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After one particularly controversial Japanese blog post last week, Japanese Twitter was blazing up (炎上/えんじょう) with tweets of anger and support. The topic? Trains. The controversy? “The reason I don’t give up my seat on the train.”

The argument wasn’t as simple as the title lets on. Let’s start with the whole idea of giving up your seat. Of course, there’s “priority seating,” and you absolutely should give up your seat to any elderly, pregnant, baby-carrying, or injured people. Nobody’s debating that. But, this blog post talks about all seats, not just priority seating, which really puts us in quite the gray area. Do you have to give up your (regular) seat to a pregnant lady? No. Should you? Probably. Will you? Maybe not. It becomes a judgement call, and if you don’t make the right one, you’ll surely be judged by others. There are two points that the blogger (we’ll call him by his id: Kangaetakekka) makes:

  1. Why I don’t always give up my seat to someone on the train.
  2. Why people shouldn’t think badly about others who don’t give up their seats.

While this immediately sounds like some proper S-Class douchebaggery it actually does get a little more complicated than the two points let on. Kangaetakekka has reasons for why he feels this way, and of course many others on the intertubes had words of support and/or words of anger for all of his feels. I’d like to be able to say “oh man, what a jackass!” and then call it a day, but even I can’t bring myself to do that, at least not at 100%. I really do understand where he’s coming from. Let’s go through some of his reasoning. I’ll add my own opinions and thoughts along the way.

“Why I Don’t Give Up My Seat”

crowded train

Photo By Stephen Kelly

So you don’t demonize Kangaetakekka too much right of the bat, I should mention that he does give up his seat to people a lot of the time. He’s not saying that he never gives up his seat on principle, or anything like that.

もちろん、気持ちと体力に余裕のあるときは、席が空いていたって座らないこともよくある。
Of course, when I’m in a good mood and feeling strong, I will often give up my seat for people.

There you have it. Starting off with a positive note for you guys! Let’s now refocus onto how this topic came up in the first place. He didn’t just think it up out of the blue (presumably while sitting down on the train). The thought came to light when his pregnant friend was talking to him about how she was surprised at how often people don’t give up their seats for her. It made Kangaetakekka think for a moment:

友人が妊娠し、誰の目にも明らかなレベルでおなかも出ているのだが、どうやら予想していたほど席を譲ってもらえないらしい。
My friend is pregnant and her stomach is clearly big, but she hasn’t been given a seat as many times as she expected.

若くて健康だし、立っているのがとてもつらいってほどではないらしいのだが、話したことを書いてみる。
She is young and healthy so it’s not hard for her to keep standing up, but I’ll try to write about what we talked about.

Let’s analyze this. To anyone who looked, they could tell that she was pregnant. Why didn’t more people give up their seats for her? Kangaetakekka has some theories. He has three reasons for why people wouldn’t give up their seat for his friend.

1. People May Not Have Realized She Was Pregnant

pregnant

While you could tell she was pregnant if you looked, not everyone would notice a pregnant girl on the train, especially if it’s crowded, I imagine.

恥ずかしながら、僕は彼女と話をするまで、電車に妊婦がいるということをそれほど想定してこなかった。
It’s embarrassing, but I’d never really considered that there could be a pregnant women on a train until she told me.

他人のお腹の大きさなんて普段あまり気にしておらず、爆乳ギャルには一瞬で気づくが、妊婦には気づかないのがむしろ一般的なんじゃないかと思う。
I don’t really care about other people’s stomachs, though I instantly notice girls with big boobs. I assume that most people don’t notice pregnant women.

Big boobs comment aside, I have to be honest with myself and agree with him. Pregnant people on the train don’t really cross my mind either. I’ll notice people with babies. I’ll notice people who are injured. I’ll definitely notice and even look out for the elderly so I can offer them my seat, because, you know, they deserve it. But, pregnant ladies are a group I don’t think of too often, especially on the train, and especially in Japan. Plus (this is my addition), wouldn’t you be worried about accidentally thinking someone’s pregnant then it turns out she wasn’t? I’m ashamed to say that I wouldn’t give up my seat for this fear alone, especially if it’s 100% obvious the lady is pregnant. If someone was obviously pregnant, and I noticed them, I’d certainly offer my seat. Chances are not great that I would notice someone though, which is brought up in point number two.

2. When You Are Sitting, You Have Less Interest In People Around You

inside-the-train

Photo by w00kie

When you sit down on a train, what’s the first thing you do? That’s right, pull out something to do. You’ve won! You’ve got a seat! It’s time to enjoy it and read some manga / catch up with your friends on LINE. What happens when you do this? You suddenly lose interest in the world around you. You notice fewer things and you simply become less aware. It’s not like it’s really your fault, at least not on purpose, but this is point number two of Kangaetakekka.

また、座っていると、立っているときよりもさらに他の客に興味がなくなる。
Second, when I am sitting, I have less interests in other people than when I am standing.

寝るか読書かスマホかみたいな状態では、目の前に大きなお腹があってもそれは気づかない。
While sleeping, reading or on my smart phone, I wouldn’t notice a big belly even if it’s right in front of me.

This, I think, is so true. Unless you’re actively looking around, these sitting-things are going to distract you from noticing someone, even if they’re right in front of you (and especially if they’re not right next to you). Plus the way that Japanese people ignore everything around them on the train is nothing short of incredible. Even if a pregnant lady’s stomach is inches from a Japanese train passenger’s face, I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t notice (or pretended not to notice) them there. It’s not that you’re being a bad person. It’s just that you don’t notice things like this once you’ve sat down. I’m guilty of this as well as I get sucked into things the moment I focus in.

3. People Put In Great Efforts To Get A Seat

crowded-train

This is definitely the most controversial point. Kangaetakekka is saying that he often puts in a lot of effort to get a seat, so why should he have to give it up?

他人を押し退けて空席を目指すのではなく、座りやすい駅に住み、比較的空いている電車を選んで乗っている。
I don’t push people away and get a seat, but I chose a house that’s near a station that’s easy to get seats from and choose trains that are comparatively easier to find seats on.

電車を1本見送ることもある。
I even sometimes wait for another train.

それを、なんの努力もせずにあとから乗ってきただけの人に譲るというのは、どうも癪にさわるのだ。
Therefore, after putting in all that effort, I feel irritated giving up my seat to someone who just got on the train.

You can tell this is a bit of a sensitive point for him. He puts in a lot of effort, even purposefully living near a station that will allow him to get a seat more easily, to get a seat. When you work that hard for something, and you make that kind of investment, of course you’re not going to want to give up your seat. It might not be the “correct” thing to do, but I see where he’s coming from here.

I do and have done similar things as well. Back in high school when I was living in Japan and had to ride the train every day, I knew which trains had fewer people on them. I’d shoot for those so I could get myself a seat, sometimes picking the slower trains over the express to guarantee my sitting luxury (even though it would take longer). I also knew which train cars would have less people on them, thus upping my seat-snatching-chances.

In crowded rush-hour trains, I’d search out less crowded lines to get on the train. If I didn’t get a seat, I’d constantly be on the lookout for people looking like they were about to leave. When it comes to getting a seat on a Japanese train, it’s a (very polite) dog-eat-dog-world out there, and you have to be at the top of your game if you want to be able to sit down sometimes.

