Photo: Robert Gilhooly for the Daily Telegraph
Tokyo Metro's monthly Manner Poster campaign utilizes bold, cartoon-like depictions of certain antisocial behaviors subway riders should avoid doing... on the subway, at least. Barfing after passing out drunk, loud cellphone yakking and practicing golf swings with wet umbrellas - normal activities on North American subways - are no-no's on Tokyo Metro's sprawling subway system, though perfectly all right if done in the privacy of your home.
This characteristic "Don't do that! Well, not here please" message is reminiscent of Japan Tobacco's long-running series of Smoking Manners ads. Both gently (if obviously) remind those who have let their societal skills slide to shape up in the interest of society as a whole. Here are the first nine Manner Posters, beginning with April 2008:
APRIL - Please share the seat with others
It's interesting that the (literally) poster boy for being an obnoxious seat hog is a young dude wearing low-riding gangsta jeans. Let's enjoy stereotyping! In any case, even if he wasn't so expansive with his Doritos, beer and girly mag, would you really want to sit beside him? As for the "please do it at home" title, no worries, he probably already does.
MAY - Please refrain from putting on make-up in the train
Is that what the young lady is doing? Looks more like self eye surgery - which is also discouraged by the way. I'm not sure why Tokyo Metro is picking on these girls; putting on make-up in public isn't that offensive, is it? This isn't the 1960s when women solidified their hairdo's with half a can of Final Net.
JUNE - Please set your mobile phone to silent mode and refrain from making calls
Here's one we all can get behind - though they should add Bluetooth earpieces to the list. Curiously, most Japanese cellphones are a generation ahead of foreign ones yet subway lines in Canada and the U.S. are in the process of introducing cellphone service to their lines. Lovely.
JULY - Please be careful of noise leaking from your headphones in the train
Ah yes, boomboxes may be history but at the volume some listen to their iPods at you'd never know it. And once again, the featured culprit is a Japanese Gen-Xer (looking startlingly like a young Paul McCartney) annoying our long-suffering, tie-wearing salaryman. Hey Pops, the way the Japanese economy's going these days, the kid's likely taking home more yen than you are. Suck it up!
AUGUST - Please do not rush into the train as it is dangerous
Indeed. Then again, Tokyo subway cars are often so packed with passengers, uniformed "pushers" have to cram in the latecomers. Rushing into an unexpectedly empty car would be like breaking down an unlocked door... you might find yourself in the backyard. I didn't mention the "Please do it at the beach" statement because, well, what the heck is going on at Japanese beaches??
SEPTEMBER - Please be considerate of others when holding bulky belongings
Bringing bulky belongings on the Tokyo subway is just asking for trouble, even if "trouble" means two dozen fellow travelers staring you down with daggers in their eyes. Then there's "Please do it on the mountain"... maybe they meant to say "Please sing Go Tell It on the Mountain". At least it'll distract attention from your ridiculously bulky belongings.
OCTOBER - Please be careful handling a wet umbrella
A dangerously provocative statement that, considering the frequency of groping incidents on Japanese subways. This is one time when "Please do it at home" would be entirely appropriate. Seriously though, has there been a problem with Tiger Woods wannabes teeing off with rain-soaked brollies on Tokyo subway platforms? There has? Never mind then.
NOVEMBER - Please do not make a commotion on the train
Yes please, you're making our hard-working, bug-eyed salaryman feel left out. Speaking of which, what's with the dude's blank, bulbous blinkers? Is the Little Orphan Annie look back in style? Am I dating myself by using a Little Orphan Annie reference? But I digress... partying on the subway is to be avoided. Nobody have fun on Japanese subway, Japanese subway have fun with you!
DECEMBER - Please refrain from drunken behavior
Here it is, the PSA poster of the year! Please refrain from drunken behavior, and please do it at home. Millions of Japanese housewives would like a word or two with whoever dreamed this one up. Kudos to the epic Japan-bloggers at 3Yen who highlighted this poster as "The official start of the Japanese Vomiting Season, just in time for the end-of-the-year drinking parties."
And so ends this series of 9 Subway Manner Posters, and Tokyo Metro SHOULD end them here as the Drunken Behavior poster is gonna be really hard to beat. Is a "Please refrain from reading girlie mags and groping schoolgirls" poster next? With the obligatory "Please do it at home"?