May 3, 2019

The use of priority seats

If you ever used trains or buses in Japan, you have probability seen the sign, "Priority seats."  These seats are designed especially for elderly or injured people, parents with small children, pregnant woman and people with internal disabilities like heart disease. Usually, these seats are very close to the entrance / exit of the train or bus for the convenience of the people who need them. Also, these priority seats are usually a different color from the other seats so that passengers can easily recognize them.  In Japan's bigger cities like Tokyo or Osaka especially, priority seats are very important for elderly people.

The use of priority seats photo
I was somewhat surprised that there is a need for such special seats in Japan. In my home country it is totally normal to offer a seat to elderly, sick people, mothers or pregnant women, without the need for a specific area on the train or bus. Unfortunately, even though there are priority seats here in Japan, many people ignore them and just sit down, even when other passengers really need them.

During my pregnancy I had to use the Tozai Line (the most crowded train in Tokyo) almost every day for going to work. Since the train was always really packed I really hoped to have a seat in the priority area. Unfortunately, during one month I was only able to sit in the priority seats 1-2 times, at other times they were always occupied. Now, you might think since there are many elderly people in Japan the priority seats were always all occupied by them. Unfortunately, this has never been the case. It was typically teenagers or salary men who were using all the priority seats. Even if I or my mother in law, who is over 80 and has walking problems, stood in that area when it was crowded, it was rarely the case that somebody stood up to allow us to sit down.

Particularly during the early months of my pregnancy I often felt so sick on the train that I was really in need of a seat. As this was, unfortunately, often not possible I had to get out quite often to get some fresh air, sit down and wait for the next train.

Sometimes though, it's hard for others to tell if someone is pregnant or has an internal disability. In this case, however, there are special tags for bags from railway operators and the city office.  For pregnant woman it is a small tag with a picture of a mother and a baby, which also says in Japanese “おなかに赤ちゃんがいます“ (There is a baby in the stomach of this person).  People with internal disabilities usually have a red tag with a white cross and heart on it to indicate that they have heart problems.

The use of priority seats photo
During my pregnancy it was often hard to see that I was pregnant because I didn't had a big belly. As such, I often got angry looks when I was sitting in the priority seats. Sometimes I could even hear that people were talking badly about me. Since then I always took care that my pregnancy tag was clearly visible to others.

Same happened to one of my relatives, who has serious heart problems and owns a disabled passport. Since he is very young nobody expects that he might have heart problems and that's why he never sits down at the priority seat area, to avoid any negative comments.

It is kind of sad that even though you can find priority seats almost everywhere in Japan it is sometimes still difficult for the people in real need to use them. I really hope this situation will change for the better in the future.

Did any of you have bad experiences with using priority seats in Japan?

This post was created by a blogger on City-Cost through the blogging themes



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