So, I understand where he’s coming from. Especially if you’re in the city, it’s brutal. And, it’s not just a one-time thing. You do this five, six, maybe seven times a week, two+ times a day. You hone your craft and learn how to get a seat and you work hard for it. Then, someone who didn’t do anything for it gets your seat? Great dishonor.

But, just because I understand all too well where he’s coming from and how he’s feeling, doesn’t mean I don’t think that you shouldn’t give up your seat to someone who needs it. Plus, if you don’t give up your seat you’ll surely be judged by others, which is another one of Kangaetakekka’s worries. While most Tofugu readers probably won’t care about this whole “being judged” thing, it’s a lot like how Irish Catholics are stereotypically supposed to feel huge amounts of guilt all the time. The Japanese have that voice of their mother in their head saying “What would the neighbors think?” / “What would others think?” Especially on trains, it feels like there’s a +12 etiquette bonus that requires you to be on your best behavior. That’s why there are so many posters inside the train teaching good train manners:

bunpei-ginza-train

So, for those of you who are quick to judge those horrible sitting people on the train, Kangaetakekka has some words for you as well. Why you gotta hate on the sitters, man?

Sitters Gotta Sit, Haters Gotta Hate

judgement-train

Photo by Hinata-sennin

Say you’re one of the standers. Ugh, standing! You watch some punk twenty-something-year-old sit idly by as a pregnant lady stands in front of him, looking uncomfortable, in your mind about to give birth at any moment. “Wow, what a terrible person he is,” you think, not even realizing how many times you’ve probably done something very similar on accident. People are quick to judge, and usually negatively. Kangaetakekka wants you to consider that maybe that person’s not a bad person after all (though maybe they are, who knows, is it really your right to judge though?).

何が言いたいかと言うと、座っている人は、性格が悪いから座っているのではなく、座っている事情があるかもしれないということだ。
My point is, people sitting aren’t sitting on the train because they have bad personalities, there might have their own circumstances.

若いくせに座ってパズドラやってる大学生は、バイトでヘトヘトの苦学生かもしれないし、満員電車で化粧をしているOLも、毎日仕事でいびられているかもしれないのだ。
A young working university student playing “Puzzle & Dragons” could be completely exhausted from his part-time job. A female office worker putting on make-up in the train could be getting teased at work.

電車にはいろいろな背景を抱えた人が乗っており、しかもいちいち他人を観察する余裕なんてない。
There are a lot of different people with a lot of different backgrounds riding the train, and they don’t have enough room to consider other people in their mind.

This is where I start to feel like Kangaetakekka has had a previously bad experience with this which set him off to write this blog post. Maybe somebody scolded him. Maybe somebody on the train got angry at him. Whatever it was (or wasn’t), I think he does have a bit of a point. People are too quick to judge other people without really knowing anything about that person. Humans are hard wired to judge the things around them in relation to themselves. We’re all narcissists. You aren’t going to (naturally) think “oh, that person probably had a rough day, they should keep their seat.” That’s like Dalai Lama level thinking. Instead, you and I are going to think: “wth, I want your seat, and if I can’t have it, that old lady should have it instead.” Survival of the fittest, man.

Kangaetakekka ends with one final sentence:

他人には期待せず、自分が譲ったときに自分がいい気分になれればそれでいいじゃないか。
Just don’t expect it from other people. Isn’t it enough to just feel good when you do good things?

Yeah, for sure. You should do good things when you can and feel good when you do it, not having to worry about what other people think. It’d be a much better world if everyone did just this. But, I also think there’s a difference between what’s right and doing what’s right. I don’t think anyone will ever be perfect, and it’s inevitable that you’ll do something wrong and it’s inevitable that people will judge you… so to me, I just feel like everyone should try their best and not worry about who’s judging you and how. The best you can do is the best you can do, right? I think this was partly Kangaetakekka’s point as well.

Of course, a lot of the internet didn’t agree, so they took to the Twitter streets to make their opinions heard. Tweet, tweet, tweet! ♬

The Internets Respond

buscemi-twitter

Finding a seat on the train is something that almost all Japanese people experience. Fighting for seats, giving up seats, and watching people with seats is all a part of daily life. So, Kangaetakekka touched on a few nerves, I think. It’s hard for someone who doesn’t ride a crowded train all the time to understand why people would be getting so upset about this. But, people did get upset. If you search for the article you can see that a decent amount of people linked to and posted their opinions on the article, both for and against the evil / reasonable Kangaetakekka.

Screen Shot 2013-07-15 at 1.20.58 PM
“Not giving up your seat isn’t evil” … what a sad world.

Screen Shot 2013-07-15 at 1.18.08 PM
“It’s less tiring if you give up your seat and feel that you did a good thing.”
japanese twitter controversy
“I try to give up my seat, because I believe it’s much cooler than someone who just complains a lot”

Screen Shot 2013-07-15 at 2.37.50 PM
“If I can’t sit, I’d fall down on my way to work.”

So there you have it. Both sides of the issue, or at least one side and some opinions from me. Especially for those of you who have ridden trains a lot, how do you feel about the topic? Should people give up their spots so readily? I’m guessing there will be some varying opinions here, and I’d love to hear from them.

Either way, I hope you got some interesting insight into the lives of many Japanese people. It’s hard to ride the train. It’s also not that simple. The dance you have to dance to get… and give… a seat is stressful, but it’s one of the things you have to deal with if you’re planning to live in Japan at any point. So, things like giving up your seat can mean a lot, even if it doesn’t seem like it should to you. That being said, these are all opinions, man. Some are probably right and some are probably wrong. Many are probably neither. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t interesting. What do you think?

P.S. Here’s the desktop sized version of me being a d-bag on a train.

  • Flora

    You’ll be a lot more tired once people start glaring at you & trying to scold you.

    My policy is thus: give up your seat for the elderly, the injured, and the [very] pregnant. Everyone else (and women who aren’t showing) is standing. Finder’s keepers.

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    This is why I start sleeping the moment I get on a train, sitting or not.

  • linguarum

    When I’ve been in Japan, sometimes I have to stand, but maybe only 15-20 minutes before a seat opens up. Maybe it depends on when and where you board the train, but IMHO, not really something to worry about unless you have a health problem that makes standing very painful. Besides, it seems standing is more or less just part of life in Japan. Bookstores, department stores, train/bus stations, sidewalks and parks seem to have fewer places to sit and rest your legs for a moment. If you want to sit down, you have go into a restaurant and pay for that seat. Or get used to the floor.

  • Skarmy

    That’s how i handle bus situations. Sleeping with headphones on!

  • Mr_Nibbles

    I once read a story about an elderly (and able-bodied) lady who would get on a bus every day and rudely DEMAND a particular young person give up his seat to her. My opinion…giving up your seat is a courtesy presented to courteous people for a nice reason. It’s NOT an obligation. It’s a courtesy. If it’s rudely demanded, then you will have just forfeited that offer…even if you’re elderly, pregnant or ill.

  • Ginger

    I agree with this and would add a mother with kids and someone who has a huge box with them.

