Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.


Gen Kanai
Funny keitai photo

(the caption on the sticker can be loosely) translated as:
"Games should be played only in game arcades."

(Which is a riff on the fact that it is rude to talk on the mobile phone on the train here in Japan.)

The little Sega logo on the top right makes me think it's a Sega ad making fun of people who used to think games weren't for homes. Maybe they were copying the Pepsi/iTunes commercial and glorifying the criminals.

I wonder if the expected social norm of not talking on the phone in trains in Japan will change. If people learned that shouting into your phone doesn't really help and talked in a normal voice that might help. I don't see how that would be any different than two people talking to each other face to face from a noise pollution perspective. (I can see a bunch of other arguments here about why it's not the same thing as face to face, but I'm not going to go there.)

The fact that you have to have a sign forbidding it must mean that there is a gap between some people's behavior and hoped for behavior by a particular group of people with access to the authorities.

Anyway, I'm all for talking on the phone in trains.


My 2cents on this, visiting Japan at the moment...
1- The signs I think are perfectly acceptable reminders of the social norm. Sort of gentle prodding for what is essentially, really, a VERY sensible little set of rules. (Besides, without which we not have the texting/mobile internet revolution we see here now...)
2- I see folks covering their mouths/hiding their keitais and talking on the train all the time. Though the % is very low. Like one or two a day. In a city with more people than all of Canada, that blows my mind.
3- Yes I think the out and out "ban" will slowly loosen and fall away but I hope the discretion and whispering doesn't! God I hate the way my fellow westerners yap away in public, be it on cellphones or F2F! Grrr... "Shut the fuck up already!" ;)
4- The manual for my S0505is mentions concerns of interfering with pacemakers, cathodic defibrilators, etc. Sounds about as kosher as the electronics ban on flights, but ... does anyone have documented proof of this?

That said, I'd like voice calls to die outright. Long live electrotelepathy! :D
(Sheesh, now *I'M* making up words.)

p.s.: Sega does cool ads. The above IS funny. Especially, if I get this right, the transposition into "the real world" of video game characters, attached to the girl's keitai. Like they are following her though her busy day, with her at all times in her life...

I also think banning cell phone talk in train is very strange. Banning cell phone talk in a very crowded train makes sense to some extent, especially concerning the pace make issue. But banning cell phone talk in the train totally is a very stupid idea.

1. If cellular phone is so bad for pace makers, cellular phone should be banned completely, not only in the train.
2. Why two people can talk, or even a group of people can talk in the train, but phone talking is not allowed? "Be quiet on the train" or "Talk in low voices in the train" would make sense better.

I would like to know if this kind of "don't use phone in the train" custom can be seen in other countries. It's very weird.

I have googled around some on the risk to pacemakers before while discussing this question in the context of a possible product liability claim against cell phone makers. Try for example "pacemaker cell phone risk" as a search string.

Apparently, there _is_ a risk associated with using a cell phone very close to a pacemaker. For example, people wearing such a device should hold their phone to the ear farer away from the heart and should not keep it in a shirt pocket directly over the heart.

Therefore, I think it makes sense to at least ask for refraining from using cell phones in some reserved areas of trains.

As for the noise pollution problem, obviously it would be enough to ask users to refrain from shouting in the phone, as opposed to requiring shutting it down altogether.

Is talking to each other on the train not taboo then? It was frowned on in England, and I found last week in Tokyo that us foreigners were the only ones talking to each other.

As a comparison, on the US fast trains (Boston-NYC-DC), there is a "quiet car" where talk, cell phones, noisy games, etc. are all prohibited. This kind of separation seems to satisfy both kinds of travelers.

Nothing worse than trying to read a book on a train and having someone yapping in your ear.

>Is talking to each other on the train not taboo then?

Talking is not oughtright taboo i think, but making loud noise won't please people asleep, or those 5 inches near you in packed up train in morning rush hour, or weary people getting back their home in the evening or night. Maybe people tend to talk louder when talking to cell phone therefore banned?

Talking about noise on a train, another irritating noise is percussion leaking out of someone's headphone.

I found the lack of loud conversation on the Tokyo underground refreshing. I prefer to read on the underground and some peoples need to involve me in their domestic's really ticks me off. Can't we just all email and txt on the train?

Actually, there's a huge difference between two people having a conversation and hearing just one side of a conversation. Our brains are quite adepts at tuning out two people having a conversation but when we only hear one side, the beginning of each moment of talking jolts us to pay attention. We can't fade it out. This isn't just about mobiles. Have you ever heard a couple talking where you could only hear one? You can't tune it out in the same way that you can't tune out someone talking on the phone. It's a protective mechanism. We think we're supposed to react when there's only one side.

