Commuters’ tolerance tested in face of declining public manners

June 22nd, 2012By Category: Culture

Spa! (Jun 19)

On May 21, the Shibuya Fukutoshin subway station was the scene of a knife assault. When the perpetrator was arrested two days later, he reportedly told police he had lost his temper after the man “had bumped into him.”

Spa! (June 19) uses this incident to consider the many ways in which rail passengers show lack of consideration toward their peers. A survey of 200 adults found that 133 said raucous conversations were the most objectionable — voiced by two thirds of all respondents. This was followed (with multiple replies given) by poor manners when boarding and disembarking (129); inconsiderate sitting posture (128); noise emanating from headphones (116); anything involving inebriation (104); conversing on cell phones (98); eating and drinking on the trains (90); perfume or other strong odor (82); reading, use of cell phones, playing games or other activity that intrude on others’ space (81); and females putting on their makeup (71).

Some elderly passengers have been known to burst out, loudly ranting at the source of their annoyance.

“One old man exclaimed, ‘Today’s young people are too self-centered! Don’t you have any consideration for the elderly?’ relates an eyewitness to one particular incident. “But after that, he pulled out his cell phone and began talking in a loud voice and his conversation lasted for quite a while.

“I thought about saying to him, ‘Before you complain about other people, you ought to consider your own lack of manners!’ but decided it was more trouble than it was worth.”

On another note, it seems cars limited to females only have not entirely solved the groping problem.

“Once on my way home I got groped by a woman around age 50. Since I’m a woman, it didn’t bother me that much, but her hands were definitely roaming over my hips and thighs.

“Once on my way home I got groped by a woman around age 50. Since I’m a woman, it didn’t bother me that much, but her hands were definitely roaming over my hips and thighs. ‘Can this really be happening?’ I said to myself, but felt resigned that there was nothing to do about it. But I realized that the women’s only car is not entirely safe either.”

The task of attempting to bring order to the chaos falls mainly on station personnel. According to a survey by the association of private railways, reported cases of violence against station attendants leaped from 183 in 2007 to 236 the following year. Of the 229 incidents in 2011, alcohol was a contributing factor in 75%.

“There have been cases where the police had to be called in and a train was delayed by up to 15 minutes,” says a source at a railway company. “It’s troublesome to announce the cause of the delay to the passengers. What do we tell them? ‘The delay is due to passenger difficulties?’ Frankly, I don’t want to have to say it was a passenger’s fault.”

“Whenever we have to scrape off vomit, it’s almost never the person who regurgitated who informs us,” says another source. “But the mess has got to be cleaned up right away; otherwise it becomes encrusted on the floor.

“You don’t have to apologize to us,” he appeals to Spa! readers, “but if you vomit, please let us know right away.”

In a separate sidebar, Spa! also gave some offenders equal time, inviting them to give excuses for their inappropriate behavior. Like the men who openly leer at nude photos and other risqué contents of male-oriented printed matter.

“Well they sell ‘em at the stations,” retorts a 44-year-old man who peruses such publications. “Some women may be turned off by it, but their illusions toward men are overdone. To me, people who are overly self-conscious about such things are even more unpleasant.”

Ichiro Tanaka, who operates a site called Densha Tsukinshi (Train Commuting Warriors) is asked what he advises to those who encounter potentially aggressive trouble makers.

“Just apologize to them,” he says, quoting an old expression that goes “Kunshi aya uki ni chika yorazu” (a wise person never courts danger).

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