    I live in a metro area of the US and when I was pregnant, only a tourist and an old man gave me their seat. People do notice the pregnant ladies and know they are pregnant but they do the, “if I don’t make eye contact, I didn’t see her” thing. I noticed many people look at me, my huge belly, (and after a quick glance at my ring finger) and then look away like I didn’t exist.

  • Ai Chusyu

    100% I would give up my seat for the elderly near my seat. Anytime I look up and see that there’s an elderly woman or man nearby me, I would usually say (very bold of me yeah, but I don’t get embarrassed easily) “I can give my seat up for you, ma’am/mister!” with a smile so I won’t be threatening. Sometimes they ignore me. Or say “thanks no need”. Sometimes they smile and take my offer. Sitting or standing doesn’t matter to me personally because, well, it’s a train, and trains go very fast, and at the end of my station I get off and then I’m home.

    For pregnant women who are obviously pregnant in my eyes I ask her too, but my soft spot is really reserved for the elderly.

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    oh yeah :( I’ve seen elderly do that quite a bit, actually. Usually they jump into the seat no problemo, too.

  • 美白

    I give up my seat anytime i can when i notice someone who needs it.
    I think it’s a valid point that one doesn’t always notice another who may need to sit down more than oneself.

    for me, and i hate to pull out the gaijin card, but i have to admit in addition to feeling that it’s best to giving up my seat when i can (which i do), i feel even more obliged to do so at times in order not to feel that i’m being judged as a baka gaijin.
    it’s sad that i consider this, and i’m not saying that people even think this way, but there have been times where i’ve felt almost guilty about sitting even though i don’t think anyone else needed the seat.

    that being said, i have been in a situation where i’ve been standing for 40minutes straight after walking around for hours on end, in this case i just sit as soon as something opens up, and at that point just close my eyes to try avoid seeing/thinking about any judgement or, guiltily avoid seeing if anyone needs the seat(by which i mean elderly etc)

    also, another interesting thing to talk about may be priority seats, just because one is young doesn’t mean they aren’t injured etc.
    and also whether to not sit in priority seats, because they are for specific people.
    though i admit that i usually sit there if it’s open and there is no one standing, and of course i’ll get up if anyone obviously needs the seat, which is the problem, because if it’s not obvious, someone might need to sit down.

  • The Bloody Cat

    He definitely makes several points. People usually try not to stare at random strangers in crowded places, so I imagine it’s easy not to notice a pregnant, elderly, etc. person inside a train – unless it’s half empty, in which case they wouldn’t need your seat anyway.

    Frankly, the judging bit actually bothers me more than people not giving up their seats for me because, yes, as that guy says, they don’t know the whole story. There might be a perfectly acceptable reason why that person isn’t standing up, and ruining someone’s day just for the hell of it is, in my book, being more of a jerk than the guy who doesn’t stand up. Admittedly, because of my own unpleasant experiences with them, I really resent judgy travellers. I usually give up my seat on buses and the like, but I’m very prone to fainting below ground level, so I don’t when riding the underground – if I do I have to crouch creepily in a corner, which, well, it has its own set of dire consequences too long and boring to discuss here.

    Anyway. These people, I swear, no amount of “but I might end up with brain damage” will change their mind.

  • Yuffi Manson

    And that’s why I just simply stand still and let others find their seat. It’s so stressful (and I too had a not so good experience with an old lady hitting me with her umbrella ’cause I was, in her opinion, fake sleeping and that seat was HER SEAT! grrrrrr >:( ). No seat = no crazy people screaming in my ears! :D

  • DAVIDPD

    Thanks Koichi. // Personally, if the person looks uncomfortable standing, I will always offer them my seat.

  • Yellow Belly

    Seriously, who is too busy in their own little world to not notice a pregnant woman standing in front of them?

    One thing that I can’t stand in this country are all the little un-courtesies. Like never holding a door for someone, or never smiling back or returning a “hello” when you pass someone in close quarters. I’ve seen self-important salarymen slam shoulders with an elderly person and not even turn around to apologize, on multiple occasions. And this is all in Sapporo, not crowded Tokyo. But even if it was, I still don’t see that as an excuse. The idea that Japan is a polite country is a fairy-tale. It’s a facade to fulfill that very false belief. It’s a country filled with spoiled brats who show-off any chance they get and when the school bell rings, or the boss says they can leave work, they can’t wait to run off and indulge in whatever self-centered life they’ve built for themselves.

    Don’t get me wrong, like any place there’s the good and the bad. I’m as happy living here as a salaryman is groping a school girl, but I just find this to be such a joke because of the cliche that it’s the most polite place in the world. It is a great place to live, though, as long as you don’t have your head up your ass and buy into the fairy tale.

  • Cheru

    I stopped giving up my seat a long time ago. I used to live in a more rural area, so usually, I didn’t have to worry about that. Living in a bigger city now, though, at first, I started giving up my seat on the train. Particularly to the elderly, women with children or people with a lot of parcels. Or, at least, I tried to. After about a dozen or so times of offering my seat, only to be refused when I try, and then awkwardly sitting back down like a dumbass, I stopped giving a crap. And it’s not just a dozen times out of many. It feels like every time I offer my seat, people don’t wanna sit down. So I said, “screw it.” I don’t give up my seat because people don’t take it. For me, that’s all it is, really.

  • linniea

    If people are standing close enough to me that they’d easily be able to take my seat, then yeah, I’ll give up my seat, always.
    But I also have this 1 experience where I 迷惑’d the hell out of my train by fainting, because I wasn’t feeling well and I didn’t dare ask someone to let me sit down for a while. (It was a pretty long train ride.) Afterwards I always made sure I got on a train where I could get a seat. And my best friend has a slipped disk, so she can’t stand for too long, but you’d never be able to tell just by looking at her. So idk. I can definitely see kangaetakekka’s point. People need to have a little more sympathy for each other.

  • Furorisu

    I think its also very important to include the time you actualy spent in the train. Whenever I travel I dont take a seat when it’s crowded, when I know I gonna leave the train soon. But when I have to travel for a long period I would try to get a seat. Sometimes I see people quicklytake a seat as they enter the train, and leave the train the next stop, 10 minutes later. I think thats kind of rude because some people have to travel for like one hour and dont get a seat at all.

  • simplyshiny

    I just think of the first scene of Nihonjin no Shiranai Nihongo with Naka Riisa where she tells off a young foreigner for taking up all the seats on the front of the train (or maybe it was a bus). In any case, I think this whole view fits in anywhere. I took public transportation in both high school and college and if I got a seat, I’d immediately put on a pair of headphones and stare out the window or talk to a friend. I rarely was paying attention enough to notice if there was someone pregnant around me.

  • Richard Robertson

    Plus, it usually won’t cause a problem not giving up your seat because most people don’t want to cause a fuss or draw attention to themselves by talking. I haven’t had much experience with “priority” people but in my town there are two seats per row and a lot of the time, if one person is sitting my the window and the seat next to them is free but there are no other double seats free, then they will happily stay quite and just stand on the train or bus. This isn’t always the case but its definitely common.

    The point I’m trying to make is, since no one is likely to confront you, keep your seat. Simple.

  • Richard Robertson

    I like your point, I can relate to that! :D

  • Cheru

    I think a lot of this is simply cultural differences, not “un-courtesies.”

