Tokyo >> Backpacks, as the word suggests, are designed to be carried on people’s backs. But there are a growing number of people in Japan who hold these bags in front, especially on trains and buses.
For several years railways have been urging passengers to place their backpacks on baggage racks or carry them on their front when on crowded trains to prevent the bags getting in the way of people standing behind them, as the holders are often unaware of what is happening outside their view.
The calls have become part of their promotional campaigns to discourage bad manners while riding on trains and other forms of transportation in densely populated regions.
In urban areas, train conductors and station attendants make occasional announcements asking passengers to avoid actions such as rushing onto trains, talking on their mobile phones and carrying their knapsacks on their back.
Operators serving the Kanto region, including the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s Bureau of Transportation, which runs the Toei subway and bus systems, and Odakyu Electric Railway Co., have also created posters and brochures that encourage users not to be a nuisance to others.
An Odakyu official said it has been urging people not to carry their backpacks behind them since at least 2005, in response to rush-hour incidents such as bags getting stuck between closing doors and causing train delays.
“We are asking passengers for their cooperation so that everyone can use our trains in a pleasant manner,” the official said. “We feel there have been fewer incidents after putting up posters and having station attendants and conductors make announcements asking passengers to hold their bags in front.”
In March, 20 railways in the Kansai region in western Japan collaborated to put up posters describing situations in which people carrying bags on their backs disturb other passengers.
The posters show drawings of a passenger squashed by two backpacks, a mother and her child separated by a large knapsack, and rucksacks and other luggage blocking the train’s doorway, and urge people not to create such situations.
The firms included Hanshin Electric Railway Co., which links Osaka and Kobe, and Keihan Electric Railway Co., which serves Osaka, Kyoto and Shiga prefectures.
The move has even spread to the bag manufacturing industry, with Ace Co. this summer releasing a slim rectangular backpack designed to be worn on a person’s front.
“Because more and more people are carrying rucksacks on trains and are becoming attentive to having good manners, we developed a backpack designed to be less obstructive inside trains,” said Ayane Yamada, a public information officer with Ace.
Another concern over having a bag on one’s back is vulnerability to pickpockets.
Aya Shintani, a 29-year-old woman who works in Tokyo, said she almost always places her backpack on her front wherever she goes.
“It’s convenient because I can reach into my rucksack without having to remove it from my back, and it feels more secure because I can see it,” she said.