Posted in Culture, Everyday Life, Humor, japan, Japanese, Opinion

Elderly Japanese Don’t want your Seat!?

Stay Out of the priority seating!

The other day I came across an article called “Japanese Commuters Are So Polite They Don’t Give Up Their Seats For The Elderly” where the author claims that it is actually disrespectful to give up your seat for an elderly person and to not even bother giving up your seat.

….Yeah, whatever man.

Just in case you didn’t get my tone I highly disagree with this author. According to Mark Andrews the author of the article, “…the Japanese actually find it impolite to give up seats for elderly people when riding public transportation.” Then he goes on to share a quote from another blogger`s experience on the subject.

“I asked my neighbor- (an elderly lady who is also my landlord) about what I saw when I use public transportation and she explained that whenever she get(s) on the bus and someone offers her a seat, she would come up with the thought: ‘Ah~ Am I becoming so old that I need a young man to give me priority?’ This would remind her, ‘ You`re getting old!”

Cheopamm, a Japan Info Blogger

Great research Mr. Andrews. I can tell that you worked so diligently to find that one source of information that had a fragment in it that could support your opinion when you have missed the entire tone of Cheopamm’s article. This quote actually has nothing to do with Japanese culture. Notice how she still gets offered a seat. Its an insight of an elderly lady’s feelings about being offered a seat. Her feelings are not a cultural fact. Hold my tea!

“I think we are told to give our seats to old people. Most of the time old people say ‘ Thank you,’ and sit. If they look kind I’ll communicate with them. But some old people say ‘ I am not old,’ and get angry. So I am afraid to give my seat. Usually I just stand up and walk away and they take the seat. It is done without communicating.”

Manami, (16) High School Student

Look at how the seat is still to be offered out of courtesy and manners. Let’s add in one that I personally witnessed just for fun.

About three years ago a group of friends and I caught the bus from our local library to the train station. There was quite a few of us but we all managed to find seats. During our ride an elderly woman got on the bus and by this time all of the seats were taken. After one or two stops a young man (Japanese) offered the elderly woman his seat. She thanked him and sat down on the seat. Then the young man stood for the rest of the ride to the train station.

In my humble opinion (Yes, I can admit when my ideas are just opinions) Mr. Andrews has made the classic mistake of taking a minor variation from the norm in Japan and is using it to make a wide generalization about Japanese culture. I find this to be very common with certain types of people who live here. So I`d like to give you what I believe is really going here.

Japanese culture usually expects that you politely refuse an offering first. This is because manners dictate that you are not to inconvenience the person who is doing the offering. After this offer has been extended 1-2 more times it will either be accepted or rejected. If there is a rejection it is usually followed by a reason such as the person is getting off at the next stop. This is the kind of cultural back and forth that is done in Japan. It consists of many apologies, insisting, and resisting.


Maybe you just came across a cranky and sensitive old person. Some people just love to be offended and take things personally. They exist everywhere. That doesn’t mean that a whole cultural system follows that person’s actions and it is certainly by no means a reason to tell people to act like ill mannered jerks when they come to Japan.

Dear readers remember your manners. Try to stay out of the priority seating (unless you need it) and if you see an elderly person who needs a seat kindly offer it to them. Stay classy my friends. Until next time. Ja’ne.