    I’ve had plenty of people hold the door for me. I’ve had plenty of people also not hold the door for me. I’ve seen people hold the door for other people as well. You can’t say this never happens. It does. I think the frequency may be lower than in some other countries, but it does happen. When this kind of differing frequency of something occurs in different cultures, often we can be subject to confirmation bias. That one time someone didn’t hold the door for you might feel like 5 times. But, again, it does happen. Try focusing more on the times people do do favors for you than when they don’t. That alone can reduce a lot of stress of living in another country.

    People don’t smile back because people don’t smile back. That’s not a thing, here. We’re culturally conditioned to smile at someone we make eye contact with and are also conditioned to think that not returning the smile is rude. However, this is a product of our culture. From an objective standpoint, if we say that rudeness is not considering other people, not smiling at someone isn’t technically rude. Cutting someone off to get ahead: rude. Ignoring someone talking directly to you: rude. Not smiling at someone: …meh? Not really something to get your nose bent out of whack over. I’ve found that if you want acknowledgment from people in passing, bow. People just don’t smile at strangers. That’s not gonna change. However, if you bow at them, usually they’ll bow back. For someone who’s used to having that kind of exchange, it can make you feel a lot better. Just bow instead of smiling.

    Returning a “hello,” I believe, can also be chalked up to cultural difference. In America (not sure where you’re from, but since that’s where I’m from, I’ll speak to my own experience,) it’s common for people to greet strangers. To us, it feels open and friendly. But is it really necessary? After all, you don’t know them, so why would you greet them? To some people it can be friendly. To me, in spite of being American, I’ve always found it to be quite awkward to be greeted by someone I don’t know. That’s just not how things are done in Japan. People don’t commonly greet strangers in passing (unless you’re in a store or something.) However, people do greet people they don’t know in familiar contexts. I’m greeted quite often by the other people in my apartment building. I don’t know them, never really stopped to talk to them and I couldn’t tell you which apartment they live in. But because we live in the same building, we’re neighbors and we greet each other. Likewise, the school where I work is next to a daycare center. If the ladies who work there are outside, usually they’ll greet me because they know I work at the neighboring school. It’s not that people don’t greet one another in passing. It’s more about who they greet.

    I think it’s not so much that the country isn’t polite. It’s just not polite in the ways you’re used to considering as polite. I think it’s important when encountering cultural differences that stress you out to take a step back and examine why you feel that way. Is it truly an injustice you’ve just experienced? Why might this person have done this? Am I being overly sensitive? I’m not saying there are no jerks here. There definitely are. And if someone does something crappy to you, you totally have the right to be offended or angry. But also try to keep in mind the cultural context. You could be stressing yourself out over nothing.

  • Hannah Whittingham

    Since I’ve never been to Japan, I can’t fully relate. But I can at least share my experiences from Canada.
    I’ve found that I usually never have to give up seat, because other people are very generous with offering there seat to someone else. Which is quite nice actually. There have been times when people have offered there seat to me, and I’m a full able-bodied person. The only times I really have to give up my seat, is when a woman with a stroller comes onto the bus, and they need room.

    Though when I am in a situation where I can/should give up my seat…I always feel really awkward about it. (T_T;)
    I guess I’m afraid of coming off as if I pity the person? And when I do offer my seat, most of the time the person will politely refuse. Even the elderly!

    So I guess there’s that “should I bother?” mentality too…
    I dunno man. Life.

  • shadowmonk

    i still don’t know how Japanese people can be sleeping like a log, yet wake up right when it is time for them to get off…

  • shadowmonk

    I agree completely on not feeling like the baka gaijin. But then again, if you are a foreigner you are sometimes guaranteed extra space on the bus or a train, just because people don’t want to sit next to you. At least it was that way in Osaka sometimes. So in a way, the Japanese removed seats by themselves by not sitting next to the foreigner.

  • http://www.twitter.com/christaran Chris Taran

    I can only speak from my own experience, and perhaps I am more perceptive than most, but I can not buy for a second, that you would not notice someone with a large pregnant belly right next to you or even near you on a train, or anywhere else.

    Now whether or not I think it’s the right thing to give up your seat is a different story. I personally do not feel the need to get up for someone that is pregnant. That is (under normal circumstances) a condition you decided to put yourself in. The elderly and injured however I would always give my seat to.

  • Laura

    Sometimes even when elderly people get on the train, I won’t give them my seat- if I see they have a hard time standing, of course I will offer it to them, but if they glare at me like the devil, with eyes that seem to say I don’t deserve this seat, I don’t deserve anything, while I had a hard day in school and the elderly lady just left the house a minute ago, and if she has healthy legs, I won’t give them my seat. It’s not always only them having a hard time!

  • japanesehamantashen

    I’m an absentminded person, so on trains, if I’m sitting down, even doing nothing and with my eyes open, I just tune out of everything. I’ve gotten trains that were almost completely empty and never realized that they had become standing room only until it was time for me to get off. On multiple occasions. If I can’t notice that the car is packed full of people standing, it’s definitely possible for me to miss a pregnant or elderly person. Of course, if I do notice someone who needs the seat more than me I offer it to them.

  • Scott Lavigne

    They do it in Korea too. Though I do say, it’s an easy habit to pick up. Somehow you ears can hear the station and say “Wake up fool!”

  • Scott Lavigne

    I really liked this article! Current issues in japan, and lots of sentences in Japanese to learn some new word! I hope there will be lots of awesome sentences and words in future articles too!

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    I just think about all the things I don’t see anywhere I am around me, then multiply that by 100 when I’m looking at my phone, reading a book, or focusing on something that’s not my surroundings. It’s hard to notice the things you miss because, well, you’ve missed them. Not saying you in particular, but just people in general. It’s like looking at a shelf of peanut butter, looking for a specific brand, and somehow not seeing it at all even though it’s right in front of you and you’re looking for it. Then I ask the worker at the grocery store, he shows me, and I’m like “holy crap, I probably looked at it a bunch of times!”

  • sera

    i’ve always been of the theory that you give up your seat if you can. Unfortunately, something that i’ve run into is the fact that i and my best friend both have physical health issues. We’ve been given dirty looks before for sitting (or at least felt like we were receiving them!) when, physically, we were incapable of standing for the duration of our train ride. Our issues aren’t super obvious and we’re not legally disabled, but we don’t try to receive special accommodations. Still, the times that someone has offered me a seat have always made me very happy. i agree entirely with “Of course, when I’m in a good mood and feeling strong, I will often give up my seat for people.”

    Along with Cheru, i’ve also had quite a few times where i’ve tried to give up my seat and been refused. i always just gladly sit right back down, though…. lol There’s also been times where i have refused a seat because i felt capable of standing… and a few times that i refused and then regretted it. ^^;

  • Todd R Caspell

    I rarely give up my seat. But unless I am really hammered I am open to it. Cause # 1 I am an old guy myself & # 2 some of the “Old ladies” I have offered my seat to obviously did not consider themselves old ladies and seemed a bit insulted.

    I notice nobody is offering up seat snatching techniques though. Your standing placement is key. Try to guess who is getting off and position your self in front of them. Heads up when nearing a big stop. When someone stands move just enough to let them through and swoop in for their seats. It’s a skill.

