Japan is known to the world over as a safe place to live, where people are helpful and courteous. Few people visit Japan and return home with tales of rude airport staff or inattentive waitresses.
In fact the word “manâ” (manner), which is an adopted English word is often heard or seen in posters around Japan.
“Manâ” is used to describe everything from not sticking your chopsticks upright in a bowl of rice to putting your mobile phone in silent mode if you are using any means of public transport.
Therefore, many things that are considered normal in western countries, in Japan they can be seen as impolite.
Smoking has been prohibited in Tokyo’s stations since 2009 after many complained of passive smoke while waiting for their trains. And while it’s still legal to smoke in many public places like restaurants and “izakayas,” attitudes are slowly changing. A number of wards within the Tokyo area, for instance, now have no smoking emblems emblazoned on many roadways and pavements, and people are asked to smoke only in designated smoking areas. Smokers also carry a portable ashtray to dispose of the cigarette ashes in order to keep the streets clean.
Similarly, Tokyo Metro launched a campaign with posters titled “Ie de Yaro (家でやろう)”, which politely asks “Please do it at home”. This poster campaign goes some way toward showing how important manners are in the Japanese commuting life by depicting various anti-social acts such as listening to music loudly, eating or drinking, speaking loudly, as well as, asking to align in an organized manner before boarding the train.
Even if you visit Japan for a short period of time, you can notice the attention to detail when it comes to public manners.