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16 Etiquette Tips When Riding Trains In Japan

16 Etiquette Tips When Riding Trains In Japan

Translated by Satomi Ohba

Written by MATCHA

2019.10.09 Bookmark

In major cities like Tokyo and Osaka, many people use trains everyday. Trains are also a popular way for travelers to get around. With a large number of people riding trains, it is important to have good manners. This article will cover how to ride the trains like a local and tips to remember.

Train Rides in Japan - Important Etiquette to Remember

train manners in japan

Trains in Japan are accurate down to the minute. Countless trains run across the country, and at larger stations, packed trains arrive one after the other. As so many people rely on trains for transportation, it is helpful to know the etiquette.

This article will cover manners to keep in mind for the train before going on a trip.

What to Do at the Ticket Gate and Platform

To enter most stations, you will need to buy a train ticket or use an IC card. We recommend purchasing an IC card if you do not have a free access pass. The cards will save you money compared to buying tickets and are more convenient since they are rechargeable.

Once you have a ticket or a card, you can enter the ticket gate.

1. Step off to the Side If You Cannot Get Through

Train manners in japan

Photo by Pixta

If your ticket or IC card does not have enough money to pay for the train fare, you not will be able to get through the ticket gate. If this happens, make way for the people behind you to get through. Since ticket gates are common choke points within stations, it is important not to hold up the line.

2. Pay Attention to Which Side You Walk

where to walk

Most stations will have rules for which side of the hallway or staircase you should walk on. Follow the signs and arrows that point in the right direction; this is particularly important when climbing the stairs or escalators.

3. Keep Your Head Up When Walking

Stations located in large cities, such as Shinjuku and Shibuya, are always crowded with people regardless of the time. Some will be using their phones as they walk. To avoid bumping into people, keep your head up, and be careful of your surroundings.

4. Only Smoke in Designated Areas

You are generally not allowed to smoke inside a station. This rule extends to bathrooms and trains, as well. If you need to smoke, look for designated smoking areas or a store that permits smoking.

5. Wait in Line Before Boarding

train manners in japan

Photo by Pixta

You will find arrows on the platform floors. These indicate where you should stand while waiting for the train. Some stations guide people to get into two lines, while others three lines and more.

Also, to avoid falling off the platform, make sure you walk towards the middle of the platform.

6. Let People Get off First

train manners in japan

Photo by Pixta

A common rule in Japan is to wait for people to get off the train before you start boarding. Wait patiently in line until it is time to board. The train will not leave without you, don't worry!

7. Don't Rush onto the Train

Rushing to get on a train can cause a delay, or worse, an accident. The doors will not shut on you if you are close enough to the train. If you miss the train, you will have to ride the next one.

What to Do Inside Trains

8. Move Into the Car

If people were waiting in line behind you, they will board the train after you. To make space, make sure you move into the train.

If you are standing by the train's doors, it is polite to get off briefly at each station to let people pass by and get out of the car.

9. Silence Your Phone and Don't Make Phone Calls

train manners in japan

Photo by Pixta

In Japan, it is considered rude to make loud noises in small spaces such as a train. Try not to be a disturbance to your fellow passengers with music, sounds, or talking on your smartphone.

10. Lower Your Volume

train manners in japan

Photo by Pixta

Following tip 9, make sure you are not blasting music out of your headphones, raising your voices in a group, or letting your kids run around.

11. Refrain from Eating

While you are free to chew gum or eat a piece of candy, refrain from eating food with strong smells or that can create a mess.

You are allowed to eat food in long-distance trains like the Shinkansen, or bullet train. Shinkansen stations will often sell local food as ekiben (a bento box sold at a train station). These are a great treat to have on a long trip.

12. Hold Your Bags Close to Yourself

train manners in japan

Photo by Pixta

If you are carrying a large bag, make sure you are not hitting anyone. For example, wear your backpack in front of your body or place it on the shelf above the seats.

13. Don't Take Up Too Much Space

train manners in japan

Photo by Pixta

Most people will want to sit down on a train. Try to make room for other people by sitting with good posture and holding onto your bags.

If you are sitting in a box seat, do not rest your feet on the seat across from you. No one wants to sit in a dirty seat.

Time and Area Specific Rules

14. Give Up Your Seat in Priority Seating

priority seat

Photo by Pixta

Japanese trains will have priority seating sections for parents with little children, elderly folks, pregnant women, those who are injured, and those with large luggage. If you are seated and spot someone who might need to sit down, it is common courtesy to offer them the seat.

15. Avoid Rush Hour

Trains in the city become extremely crowded during rush hour. Station employees will push passengers inside trains so the doors close, and some passengers will have to wait for a later ride. It is not uncommon to board a train amidst a wave of fellow passengers.

If you are carrying large bags or luggage, we highly suggest avoiding rush hour.

16. Female Passengers Can Use Designated Cars

female-only train cars

Especially during rush hour, passengers press against each other inside trains. In rare cases, people can even be molested. To prevent female passengers from unwanted physical contact, you will find exclusively female train cabins designated during certain hours of the day.

Check the platform floor for the corresponding sign.

Rules For a Comfortable Train Ride

Japanese trains have numerous rules to ensure a comfortable riding experience for passengers. You might notice local passengers breaking some of the rules, but we suggest to adhering to them.

However, if you run into trouble or if you need help navigating a station, feel free to ask a station employee.

We recommend using a Suica card (a prepaid IC card) for smooth travels (available to reserve online). The Japan Rail Pass is also useful for those traveling between Tokyo and Kyoto, and making another trip on the Shinkansen. For those in Tokyo, the Tokyo Subway Ticket provides all-you-can-ride privileges on the Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway in 24-, 48-, and 72-hour increments.

Original author: Miki Takeshita
Main image by Pixta
*This article is a reissue of an article published on March 31, 2014.

The information presented in this article is based on the time it was written. Note that there may be changes in the merchandise, services, and prices that have occurred after this article was published. Please contact the facility or facilities in this article directly before visiting.

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