Starting on March 30, users of the Yokohama Municipal Subway in Japan could find their trips interrupted by a lesson or two in manners. On that day, pairs of etiquette cops will start boarding trains, on the lookout for people breaking the rules of civility, whether by taking up more than one seat or playing music too loud. The “manners upgraders,” who are almost entirely over the age of 60, will then politely but firmly correct the unacceptable behaviour.
Though the Japanese have a reputation for being extremely well-mannered, that renown doesn’t always survive a trip in the country’s packed subways. A recent poll found that more than 75 per cent of commuters said their patience was tested while on public transit. Another survey found that 90 per cent believed manners in general were at critically low levels. So Yokohama decided to tackle the behaviour issue head on, though in a decidedly Japanese fashion. First the etiquette cops will get formal training to make sure their own manners are up to snuff. “Even though people talk about manners, you’d be surprised how tough it was to come up with a definition of what exactly proper behavioural manners for trains are,” a City of Yokohama Transportation Bureau spokesman told the Yomiuri Weekly.
The six men and five women, dressed in spifiy green uniforms to compensate for their token daily payment of around $15, will look for violators, such as people blocking carriage doors or those using mobile phones, even for email, and especially people pretending to be asleep so they don’t have to give up their seats for the elderly. The manners enforcers won’t have the power to fine anyone. Instead they will use the powerful weapon of public embarrassment. And to make sure everyone takes the criticism with civility, a security guard will accompany each manners team. M
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