The Japanese are said to be one of the politest people in the world. The culture is suffused with a complex system of courtesy and respect which affects the way you speak and act at almost all levels, and which can baffle many a foreign visitor. The “rules” even include how you behave on public transportation.
Of course, train and subway networks in most countries have posters reminding passengers to act in a way that is courteous to others, though it is particularly prominent in Japan — and also presented in a very inventive way.
Every fiscal year, Tokyo Metro — which runs most of the subway network in the city — issues a series of “manners posters” which are displayed around the stations and platforms to ask its passengers to think of others.
Vibrant is the keyword to describe the current year’s series. Each month is a new color, featuring a scene inspired by that season’s activities and the etiquette perils that go with it.
So for August you have backpackers on trains not giving other passengers enough room and for June, wet umbrellas during the rainy season dripping on the floor.
The heart border is also very striking, though the symbolism is surely supposed to be civility rather than romance.
One major difference between Japan and other countries is that speaking on your phone on a train is perceived as rude (even if you are speaking more quietly than two passengers having a regular conversation). A lot of the signage about courtesy on public transport focuses on this point.
Last year’s posters were a big talking point and spawned several adaptations and spoofs. The yellow, white and blue coloring is striking, as are the at times humorous scenes. However, the real reason for the success of the series surely lies in the use of the recurring mini bear character.
2012′s series was also bilingual.
2011′s series featured dogs and cats, and a few other creatures, and the tone here was a bit more mawkish. The main slogan is “Konna hito o mita“, which we could translate as “I saw a person like this“.
There are only a few months left in the 2013 fiscal year so keep an eye out for the final posters in the series. And then look forward to the 2014 posters!
Tokyo Metro Manners Posters: