As I was roaming around on the Internet today, app shopping, and looking for cool new blogs and magazines to bookmark, and generally being suuuuper productive, I stumbled across a really interesting preview of what the subway experience in Japan may be like. Check out these Japanese posters from the 80’s advocating proper subway travel etiquette at the link below:
The posters are all public service messages that appeared in Japanese subways during the 70’s and 80’s. I’m surprised by how much creativity and fun was put into ads for concepts as dull as not forgetting your umbrella. Makes me wonder if there was a rampant epidemic of umbrella abandonment where the country’s transit system and staff were crippled by the overwhelming glut of left-behind rain gear. They certainly hold your attention longer than most public service ads. I vaguely remember ads on NYC subway trains that were something about keeping your necklaces hidden so they don’t get snatched. As I recall, the imagery was something along the lines of a picture of a neck with a chain being snatched off it. Loads of originality and creative thinking went into that one, I assure you. I also note that warnings about having your jewelry stolen give quite a different image of a city than posters asking passengers to refrain from taking up extra space on the train seat. Tells you a little bit about that city’s severity of problems, doesn’t it?
From what I hear, japan has some of the most crowded subways in the world. So crowded, in fact, that supposedly there are men with white gloves whose job it is to stand on the platform and shove the last few people into the train so the doors can close! I wonder what the posters look like nowadays. Do they advise you to lose some weight to allow more room for your fellow passengers? Are you reminded to stand with your shoulders shrugged to take up a minimum of space? Are puffy coats and backpacks frowned upon?
I wonder about some of the more Western cultural concepts in these 70’s and 80’s subway posters. I always thought Superman was largely an American hero. I realize he was a big deal in the 80’s with the Christopher Reeve movies being out then, but I still would think there was a manga or anime character that would draw more Japanese eyeballs to the message. And why the Jesus and Mary references? I didn’t think the Japanese were much into Christianity. Though they celebrate Christmas as a fun social and commercial event (though they don’t get the day off), as little as 1% of the population is actually Christian. Though I’m sure people are familiar with biblical concepts, do they really resonate over there?