Friday, May 2, 2014

Etiquette and Japan's Politeness Police

In 2008, in Yokohama Japan, officials decided to recruit the "Smile-Manner Squadron" to guide the way on the city's packed trains, and bring back standards of "Old Japan."
In Yokohama, the Smile "politeness police" on the trains will make you give up your seat for elderly, injured, or pregnant passengers if you don't get up of your own accord. 
Metro trains are one of the prime spots for bad behaviour in Japan

By 2008, badly behaved commuters riding on Yokohama's public transport were suddenly risking a dressing-down.

Newly appointed "etiquette police" were asking travellers to turn down their headphones and give up their seats for their elders and betters.

The move came amid growing concern that etiquette was losing its hallowed place in Japanese society.
In Yokohama, as in many other large cities around the globe, metro trains are one of the prime spots for bad behaviour.

A 2008 poll found nearly nine out of ten respondents felt that the standards of public behaviour in Japan had declined.

This perceived lapse included failing to offer your seat to pregnant and elderly people, applying make-up in public, chatting loudly on mobile phones and listening to music on "leaky" headphones.

A prime hang-out for violators was identified as Japan's jammed commuter trains.
Nobuhiko Obayashi, a 70-year-old author of Why don't young people give their seats to the aged? said parents were to blame for the loss of manners and society had bred a generation too afraid to talk to one another."Young people do not feel the need of having manners in their hearts," he said. "The experiment will give people who are too shy a chance to communicate." 
Ways of showing respect have become rituals in Japan, so to try to curb some of the bad behaviour, the transport authorities in Yokohama - a port city south of Tokyo - appointed a team of manners enforcers, the Smile-Manner Squadron.

The team, mostly made up of over-60s, were well acquainted with the standards of conduct associated with the "old Japan".

But many of these enforcers were accompanied by younger bodyguards, should their etiquette advice - diplomatically given, of course - not prove welcome.
Taizo Kato, a psychologist at Waseda University, said that Yokohama's creation "symbolises the collapse of the Japanese mentality and shows that we have reached a point where citizens are not aware of basic human manners".
The team members, identifiable by bright green uniforms, never had legal powers to insist that their advice was accepted by recalcitrant passengers.

But backers of the scheme hoped their refined social skills meant they will be able to charm - or shame - culprits into reforming their ways.