Japanese train commuters (i.e. practically all Japanese) supply a ranking of the behaviours they find most annoying on a train, making essential reading for Japanese and uncultured barbarians alike.
The ranking (with votes in parentheses):
1. Getting on the train before waiting for the people on it to get off (7694)
The most basic rule of getting on a Japanese train is to stand aside and wait for everyone to disembark before alighting.
2. Talking too loudly (6794)
Conversing is permitted, but carriages are usually silent and conversations held in muted tones. Conversations held at American tourist volume are likely to attract the discrete opprobrium of the entire carriage.
3. Talking on a cell phone (5336)
Nobody but a drunk or an uncouth foreigner would ever be seen conversing on a cell phone on a Japanese train, although it is permissible (barely) to answer a call to hang up on someone with a terse warning that the answerer is on a train. The terror of disapproving silence awaits those who violate this sacred taboo.
4. Not budging up to free up a seat (5335)
The proper seating behaviour is to occupy the corner and middle seats first, then the spaces equidistantly between these points, at all times never sitting next to a stranger – only when no space remains can a seat between two people be taken, and at this point it is polite for those already seated to shuffle around to maximise seating.
5. Cutting in line when boarding the train (4540)
The honourable way to board a train is for two orderly queues to form at the door markings on the platform, which then move to the side to make way for the disembarking passengers and only alight when they have all escaped.
6. Letting noise leak from headphones (3378)
Since the main activities on a Japanese train consist of a staring into space, fiddling with a phone, reading a book or sleeping, usually the only scope there is for noisiness is with handheld games…
7. Leaning on a stranger (3326)
Usually a problem with seated, sleeping passengers – although in the case of attractive young members of the opposite sex it is considered a rare blessing to be leaned on.
8. Eating or drinking on the train (1623)
Nobody (save perhaps utter barbarians) is ever seen eating or drinking on a commuter train.
9. Letting your luggage interfere with other passengers (1407)
Luggage is normally stowed overhead or closely guarded. Poking ladies with luggage runs the double risk of being misinterpreted…
10. “Other” (1133)
Don’t do anything else either!
The only other major item of train etiquette not covered here is the proper method for boarding a train which is so solidly packed with commuters that it requires bodily pushing to get on – in these cases, the trick is to turn around and push onto the train without facing the mass of humanity already crushed within its confines.