Dec 21, 2019

Bad seating manners most annoying for Japan’s train travelers

The way passengers occupy seats on trains has emerged as the greatest annoyance facing train passengers in Japan, according to the results of a questionnaire released on Thursday.

The train and train station manners questionnaire conducted online by the Japan Private Railway Association between October 1 and November 30 this year gathered over 2,600 responses detailing the acts of fellow passengers that cause the greatest degree of annoyance.  

The way passengers sit, or occupy seats while riding trains -- which includes passengers sitting with legs outstretched or spread wide, sitting with their luggage, and occupying too much space -- topped the ranking with over 40 percent of the votes as the most annoying act of fellow train passengers in 2019, for the first time in 10 years, having ranked third in 2018. 

Manners (or lack thereof) regarding passengers boarding and alighting trains, followed by how passengers carry and place their luggage while onboard rounded out the three most annoying acts of fellow passengers on Japan’s trains, according to the results of the questionnaire. 

Bad seating manners most annoying for Japan’s train travelers photo

(Train manners campaign poster from 2018)

Top of the grievances in regards to the way passengers take up their seats on trains is aimed at those people who take up too much space, not making the effort to sit in a compact fashion by spreading their legs and placing their luggage on the seat with them, garnering over 60 percent of passenger gripes. This is followed by passengers sitting with legs crossed or stretched out, and those who don’t give up their seat to the elderly, passengers with disabilities, or pregnant women.

According to a news release from the Japan Private Railway Association, respondents of the train and train station manners questionnaire were asked to select three annoyances from a list of options which included typical train and train station-based bugbears such as passengers applying makeup, noise emitting from earphones, and people operating smartphones while walking. Only 0.5 percent of respondents indicated that they didn’t find anything to be particularly annoying.  

2019 marks the 20th year of the train and train station manners ranking in some guise. Asked whether or not they had seen any improvement in the manners of train passengers over 27 percent of questionnaire respondents indicated that they had while over 26 percent indicated that they felt the manners of passengers had got worse. 

While the questionnaire focused largely on those acts on Japan’s trains that cause passengers to be annoyed, there was also room in the questionnaire for some positive voices, regarding those acts witnessed that left a heart-warming impression. 

“I felt glad when other passengers helped me board the train with my baby stroller,” “I was happy to see a young child give up their seat to a pregnant passenger,” were among the examples of heartwarming acts witnessed on Japan’s trains, according to responses on the questionnaire. 

The most annoying acts endured by passengers on trains in Japan, 2019
1Way of sitting41.3%

Manners when boarding / alighting trains

(blocking doors e.t.c)

3Way of holding / placing luggage32%

Way of using smartphone

(walking / use in crowded situations)

5Noisy conversation / moving around27.6%
6Coughing / sneezing without regards to others20.1%
7Noise from headphones18.6%
8Leaving garbage / empty cans12.5%
9Drunken passengers12.3%

Applying makeup

11Manners surrounding priority seats9.9%
12Sitting on train floor8.3%
13Smoking outside of designated areas7.9%
14Eating, drinking in crowded cars7.4%

Operating sounds from electronic devices

(laptops, game consoles)

17Reading newspapers, magazines in crowded cars5.5%
18Nothing in particular0.5%

Most annoying act regarding way of occupying a seat


Not sitting compactly

(leaving space, spreading legs, sitting with luggage

2Legs crossed / stretched out while sitting23.1%

Not giving up seat to elderly, passengers with disabilities,

pregnant women etc

4Children standing on seats with shoes on4.3%
5(Sleeping) leaning on fellow passengers2.4%

Most annoying act regarding boarding / alighting trains


Not moving away from doors,

moving into center of train

2Boarding without waiting for others to alight20.4%
3Pushing in from the side (when boarding)9.5%
4Rushing to board5.5%
5Pushing fellow passengers4.2%

Most annoying act regarding way of holding / placement of luggage

1Rucksacks on backs, shoulder bags68.2%
2Placing luggage on seat8.4%
3Umbrellas (wet, pointed out)7.4%
4Luggage on floor by feet6.5%
5Careless / rough handling of large luggage2.8%
6Placing luggage near doors1.3%

Most annoying act regarding use of smartphones 

1Operating smartphone while walking43.1%
2Operating smartphones on crowded trains32.1%
3Operating smartphone while boarding / alighting train11.7%
4Talking on phone / ringtones7.8%

What bad manners displayed by train passengers in Japan do you find the most annoying?  Let us know in the comments.


WHAT'S GOING ON JAPAN?! Questions, confusions about life in Japan

Rush hour Japan: A guide to surviving the crowded commuter trains

Train etiquette in Japan: More of the 'don'ts' than the 'dos'



A Q&A and blogging community about life in Japan (plus a load of life-in-Japan stats!). Get your questions answered, share your experience! | Inquiry -> KyodoNewsDigital International Media | Tokyo, Japan | +81 3 6252 6402