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How to properly behave on Japanese Trains (Tokyo) - Rules

Updated on December 15, 2019

Train in Japan

Train rides in Japan

Trains are the most common used method of transportation in Japan. Especially in Tokyo, almost everyone rides the train either to work, to university, to meet up with friends or just to get from point A to B.

The trains are really reliable, they are usually never late, except for sometimes during the rush hour or whenever accidents happen. Everyone has seen videos of train rides during the rush hour and having to be part of them on a daily basis, I can tell you guys that you should try to avoid it. Rush hour is usually in the morning from 7-9 am and at 5 pm, when work starts and ends for most people.

Since there are so many people using the train in Tokyo, there are some unwritten rules about what to do and how to behave properly. Usually travel guides don't emphasize too much on it, but it is actually really important, in order to be respectful to Japanese people.

Rule #1: Stay in line before you enter

There are designated areas for people, who wait for the train and you should always stay in them. You should also always be in the qeue of passengers, who want to get in the train and never try to get to the front of it. Making a new qeue is also a no-go, because people, who get off of the train, need their space to freely move.

Rule #2: Put your backpack to your front or on the overhead space above the seats

Since there are so many people on the train, take your backpack off your back and put it infront of your chest. You should do that so you don't accidently hit someone with you backpack. It is really important, because trains at certain times get way too overcrowded and people literally are pressed together.

If there is space left on the overhead cabins above the seats, you can also put your stuff there.

Rule 3#: Always wait until the people get off the train, before you get in

This is something what people should do everywhere in the world, but is especially important in Japan. Since Japanese people are very structured, they also usually do it.

Another thing is, when the train arrives at a certain station, people who are waiting in the qeues to get in, move to both ends of the opening door, let the people get off the train and then go with 2 people at a time.

Stick to this method!

Rule 4#: Don't talk too loud on the train

This is very important, because there are a lot of people on the train, everyone is minding their own business and you shouldn't be the one, who annoys them with your loud voice. A lot of people also do sleep, study, read or play games on the train. So you shouldn't talk to your friends with a lot voice or worse, talk on the phone. Talking on the phone during the train ride, is preceived very rude by a lot of Japanese people.


Rule #5: Leave the seats to people who need them

To be honest, if it is a crowded train and you are still young, try to not sit down, because other people actually do need the seats. There are a lot of elderly people in Japan and always let them sit or offer them your seat. If you are sitting and a old person gets on the train, just stand up, show them the seat and simply say 'doozo', which means please.

Also leave them free for pregnant people, disabled people or people with kids.

Rule #6: Women only cars in Trains

Some parts of certain trains at specific times (usually during the rush hour) are only for women! Unfortunately there have been some cases of sexual harassment during crowded train rides, so Japan has established women only cars. Those cars are pretty easy to spot on trains and don't get onto them, if you are a man. It happens sometimes and people usually just laugh at you, especially if you are a foreigner, but try to not do it.

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    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      16 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      It was interesting to read your article and compare the situation in Japan with the one that I'm familiar with in Canada. Many people talk on their phone on the train here, though more people send text messages and emails. In addition, we don't have cars for women only. People do seem to be polite when getting on and off trains, except when the platform and train are very crowded. The situation can become a bit chaotic then.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      16 months ago from UK

      These all sound like good rules. I wish they were used more widely in the world.

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