Don’t go onto or peer into the tracks.

I know this is fairly obvious but this can never be repeated enough. DO NOT GO ONTO OR PEER INTO THE TRACKS. You may have quick reflexes but you can also be drunk or poor of judgement; a train could come and you might not dodge it in time. If you want a picture of the tracks, ask a nearby train station staff. 

3. When the train arrives, wait for the people to get out, then get in.

Always wait for the people in the train to get out; then get in. Or else you’re going to collide into each other, and that’s not a fun thing to do. 

 4. Don’t push, patience is a virtue.

I know that crowds, especially in a stuffed train, can be extremely stressful. But DO NOT PUSH. If you push when you get out, someone might fall, and domino the effect to the crowd, or worse, get hurt by tripping. Some stations have extreme gaps between the train and the platform. Things happen. Be patient and you will eventually get there.

5. Sit on priority seats only when there are no people of priority around.

For those wondering what priority seats look like:

They usually look different (more vibrant in color) than regular seats, sometimes have stickers that indicate who is prioritized to sit there. Handicapped, elderly, pregnant women and people with children can sit here, or anyone else who should not or cannot stand for long periods of time.

When there are no people of priority around, you can sit here. Give up the seat when they arrive. This also applies to regular seats, when the train is crowded.

6. Keep to yourself in crowded trains, standing or sitting.

Keep your body in a compact shape when on a crowded train. Nobody likes a stranger’s body kicking at your feet or luggage. Be nice.

7. When the train is in motion, hold a pole or hand strap if you’re standing.

Trains can suddenly stop. Always grab a nearby pole or hand strap when the train is in motion. 

8. Refrain from talking in a loud voice when the train is quiet.

Or else people are going to stare at you like you committed a crime. If others are talking in some volume, follow that volume. 

9. Keep your luggage at your feet, on your lap or on the luggage rack above.

photo by sirexkat on Flickr

Don’t keep your luggage lying around. Keep it out of the way. If you’re standing and carrying a backpack, take it off and put it at your feet. 

10. Do not eat or drink.

Refrain from eating or drinking as much as possible. There is a possibility that you might spill food all over the place. If your hunger or thirst is unbearable, be sure you won’t make a mess, and do so without drawing much attention. Avoid foods that have strong smells, or have the possibility to make a mess (like cup noodles in the image above). 

On the other hand, special limited express trains such as the Shinkansen allow eating and drinking. Some sell lunch boxes called ekiben. In that case, eat and drink away. 

11. When you can’t get off from all the people in the way, raise your voice on a moderate level.

I repeat: DO NOT PUSH. Sometimes people push back, and then you will probably miss your stop. It doesn’t have to be in Japanese, just a small voice will be fine. If you want to say it in Japanese, say “Orimasu” (I’m getting off). 

12. Do not break any laws on (or off) the train.

Do not litter, smoke, set things on fire, try to pry open doors, harm anyone, etc etc on the train. You will get arrested. Needless to say, this does not apply only on trains, but everywhere. Just use your common sense.

Also check:

The Japanese Commuter Train System: A Comprehensive Guide

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