  • http://www.myjapanesegreentea.com/ Ricardo Caicedo

    If I’m not going far I’ll stand even if there’s an empty seat, but when I’m too tired from walking all day I sit immediately. I agree that people don’t try to put themselves in another person’s shoes.
    Of course, I always give my seat to the elderly.

  • Anna Arrobas

    I agree that you should not always have to give up your seat, just because you are not old, pregnant or injured doesn’t mean you can’t be suffering as well. People can be tired, sick or carrying heavy things with them and look normal.
    I strategically choose seats that are not labeled for priority so that I can keep my seat on the train or bus, most times I even make an effort to get as far away from those seats as possible incase multiple people with priority get on board.
    But it is infuriating when I have chosen a seat in this way and then someone comes to ask for my seat instead of asking the person sitting in a priority seat.

  • http://www.littlegaijin.net/ アナ

    I experienced some of this when I was in Japan, but nothing very extreme. When I arrived in Tokyo for the first time, no one on the train made room for me and my dad. We had so many rolling suitcases, and it was obviously difficult to keep standing while making sure our suitcases didn’t roll into other people. I don’t remember very many times where someone offered their seat to use when we had the suitcases. However, on the way from Osaka to Nishinomiya, there were A LOT of Hanshin Tigers fans on the train. It was VERY NOISY. Everyone was yelling, shouting, talking on the phone. It was very odd, experiencing that for the first time. There even was a guy in a tiger costume on my train car. He was chatting it up with a buddy on his phone, while standing in front of two (equally excited) elderly ladies. Those ladies … I’ll never forget those ladies. They were saints. Japanese saints. They both scooted over, and made room for me, and gestured me over. They were all smiley, and such a joy to sit next to. By the time I left that train at Nishinomiya station, I already adopted them as my Japanese grandmothers in my head. I mention this though, because that was probably the only time I ever sat down on the train in Japan.

  • Rainydays

    Back in my hometown I had a lot of stress because of my work. I always felt sick and my stomach made me crazy.. It was worse when I had to stand in the train so I always tried to get a seat when my stomach was really terrible.
    It wasn’t in Japan, but I also felt bad to not give up my seat in that situation. From others view I was a young and healthy woman, knowbody could knew about my stress/stomach problem.
    That’s part of the reason I started to sleep in trains…

  • KT

    In Japan, pregnant women are given tags to put on their handbags to notify people around them of their condition. People should know not to smoke near these women, offer them seats on the train and generally be helpful to them.

  • magdalen

    You remind me of a girl I knew, who grew up in the (deep) South in the US. I’m not sure from where exactly, I just know that to get to her mom’s trailer in FL, you’d have to drive through several unpaved roads.

    Anyway, she visited a real city (Boston) for a first time, and came back complaining about how rude everyone was. Her girlfriend told me that while in the middle of high traffic walkways, she kept stopping to look at stuff, trying to talk to people, etc. The girlfriend kept having to pull her out of the stream of people ‘coz they kept bumping into her.

    Like this girl, I don’t understand why you think people are obligated to give you these “courtesies”. People have places to go, things to do, their own thoughts and problems and dreams. Some people are more introverted, and some people tend to stay within their own thoughts rather than pay attention to what’s around them. I think it’s pretty self-centered of you to hold them to the same standards you hold yourself to. They can’t read your mind and know what you expect of them, why get upset over it?

    Also, from the sound of it you are the outsider in Sapporo. Why are you so important that you think strangers have to hold the door for you? Did it ever occur to you that maybe they find random people smiling at them or saying hello creepy?

    By any chance, are you from America, land of entitlement?

  • Luke LeClair

    I’m a Canadian university student, I take a train to Toronto Monday to Friday there and back (sometimes a bus in the city if the weather is bad). Since I commute I have to carry a back pack and bag for my laptop and lugging my two bags filled with text books and such around all day and with my school it’s very tiring. On the morning train I will usually give up my seat to either the elderly, injured person ect. because I’m well rested and more awake. On the way home after a long day depending on the person I may or may not give up my seat. If I’m in a bad mood or extremely tired I most likely won’t. I try to all ways respect the elderly, put other people over myself and things like that but after a long day sometimes I just don’t want to give up my seat. I totally understand were this article is coming from. (great article btw)

  • Datte baru

    They are programed … Or they maybe have an inner alarm clock or something …

  • Silver Fen

    I have medical issues, so I am always needing to sit down when I’m out places. I probably wouldn’t give up my seat if I was going a long way (more than 10 min) either. It would be really bad for my health. I don’t look like there is anything wrong with me though (unless I do stand up for long periods of time – then it becomes obvious), so sometimes I get strange looks when I’m out places like a park or the zoo with my kids and I have my walker (which has a seat for me). I’ve even had people come up and tell me off for parking in handicap parking, thinking my placard is for my grandmother or something. I try not to be angry, but it really is frustrating to be judged based on the fact that I look young, when in reality I’m on par with an 60 year old woman.

    On my good days, though, even I have given up my seat for someone who was obviously more infirm than me. I think that good people will do good when they can, but if someone isn’t, then there is generally a reason for it. Thinking evil of someone only makes you evil, it doesn’t change them at all. I mean if someone is being a jerk on purpose, they wont be changed by a caustic glare from a stranger.

  • Xaromir

    I have some back injuries and my left foot is partially numb, and that’s where the guy is right: People may have reasons that are not visible! People expect someone like me to be healthy and strong, but not everyone is, my girlfriend has issues with her heart, someone else may work a backbreaking job all day, there are people who have fainting-spells etc etc etc, i find it annoying that people just presume and feel automatically entitled over others on that basis. Having said that: I will give up my spot for people who ask me for it, and when i think someone needs it, i will offer my seat to them. I’d rather sit, but i’ll survive.

    I should add: I swim 3 times a week, and i always try challenging myself, so i’m not that slow, but there are pregnant women who outswim me with ease, so i somewhat stopped presuming that pregnant women are always in dire need, i much rather give my seat to the elderly. Still – if a preggers woman looks exhausted i may offer my seat.

  • Silver Fen

    Really?! You have got to be kidding…

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    yeah, it’s weird. After a couple weeks of doing the same train route, I was able to do it too. Most mornings I’d get on the train, grab a seat, fall asleep, then wake up when I arrived at my stop… I think you just get used to the sounds and atmosphere, or something.

  • HokkaidoKuma

    If you’re in priority seating you absolutely have to give up your seat but if you’re not then you don’t have to give up your seat to a person in need (Enlightening, I know). Should you? Yes, you probably should. Do you have to? Nope not at all. Will you be judged if you don’t? Yes, you will.

    If you can live with being judged, then don’t worry about it. If you can’t take the heat, then give up the seat. Pretty simple.

  • Yellow Belly

    You remind me of a someone I knew, on the internet. I’m not sure where I met them, but every time they went on the internet they talked out of their ass and judged without thinking.

    I have no problem with rude, and no I’m not entitled to anyone’s “random act of humanism,” you’re right on target. I’m not so important, but you know what, I still look behind me whenever I go through a doorway to make sure no one is behind me. It’s not because I was born in another country, it’s because the first time you try to walk through a door and the person in front of you lets it slam into your face, you feel a little like an asshole. So if you’re a decent human being you wouldn’t want to do that to someone else.

