Good Manners, Good Tokyo!

Thought you had good manners? Think again. Tokyo Metro Cultural Foundation is here to teach you why.

I bike to work. That’s because I prefer to sweat in solitude rather than together with 100 grumpy salary men on the train. But occasionally, I do take the train, if only to enjoy the myriad of hilarious posters decorating the walls of Tokyo stations. Yesterday was such a day, and little did I know I was about to get schooled in Japanese manners by Tokyo Metro Cultural Foundation (because apparently, there is such a thing).

I approached the tube station in silent anticipation, staring at the walls instead of at the ground, as would have been proper. There were a few semi-funny posters with the standard Engrish mistakes, but then a screamy yellow poster caught my eye – bam! With massive letters in caps it read: GOOD MANNERS, GOOD TOKYO! I stopped in my tracks, causing the salary man behind to make a hurried pirouette to avoid physical contact (physical contact is only ever acceptable on the train). Close call, buddy.

I returned my attention to the poster. It’s better to keep your roller bag close so you don’t bump into anyone behind you!” it said cheerfully. Behind you? I had to read it again. Oh well, good advice if you’re in the habit of bursting out in spontaneous moonwalks, I suppose. Two western tourists in the poster demonstrated how to perform this mountainous task, and damn were they handling the bags like pros, keeping them close and all. “If only all foreigners could be like this…” the poster seemed to whisper. If only. But let me tell you, walking with a suitcase in Japan is hell. Why? Two words: tactile pavement hates you. Or maybe that was four. Anyhow. All you need to know is that pavement and station floors are littered with bumpy yellow lines to impede you as much as possible in your rush for the last train to Haneda. Ugh.

The next poster had a more no-nonsense approach, depicting a guy on the train (who I am pretty sure is not meant to be Japanese) blasting music at 110% volume. A shocked tourist sees him and becomes self-conscious about the volume of her Nicki Minaj playlist. “Please be careful not to let sound leak from your headphones while on the train” it reads. In invisible ink next to the text, it continues “Or the Japanese people on the train will impale you with passive aggressive stares until you’ll want to jump off a cliff.” Yeah, sounds about right. Being a Swede, I’m all for passive aggressive. Next! The final poster is green and shows how a daft foreigner has his backpack on his back. My, my. Luckily, the Japanese people show him how to do it by putting their own bags on the shelf, or in front of them. Good riddance.

These posters are very educational and all, but I can’t help but to wonder who the mastermind behind them is. I lower my Nicki Minaj (actually Alan Walker) playlist to 50% volume and sling my backpack to the front. The rest of the commute is spent Googling with my phone comfortably propped up against someone’s back (probably a salary man). Turns out the educational poster thing has been around since 1974 and that this year’s theme is “Japanese manners from a foreign perspective”.

So, about that foreign perspective. Apparently 70% of foreigners who’ve been to Japan think manners are great, while only 20% of Tokyo residents say the same thing. Since statistics are always one-hundred percent true, this can only mean that Tokyo Metro is trying to bridge the manner gap in tourist vs local manners. Mystery solved.

Although I enjoyed the educational value of the posters, they do kind of share the underline concept of Nippon Sugoi books. But let’s leave that dragon sleeping (for now).

Come September, there will be a new poster out. Can’t wait.

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