Page last updated at 13:51 GMT, Tuesday, 25 March 2008

'Manners police' hit Japan metros

Japan metro carriage (file)
Metro trains are one of the prime spots for bad behaviour in Japan

Badly behaved commuters riding on Yokohama's public transport will soon be risking a dressing-down.

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

The move comes amid growing concern that etiquette is losing its hallowed place in Japanese society.

A recent poll found nearly nine out of 10 respondents felt standards of public behaviour had declined.

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

A prime hang-out for violators was identified as Japan's jammed commuter trains.

Japanese businessmen bow while exchanging namecards
Ways of showing respect have become rituals in Japan

So transport authorities in Yokohama - a port city south of Tokyo - have appointed a team of manners enforcers, the Smile-Manner Squadron, to try to curb some of the bad behaviour.

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

But many of these enforcers will be accompanied by younger bodyguards, should their etiquette advice - diplomatically given, of course - not prove welcome.

The team members, who will be identifiable by their bright green uniforms, will have no legal powers to insist that their advice is accepted by recalcitrant passengers.

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

Country profile: Japan
14 Feb 08 |  Country profiles

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