    But, like you, I’m not perfect. I have been in a rush plenty of times, and I’ve pushed open doors and just ran through without any concern for who is behind me. But, and I won’t say 100% of the time because I’ve never done a scientific study, but 99.99% of the time I realize want I did and spin on my heels to see if there’s anyone behind me. If there is I will reach back and catch the door and apologize. And guess what? I’m in a rush, and I don’t owe that person a damn second of my time, but it’s just the nice thing to do, and it takes an extra .03 seconds of my day.

    And if a Japanese person finds it necessary to stop and stare at me because I’m not Japanese, and because their mind is stuck in the stone ages, gets frightened or insulted because I smile back at them, they can go fuck themselves. You seem to be caught up in our differences. It’s an innate response to smile at a friendly face. Babies do it. We’re all humans, we’re all the same. Many moons ago we created borders to separate ourselves and as a result we have different languages, clothes, foods, etc. All of which are very interesting, but in the big picture, mean zero. We’re all human in the end. I understand that Japan was a closed country for many years and it has led to a somewhat sheltered mentality, but it’s the 21st century and this country has toilets that clean your ass for you, learn to open your mind a little and realize that the answer “because we are Japanese” is not the answer for every cultural quirk that people are too afraid to change.

  • Yellow Belly

    I understand the cultural differences. And I’m not some intolerant person trying to change a culture that isn’t mine. But, and I’ll just cut and paste the relevant part to a reply I gave to someone else: (Keep in mind it was to someone else, so the “you” is not actually “you.”)

    “… if a Japanese person finds it necessary to stop and stare at me because I’m not Japanese, and because their mind is stuck in the stone ages, gets frightened or insulted because I smile back at them, they can go fuck themselves. You seem to be caught up in our differences. It’s an innate response to smile at a friendly face. Babies do it. We’re all humans, we’re all the same. Many moons ago we created borders to separate ourselves and as a result we have different languages, clothes, foods, etc. All of which are very interesting, but in the big picture, mean zero. We’re all human in the end. I understand that Japan was a closed country for many years and it has led to a somewhat sheltered mentality, but it’s the 21st century and this country has toilets that clean your ass for you, learn to open your mind a little and realize that the answer “because we are Japanese” is not the answer for every cultural quirk that people are too afraid to change.”

  • Steven Morris

    This was an interesting read. Thank you!

    As for the way I see it- I guess I worry a lot about everything. All of the little details he talks about are things that cross my mind almost constantly when I’m in public space. While it sometimes irks me to see some young (and completely healthy looking) guys nonchalantly walk on a train and sit in priority seating, I realize it’s their problem (whether it be a health issue or a moral issue). I only know about my own condition, and as long as I’m healthy and energetic enough to stand up on a train, bus, or whatever (when it’s crowded), I will– and I’m thankful for that ability.

    By the way, I saw a link on FB recently which featured pictures of specifically (mostly American) men/young men taking up too much space in public transportation. The point of the website was to show that men, in particular, have a habit of relaxing too much in public transportation (revealing their sense of entitlement).

  • KT

    It makes it easier to tell fat from pregnant. I’ve seen some people go the extra mile for women once they see the tag.

  • JapanParent

    Japan actually has some pretty progressive laws for giving people benefits for pregnancy or disability.

    Anyway, what I mean is, yes, they have certain benefits that are given to pregnant women – I haven’t heard of the tag, but I know that there is a system for getting “official recognition” as a pregnant person. There’s like a card you get here in my city, and I think a parking tag as well.

    But I also have a sister-in-law who is mentally ill – depression, I think – and gets many benefits that physically disabled people get. I don’t think she needs a parking tag, but I think it’s great that depression is recognized as a real illness here (even if that’s not how the general population views it).

  • rosenbauer

    while living in japan, in the beginning i used to offer my seat to anyone i thought needed it more than me. the problem was they would refuse it the way the japanese always do, full of ‘eiryou’ and i don’t like that. so, i’d give up my seat when i knew for sure the people wouldn’t refuse. i think it’s so embarrasing, trying to be nice and then they just refuse my generosity.

  • Joshua Chapa

    When I was living in Tokyo, I rode the trains like crazy. Often more than 4 times a day and over several transfers. I looked and worked hard to find a seat. There were times I gave up my seat on the train to an elderly person or someone who I felt needed it more than I and I believe it’s the right thing to do. But there were times when I had a high fever and had to ride 4 hours worth of trains. Just because I found a seat shouldn’t mean I have to immediately give it to someone who might need it. I think the being oblivious argument isn’t very valid. It’s not hard to take a moment and consider the people around us. But now it’s moot point for me as I live more in the countryside. I’m extremely happy to be away from all the busy trains. My point, I think it’s the right thing to do to give up your seat but if someone chooses not to it doesn’t make them a bad person. Also, those seats are all full so it’s never just one person not giving up their seat, it’s often a row of businessmen not giving up their seats.

  • Joshua Chapa

    Yeah good point. Although it is customary in Japan to refuse something a few times before accepting it. I can only assume your experience has something to do with that. However I could be very wrong.

  • Joshua Chapa

    Lol it’s hilarious. I used to see this all the time. Sometimes they wouldn’t even miss a beat. Just wake up and exit.

  • Joshua Chapa

    This is so true. They do things differently here and that doesn’t make them impolite. They are polite. Polite to a fault. I’ve seen it countless times. I saw a dirty man who may have been homeless walk over to a drain grate and spit as opposed to just spitting on the sidewalk. The Japanese are selfish, true, but so is everyone else in this world. I’m from the US and I can say comparatively that the Japanese are way more polite than even my old home in the south where they’re known for “southern hospitality”.

  • Francis A.

    I don’t ride public transportation that much here in the US, but I definitely would give up my seat to someone in need when I can. I also agree with the fact that people judge others almost instinctively, myself included when I saw a young teen ignore the elderly. I judged him without a second thought.

    Bottom line is that there are people who will do the right thing and there are people who will always judge others no matter what.

    I can’t even begin to imagine how public transportation in Japan would be. It seems pretty brutal but definitely something I would like to experience for myself.

  • http://zoomingjapan.com/ zoomingjapan

    A very interesting topic indeed.
    Most of the time I’m the one standing anyways, so I don’t have to think about it.
    I only use a train when I’m traveling. I don’t commute by train, but by car, so I don’t have to deal with it daily.

    However, just yesterday I went to the Gion Matsuri in Kyoto. Of course, it was very hot.
    There was a “human accident” (read: somebody jumped in front of a train), so all the trains were late.
    While this happens often in Tokyo, it doesn’t happen so often where I live and at some point there were just too many people.
    In my 6 years in Japan I’ve never experienced such a crowded train before, not even during rush hour in Tokyo!
    I squeezed myself in. Not an inch of space between me and the others. Hard to breathe. And that in the current summer heat.
    And then more people tried to squeeze in. One of them hit me (not on purpose, of course) right into my stomach and I broke down because it was painful like hell.

    And then something happened that surprised me. Usually Japanese people just stare, but ignore what just happened. I had similar experiences previously. But this time there was an old man next to me who did everything he could to protect my stomach. He told the others not to push, not to come close to my stomach and after a while he asked if there’s not anybody who could give up their seat for me.
    I felt so embarrassed and told him it’s ok, but even an elderly woman who probably wanted to sit as well asked others to give up their seat for me.

