Japan is known for its impeccable public transportation system, particularly its trains. The country’s trains are renowned for their punctuality, efficiency, and cleanliness. But what many people don’t know is that there are a set of unwritten rules that govern train etiquette in Japan. As a visitor to the country, it’s important to be aware of these rules to avoid accidentally offending the locals. In this article, we’ll give you the ultimate guide to Japan train etiquette so you can ride the rails like a local.

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Etiquette of Riding Trains in Japan

Queue up properly

When waiting for the train, you will see the queues marked on the platform with signs, indicating where to stand. It is essential to stand in an orderly fashion, avoiding pushing or shoving, and leave enough space for the passengers to exit from the train. When the train arrives, wait for the passengers to get off before boarding.

Be mindful of priority seats

Priority seats are reserved for elderly people, pregnant women, people with disabilities, and parents with small children. If you are sitting in one of the priority seats and someone who needs it boards the train, it is polite to give up your seat. If you see someone who needs it and is standing, you can offer your seat to them.

Mindful consumption of food and drink on trains

On long-distance trains such as the Shinkansen or overnight sleeper trains, there are dining cars or snack bars where you can purchase food and drinks. These trains are equipped with special facilities and are designed to cater to passengers’ needs during long journeys. In the dining cars, you can enjoy a variety of food, including bento boxes, sandwiches, noodles, and drinks such as tea, coffee, and beer. It is important to note that dining cars are only available on certain trains and that they may not be available on all routes.

On local or commuter trains, it is generally not allowed to eat or drink on board. This is because these trains are designed for shorter journeys and do not have the same facilities as long-distance trains. In addition, local trains are usually crowded, and eating or drinking can be a nuisance to other passengers.

If you must eat or drink on a train, it is best to do so before boarding or after getting off the train. It is also important to be mindful of the type of food you consume. Avoid foods with strong odors or those that may spill or create a mess. Small snacks like candy or gum are usually acceptable, but it is best to consume them discreetly and not create any disturbance to other passengers.

Don’t talk on your phone

Talking on your phone is generally frowned upon on Japanese trains. If you need to make a call, it is best to do so before boarding or after getting off the train.

If you need to make a phone call, try to keep your voice as low as possible and avoid talking for extended periods. Some trains in Japan have designated areas where you can make phone calls, so check the train’s signage to see if this is available. If you must take a call, keep your voice low and try to keep the conversation as brief as possible.

It is also important to keep noise from electronics to a minimum. This includes not playing music or videos aloud and using headphones instead. If you need to take a call, set your phone to vibrate mode and take the call in a designated area, such as a phone booth or designated area on the train.

Keep your voice down

When traveling on trains in Japan, it is important to keep your voice down and avoid making loud noises. The Japanese culture values politeness and consideration for others, and loud noises can be seen as disruptive and impolite. It is common for Japanese train cars to be quiet and peaceful, with passengers reading, sleeping, or working on their devices. When traveling with friends or family, it is best to keep conversations low and avoid raising your voice.


Riding the train in Japan is a unique and enjoyable experience, and by following these simple etiquette rules, you can ensure that your train ride is a pleasant one for both yourself and the locals. The Japanese train system is an essential part of the culture and daily life, and as a visitor, it is essential to respect and follow the unwritten rules of train etiquette. Remember to queue up properly, give up your seat when needed, and keep the train clean and quiet. Happy travels!

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