Sunday, 8 February 2009

Well-mannered Valentines

So its February, which means Valentines Day is just around the corner. Stores in Japan certainly don't let you forget that. Chocolates and chocolate making supplies are displayed front and centre to entice the female population to buy or make all sorts of treats for the men in their lives.

This month's Tokyo Metro poster is also Valentines-themed. The couple from last month have been enticed up off the floor but are still in the way. They are sitting in the priority seats, snuggled up together and eating heart shaped goodies. After watching the antics month after month, poor old guy has finally come to serious harm and has broken his leg. He looks truly annoyed as he glares at the young couple, who in their love-struck (and sugar-overload hazed) state are oblivious.

This is actually an issue that does need to be addressed. Whether the poster will do it or not, I don't know, but it is a problem. The other day I had a friend ask me whether "priority seat" was the proper translation for the Japanese term. I thought for a minute and got confused. I couldn't figure out what term was used in Canada. My friend suggested "Disabled Seating" I remarked that with PC language that wasn't used. My friend was somewhat amused by my inability to come up with the proper English term. I finally came up with "Courtesy Seats." But I'm not sure that that is even used in North America? The more that I thought about it the less sure I was that buses and trains actually had special seating areas, except those for passengers in wheelchairs - with seats that fold up and belts and whatnot. Help! What term is used? Or do they not exist?

Either way, I told my friend that even if such seats existed, the average person would still give up their seat, wherever it was, to somebody who looked like they needed it more. The lack of such action by your average Japanese train passenger is something commented on by a large number of foreigners. Especially noteworthy is the people (normally younger) who feign sleep (you can occasionally see them peeking out and closing their eyes really quickly) so that they don't have to give up their seat.

To their credit, the average Japanese commute is longer than that in Canada. If you're only going 10 or 20 minutes it isn't a big deal to stand, but 40 minutes? an hour? That's a different story. Not that excuses anything, because the little old lady nearly bent in two, well she's probably going more than 5 minutes too, and it is even harder for her to stand.

That rant aside, I'm not sure this poster has framed the message properly. The young guy is the one doing everything wrong and yet here is is in February cuddling with his girl and eating homemade goodies. The creepy old guy is a goody-goody and does nothing more than look on in disgust at the various antics being had. He is left alone and injured however.

The message of these posters seems to be coming clear to me now - disobey the rules and have fun or obey them and be bitter and alone. Huh. Maybe I should stop giving up my seat, and start sitting on the floor, drinking till I pass out, running for closing train doors, and shaking my wet umbrella all over everybody...

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