    Well, that’s not the standard, though!

    I do understand his arguments. It really depends for me. Usually I’m the one who has to stand and after traveling the whole day I’m so exhausted and my feet hurt so much that when I finally get a seat I just crash down and fall asleep.

    If I don’t have a long ride or if I just start out and still have energy I give up my seat for elderly people of for someone who is obviously pregnant.

    There are a lot of people who won’t give up their seats, so it’s interesting to read about the mindset of such a person.

    I suppose he is male, especially because of the comment about “boobs”. I’m sure female train passengers will notice more easily if a woman is pregnant or not.

    When I have to stand after a long day and can barely stand anymore and have young kids who don’t even sit but always jump up and run around then I get REALLY angry! Once I was about to just steal their seat while they were standing and fighting each other. But that’s a completely different story (rude kids and their behavior while the parents just fell asleep).

  • Mikki

    The thing is, what if that person who you think is so selfishly hogging that seat, actually has a medical condition that you can’t see? For example, I have low blood pressure and if I haven’t eaten or if I’m too hot or sometimes for seemingly no reason at all, I can be prone to passing out. Sitting down is the best option for me when I’m starting to feel light headed. Sure I still give up my seat when it’s appropriate but sometimes I just feel crappy myself and I’m not sure if standing up is a good idea. Especially since, if I pass out, I could cause harm or injury to others and myself.

    Another example: My sister has a pretty bad knee condition which causes a lot of pain. She doesn’t need any assistance from medical equipment (yet), but standing for extended periods of time is something that’s difficult for her. She actually had to quit her job back when she was 18 working as a cashier because the pain was too much for her and now has a sitting job. You’d never know this just by looking at her, but I assure you the pain is pretty severe for her and she’ll need knee replacements by the time she’s 30 – 40. She doesn’t take the train or any public transport, but I’m sure that standing for more than 20 minutes would be hard on her. And most people probably are on the train for anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour or more.

  • Cheru

    I’m not saying you’re an intolerant person. I understand your complaints. I’ve been there before. There are jerks here and there are nice people here. Just like any country. If someone’s going to get offended at you for benign actions, that’s their problem, not yours. However, by the same stoke, if you’re upset that they don’t return a benign action, that’s your problem, not theirs. Should some attitudes and actions of people change? Probably. Do all of them need to change? No. And Japan is changing. It’s slow, but it’s changing. The homogenized culture and as you mentioned the fact that it was a locked country make change difficult, but it is happening.

    However, sometimes, your perception makes a huge difference. I didn’t write a reply to tear you down. I had a lot of the same problems when I first got here a number of years ago. Thinking that the country should change, however, isn’t going to make the country change. It’ll change in its own time. You can show an example, but again, things will change at their own pace. In the meantime, though, getting hung up on every exchange does you no good. That was a huge stressor for me at one point. When I started viewing things from a more open perspective, however, I was stressed a lot less. When I started thinking of the “why” rather than the “what,” I was able to accept things more. And when I stopped getting hung up on things I was socially conditioned to think of as a given and started ignoring them, things got a lot better. That’s all I was trying to say.

  • Beel

    To be honest, I find the whole “it’s a condition you decided to put yourself in” justification strange. And putting pregnancy in that category is even stranger to me. You make it sound like it’s such a negative thing. Come on, it’s normal. We all have mothers. They’ve all been through it, and I’m sure it sucks. If you don’t want to give up your seat, fine, but I’m not following your logic.

    And besides, how do you know how somebody injured themselves? A ton of (most?) injuries are because they did it to themselves. So some dude who injured his foot playing basketball gets your seat, but that pregnant lady? Nah, let her tough it out…

  • Cheru

    Knowing that, I started off being a bit insistent, trying to convince them to take my seat. Whenever I would do that, though, it would still result in them not taking the seat and me sitting back down. My insistence waned as time went on until I just stopped caring altogether. Though, now that I think of it, I don’t feel I should have to convince someone to take my seat. I understand the custom of refusing the first offer, and I know that not doing so is thought of as greedy in Japanese culture. If you’re going to someone’s house and they offer you something, or something like that, I can understand. However, something small like a seat on the train I don’t feel requires a 10-page dialogue to get through. When this back and forth takes so long that we’ve reached the next stop and I’ve gotten off anyway, it’s completely pointless.

  • Yuume

    I like that he said you should just want to do good things to do good things, not for another reason. Also, I can see his side of it, and it’s nice to see someone realize that everyone has their own problems and reasons for acting the way they do. That in itself is good.

    I would give up my seat to a pregnant lady just because that is taxing on the body and simple things can become completely exhausting when you are pregnant, even to the point of being dangerous.

    I know the buses at Disney World aren’t the same as trains in Japan, but people there will fight and push for seats because they’ve been walking around the park all day and it’s hot and they don’t want to stand and they’re tired. I generally give up my seat to a kid or lady with a baby, older people, etc. But I’ve also seen a lot of people give up their seat for completely healthy, non-pregnant girls/women just because it’s the acceptable, chivalrous thing to do I guess. Maybe that’s a Western thing though, that it’s polite to give up your seat to a lady regardless. I’ve even done it for a lady in her late 30’s, and I’m a 24-year-old woman.

    I don’t think badly of people who don’t give up their seat unless they’re just a straight d-bag about it. Like this one guy who straight up told this 93-year-old man he was just out of luck, so the man had to stand and hold on to his family and had trouble standing the whole ride back.

  • Chiisana_Hato

    I’m an older lady who also has had a shattered right leg. I also ride the train every working day. If I’m in pain, I’ll take the seat. If I’m not I don’t want to make others stand so I will refuse, but I remember that person who offered for days and days! It brings a smile to my face and that warm fuzzy feeling. It really is the gesture that is appreciated even if one does not accept. And don’t every ride a train with my Aunt. I saw her clock a kid upside his head with her crutch because he didn’t move his scrawny tush out of a seat for her! Old ladies can be REAL mean! lol

  • Yellow Belly

    As far as the staring thing goes, I’m not stressing. I get why they’re staring and I don’t care. But if I respond, and it’s not often, to their staring with a smile, or “hello,” or a bow, and I get an obtuse look back, then I feel like that person is a fool. I’m a shy person, so I understand shy as well, but a simple acknowledgment in passing isn’t too much to ask. Especially if the person is in their 20’s-40’s. In this age of instant information, in a modern superpower country, if a person is mesmerized by another human only because that human looks different from them it says more about the person then it does about a culture.

    If we focus on that 20-40 age group and look at their global knowledge it’s paltry, which would be excusable if not for their utter fascination in all-things-foreign. But they want to be on the outside of the fishbowl looking in, and that’s a selfish way to act.

    I don’t care what race or religion you are. If you’ve lived enough and met people from all over the world you realize that we’re all people, we all have similar needs and wants. Japanese are no different. I’m from NYC, plenty of people are rushing around and wouldn’t look or care if you’re standing on a street corner naked eating rats. And if you flash a smile to someone they’ll ignore you too. I get it. But at the same time they’re not staring at you for 3 minutes because of what you look like.

