Is this your first time in Japan? You don’t know how to move inside the city? There’s an easy solution. Japan is a very organized Country and this is reflected in stuff like transportation system, such as trains and subway. Not only tourists, but most of Japanese people, from children to elders, prefers to reach various places by them. It is affordable, efficient, fast and easy to use. It may be difficult to understand which line you have to use at first, since there are lots of them (for example Tokyo has 13 lines for 274 stations all over the city), but after some attempts, you will easily orientate yourself, the important thing is: read the signs carefully, and avoid to use some lines during the most crowded hours! An average ticket costs about 130¥, and you can create a card to upload a number of trips up to your preference or necessity. These cards are called PASMO or SUICA, and you can purchase them by a normal ticket machine qualified for it. When you buy it, you will have to put a very cheap deposit that you will have back when you dismiss the subscription, more or less 500¥. ATTENTION! This system is not compatible with high-speed trains dedicated to long distance which has higher ticket costs, such as SHINKANSEN.
However, since the train or metro is very used by Japanese people, you must know that you have to follow some rules of general behavior that you might not think that are socially fundamental; actually train “etiquette” might look easy, but that’s not so true. I learnt it during my university stay in Japan, observing day by day how people reacted at me and my attitudes. So, what are the Do’s and Don’ts of riding train\subway?
Don’t smoke on the train, nor during your way at the station; smoking in public spaces is illegal in Japan, more precisely is forbidden outside areas\rooms specifically designed for smoking, inside buildings or along the streets (If you don’t follow this rule you can actually get fined so be careful);
2. BE QUIET DURING YOUR RIDE
Don’t talk in a loud voice and for a long time on your mobile phone or with your friends on the train\subway; passengers get easily annoyed at these things, since they usually prefer quiet places to rest during their journey; of course if it’s only for a couple of seconds, just to warn your friend that you will call him in ten minutes and then hang up;
3. BE CAREFUL WITH YOUR MOBILE
Turn the phone at “silent mode” (マナーモード); In order to not bother the other passengers just in case someone calls or text you, you have to keep your phone at “manner mode”, as the announcements that you can hear all over the station warns you every 5minutes. Of course they won’t kick you out, but it would be pretty embarrassing to feel observed or the subject of disturbance;
4. RESPECT THE OTHERS AROUND YOU
Give your seat for old people, people with handicap, injured, pregnant women or children; when my boyfriend came to visit me during Golden Week, he had a completely cast arm, and it was very difficult for him to stand up in that crowded place; every time we entered the subway, many people kindly gave him a seat in “priority seating” reserved for them, usually placed in the ends of the wagon. However many people who normally qualify for those seats choose to use the regular seats or to stand up, or don’t want to bother anyone. However you should give it up also when you are not sitting in priority seats, and you will tell that an old person wants it because they will stare at you until you won’t do it; usually youth avoids to make eye contact with them, and hides behind their cellphones, while old people stands up in front of them.
The funny side of it is that they will try at first to say “oh no, thank you” or “don’t worry” just to be polite about it, but listen to me, let them have your seat;
5. KEEP AN EYE AT YOUR WATCH
Be careful during busy hours. It would be awkward to stay inside a crowded wagon packed like sardines, it’s not so cool, mostly when air conditioning doesn’t work; with busy hours I mean 7 – 10 am and 4 – 7 pm;
6.DON’T ACT IMPATIENTLY
Always keep the queue while waiting for the train. At the station, in the metro tracks, you will find lines on the ground that indicate where you have to stop and wait for the train to arrive in an orderly way. You’ll be amazed to know that in the proximity of those lines, the door of the wagon marked on the ground will arrive precise to the millimeter, thanks to the skills of the train drivers. Moreover, during the descent you can listen to a particular different music for each station: as long as you hear it, it will mean that the train is still present at the track;
7.IF YOU CAN, LEAVE SPACE
If you have a very bulky bag or backpack, place it on the ground or under the seat to avoid disturbing those around you, especially when the wagon is very crowded, just to get some more free space;
Those are some general important rules that you have to look at when you decide to travel by train in Japan: if you act respectful, you’ll feel more satisfied and in harmony with people surrounding you!