Train Etiquette: 10 Do’s and Don’ts

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For those who have visited Japan before, you must know a thing or two about their trains. Not only they are punctual, but they also have a few sets of rules that all passengers need to stick to. As you all know, Japan is very particular about how you behave in public, whether you are a local or a tourist. Every day, you will come across millions of people using the train as it is the fastest and cheapest mode of transportation. For first timers, you might find their train stations a wee confusing because there are so many platforms, JR passes to purchase and as such. But, don’t worry, it is very normal to get lost on your first visit.

Before you travel to Japan, make sure you know where you want to go and which station you should get off. Also, if you plan to stay in Japan for more than a week, make sure you grab the JR pass as it is much cheaper than buying individual tickets. You can click here to learn more about the JR pass.

So, what are the do’s and don’ts when riding a train in Japan?

Let passengers get off the train first

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This generally happens during rush hour when the train is super crowded with people. As the train arrives at your station, just remain calm and queue in your line. Do not stand in the middle because it will block the passenger’s way. You do not want to be pushed aside by other people, right? So please be mindful. Also, if you are on the train, please let other people get off at their station. Do not block or stand near the door for your own convenience.

Stand behind the yellow lines

When queuing, please stand behind the yellow lines. Most train stations in Japan set a mark behind the line to indicate which coach you will enter. Do not cross the yellow line because it is unsafe to stand close to the platform.

Women coach is strictly for women

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Women coach is commonly abused by men when they couldn’t find a seat in the regular coach. There are strong reasons why they created this particular coach for women. Firstly, women feel much safer here because there are no men. Second, there have been a few cases where women were sexually violated by men. If you accidentally entered the coach, quickly move to the regular ones.

Do not put your things on the empty seats

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If you are travelling with luggage or backpacks, make sure you do not place your items on the empty seats. The number of seats on the train is very limited, so please store your bags in the designated area such as racks above your seat, on your lap or under your seat. By doing this, you will be seen as considerate and cultured.

Do not talk on the phone

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Talking on the phone inside the train is not practised in Japan because it is considered as annoying and can irritate others. If you received a call, just answer it for a few seconds and ask them to call you later. As you enter the train, make sure you set your phone on silent or vibration mode. Some might be okay with loud noises and some might not.

Using headphones or earphones

Using earphones or headphones to listen to some music on the train is okay. What not okay is when the music is too loud, the noise leaks out of your headphones. Generally, you are not supposed to make any noises that can disturb others on the train. Therefore, make sure the volume is set to low.

No eating or drinking

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In between stops, we sure like to eat something to fill our tummy. It is acceptable to eat if you are travelling by Shinkansen, trains used for long distance ride. You should avoid eating food that has a strong smell. Drinking is also not recommended on trains.

No smoking

Whichever countries you are from, trains are strictly a non-smoking zone. Not only it can worsen your health, but also bad for those around you. In Japan, you are not allowed to smoke in public places. Look for a smoking room near the platform before you embark the train.

Priority seats

Image Source: LiveJapan.

When you are on the train, look out for pregnant women, senior citizens and disabled people. These people are the ones that we need to prioritize and it is a common courtesy to give up your seat for these groups of people. Moreover, if you see them carrying heavy bags, lend a hand by storing their bags up on the racks.

Do not blow your nose or cough

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Should you fall sick during your travelling day, buy plenty of pocket tissue and a surgical mask. It is inappropriate to blow your nose in the train because it is considered very unmannered. In addition, coughing without covering your mouth is also a hard no. Bring tissue or handkerchief so you won’t be spreading the germs to others in the train.

Don’t leave anything behind

When you carry more than one bag, make sure you put them all in one place to avoid this incident. Apart from bags, trash, magazines and water bottles are the main items people usually left behind in the train. If you have been to Japan, you will notice that there are no trash can even in public places. Keep your trash inside your bag or pocket and throw it out later. Do not litter anywhere especially on the streets.

Getting out of the train

Make sure you know where to stop and which station you should stop. During peak hours or when the train is packed, please be sure to grab all your belongings at least one station before your stop and make way to the door. This will save you a lot of time when you need to squeeze in between a sea of people. Then, upon arriving, get off the train quickly so others can enter.

In short, these are all the important do’s and don’ts when you are riding a train in Japan. When in Japan, do as the Japanese do!


A fun-loving group of editorial team on the mission to introduce Japanese culture and lifestyle to the masses.

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