  • Gruntlewick

    Gosh, I wonder if that’s a pan-Asian thing. I hope they’re not as ostentatious about it as they are here in China. I avoid giving up seats to the elderly if they look like the kind that’s going to make a big song and dance as they refuse. Take the bloody seat! It’s as embarrassing as hell when the whole damned bus starts talking about the foreigner who valiantly gave up his seat for the old person. But I suppose the Japanese would be more discreet. In big, cosmopolitan cities this ain’t a big deal tho.

    Touristing about Seoul, I noticed that young people studiously avoided being seen even standing near an old person seat, much less occupying one.

  • Gruntlewick

    For the record: I raise a stein of frothy lager to your inclusion of lots of Japanese-with-English-translation below. Two birds with one stone!

  • Candy Rendon

    Great article! Another reason why I’ve gotta put in more Japanese language learning into my schedule: Kangaetakekka writes well and I’d love to read and understand his blog in Japanese.

  • martinjablonski

    The one thing I just realized is how much more you can write on twitter when using Japanese.

  • Andrew

    I’d agree with the fact that sometimes it’s difficult to know if a fellow lady commuter is indeed pregnant, or just overweight – offering your seat to a woman who turns out to just be a bit tubby is embarrassing for both parties! The London Underground came up with a brilliant solution to this problem – pregnant woman can obtain a free official badge (http://commutingexpert.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/baby-on-board.jpg) from any station ticket office which makes it much easier for them to get a seat. A wonderfully simple solution.

  • EspadaKiller

    Very interesting article. This “not giving up seats in train” situation is kinda bad in Singapore, where I live. There would be a priority seat which has a very clear sign that shows to give up seats for the elderly, pregnant ladies and kids. But usually Singaporeans ignore it. And so what happens? People took photos of them and shame them on a website called “STOMP” (http://www.stomp.com.sg/), where all kind of weird stuffs that are happening in SG are reported there via ordinary users.

    And so, people do take advantage of this priority seats thingy. There’s a case where a girl (girl gangster, called “ah lian” in SG) didn’t notice a elderly woman was standing in front of her, and the elderly woman starts scolding her really loudly on the train. She was listening to music on her earphones so she didn’t notice her (where this article states about how once you are seated down you tend to pay less or no attention around you, which for this case it’s probably true). So she decided to give up her seat to her, but she continues to scold her, and in the end they started quarrelling. So who’s wrong now?

    Here’s the article and video btw: http://sg.news.yahoo.com/blogs/what-is-buzzing/ah-lian-vs-auntie-clash-mrt-quarrel-093745529.html

    Personally I would give up my seats as well, but sometimes I wonder does the person deserves it? Especially with the situation that I had just explained. Maybe for pregnant ladies yes, but what about for elderly people? Some of them seriously doesn’t deserve it, but who am I to judge?

  • Lawrence Jenkins

    I don’t

  • Saimu-san

    My sister and I both get regularly yelled at and told off on the bus (trains here are abysmal compared to what we were used to in our home town) for using the disabled seats by angry pensioners. We have the same mobility and fatigue problems requiring medication where we’re always exhausted and our leg bones feel like they’re on fire before we even start walking or standing. I’ll give up my seat no problem for someone with a pushchair that needs to sit next to their baby in the allocated space or if someone in a wheelchair needs the seat specifically for them.
    Everybody else hasn’t got a chance. I don’t even take my bag off the seat next to me unless somebody asks politely (it’s seriously heavy to the point it aggravates my leg pain if I put it on them for too long).
    I know where the best stops to get on are, though so I walk a little bit further to get those but I can still wait a stop or two if it’s crowded. I don’t want anybody to give me their seat. It wouldn’t be fair.

    The thing is that pensioners get FREE bus passes in the UK while prices are hiking up more and more for the rest of us. It’s gone up a pound in the past few months and it was already up a pound on the year before.
    I paid for my seat. They didn’t and they can clearly wait a lot longer than I can. So why should I give them frosting, whipped cream and a cherry on top when their deal is already sweet enough? (Note , there are also usually the people that yell at us about it.)

  • Haruko

    I am a foreigner who used to live in Japan. Because of my health problems, it is difficult for me to stand on the train. I take any seat I can get, even priority seating, and I don’t give it up to anyone. My reasoning is that the priority seating is also intended for injured or sick people and since I’m sick, I have a right to sit there. The problem is that from the outside, I look like a perfectly healthy young woman. Therefore I’m pretty sure a lot of people judge me for not giving up my seat. So I agree with Kangaetakekka’s point that it would be better if people would consider someone’s (possible) background or reasons before judging. However, since I’m a realist or perhaps even a cynic, I figure people will always judge. As long as you’re in the clear with your own morals, and just do your best, you should ignore other people’s judgment.

  • magdalen

    See, there it is again. You’re stuck with *your* definition of what constitutes a “decent human being”, or what the “nice thing to do” is. Why is it “person in front of you lets it slam into your face”? Why can’t you take responsibility for your own face and not “let” other people slam anything into it? You assume that other person will “feel a little like an asshole”, but maybe there’s a possibility that, you know, since they are a different person from you, they’ll react differently? Who is judging without thinking here?

    I don’t know if I’m “caught up” in our differences, I would say that I acknowledge that differences exist and do my best to evaluate people on their own terms. In fact, I moved to London from Florida because I absolutely love the incredible diversity of people and cultures here. I still don’t understand why little things like people not holding doors or smiling back has you so upset that you’d use terms/phrases like “asshole” and “they can go fuck themselves”.

    Lastly, I’d like to point out that to the Japanese, perhaps their “quirks” are not “quirks”. Maybe “open your mind a little” and consider that perhaps just because they don’t act the way you expect them to, doesn’t mean they are “afraid to change”, or have to change at all. Personally, I like them the way they are. :)

  • Joshua Chapa

    Yeah I understand. And I’ve been through it too and seen it so many times. Although when someone offered me a seat (happened like twice) I took it with little to no hesitation. I must have looked like a monster to some people lol.

  • John

    I did this all the time on the school bus, although for me it seemed to be more of a half asleep kind of thing.

  • katsarayuki

    I give up my seat where possible. On a crowded bus one day someone tried tried to driticize me for not giving them my seat this person would of been 20 something but the issue was I had three broken toes and had been working all day; definitely not a situation where I wanted to be standing but not obvious. Though on the flip side Iat one point I broke my ankle and on the bus with full foot cast and crutches had to stand the entire hour journey.

  • JM

    What a spoilt brat. Your mom didn’t brought up well ain’t she. It’s just a seat just chill out…. There are different people with different needs just try to understand…..

  • Mina

    I am writing as a pregnant foreigner living in Japan.

    I don’t live in the populated areas so I’m almost always guaranteed a seat in the train, pregnant or not. In my recent visit to Tokyo, I was never offered a seat in the trains although obviously pregnant and with the bag “pregnancy tag”. It was fine because I could lean against the train to get comfort for my back or sometimes, my backaches were so bad, I would squat. Honestly, being pregnant and knowing how rough it is on my body, I will make a conscientious effort to give up my seat to a pregnancy woman. Most of you can’t relate and that’s fine but I was clueless about the pains pregnant women go through and now I know to be more aware and considerate.