I despise American public transit where people are talking. It's one of the reasons i love the BART - it's underground where the phone signals don't exist. Personally, i'm all in favor of the texting and not in favor of people on their mobiles because i'd like to have control over my audio space.

danah. I knew you were going to say that. There is a difference, but I'm not convinced from my personal experience on the significance of this difference. I find that the ability to filter background conversation is is different for different people. I also wonder if maybe you can train youself to filter as well. (My sister has always been better at filtering background sounds.) Loud talking is annoying to me one-sided or two and the volume and tone of the speaker's voice seems to affect me more than whether it is one-sided or two. The thing is, people talking quietly like in the girl in the commuter train pictured above are barely audible over the background noise. I personally don't mind it and think the utility of being able to call from a train is quite important from a logistical point of view. Texting is a good alternative, but it's often faster to talk when you're in a hurry. Isn't it more about trying to get people to talk softly into their mobile phones?

People do not talk in the morning because on the way to work they are traveling alone (usually). But when people return home in the evening the trains are buzzing (literally). People go out for drinks afterwork and often ride the train home with someone who lives on the same line. So the amount of converstation on the train is directly related to the time of day (and number of drinks).

As for talking on the phone, well, no one really seems to care. I have only seen one person get angry about it and it was an old Japanese guy who started yelling at a young Chinese woman about using the phone on the train. It really had nothing to do with the phone. The old guy just wanted to yell at a foreigner.

Actually, the thing i noticed a few months back was a sudden change in policy that occured simultaneously on both JR and the subways. Previously they had been saying to turn phones off in the trains, but they switched to saying refrain from speaking on the phones and turn phones off if in front of the priority seats. This means email and imode is now ok on the trains. This was a pretty big change in policy.

I agree with Joi that speaking in low or normal voice is not that annoying. I think there is a shift in the train riding attidude these days that it is OK to take a call if it is short especially if you just let the caller know you are on the train and will call back soon. Most of the dirty looks are reserved for people who have loud, rambling conversations on the train.

There are some keitai vigilantes out there though. I took a call once and started getting beat on by a little old lady beside me. She was hitting me and saying, "No! No!" Maybe we also need a sign saying not to hit people on the train. :)

Yes. I think a "no groping" sign might also be good. I think signs are good when you have a great number of people who don't respect social norms. I'm glad we don't need "no murder" signs Japanese trains yet, although they probably need one in some government offices.

Personally, I keep both phones on "manner mode" at all times and refuse to answer them when I'm on any form of public transit. I dont like it when people are talking on the phone next to me on a train or bus. I dont find that speaking quietly on a train is really possible since people speak up to be heard over the background noise and end up constantly repeating themselves or asking what the other person said.

As for texting/web access on phones, it does not bother me on the train, but when people are walking and paying attention to their phones, that really bugs me. They dont look where they are going, they walk much slower which creates congestion behind them.

Overall, I'm worried that japan is becoming a nation of keitei zombies, but thats another issue altogether.

In my experience, loud snoring is many times more irritating on the train here than young people talking on mobile phones. I want to see NO SNORING signs on the trains.

I think there are many, many ways to use these devices in public places while still being respectful of others. The methods are there, but will people choose to employ them? Unfortunately, there are several people who seem to relish inconsiderate usage, knowing it might irritate others. I have seen a variety of people in three different countries perform this petty act of defiance. They seem to draw gratifcation from the mischeviousness of it. I do my best to ignore it when it happens.

To me, the main offense usually turns out to be ring tone selection. If you decide to wear a crazy outfit or mismatched socks, I don't care. The visual disonance doesn't bother me at all. I can look away. BUT, when your keitai screeches out a "Chipmunks" Christmas carol with an off-key, 3 voice MIDI background beat, I don't like it very much at all. Looking away does no good. My brain processes the music whether I like it or not. And the effect is similar to having a cement truck parked in your tomato garden on an otherwise quiet and peaceful Sunday morning.

I am totally with Joi on this one, and anyone else who believes that it is the way that people use the phones that is the problem more than the usage itself. I don't think that it has so much to with only hearing one side of the conversation though, as two people having a robust conversation on the train will bother me as much, if not twice as much, as one person doing so on a phone. I think it would be a great marketing gimmick for DoCoMo or Au or whatever to start selling phones with a "quiet mode" button that amplified and noise-filtered the input, and maybe returned it a little louder through the speaker as people need aural feedback of what they are saying, so that you could speak more quietly on the train. Either that or market such as a feature as being a new component of "manner mode." I think that most people talk loudly because they can't hear themselves very well, so playing the sound more loudly into the speakers ear might alleviate the problem.

And I thought this article was about the lady with all the cell straps, as I recently was in Japan and could not understand what's with all the deco for the phones. One or two are OK but to over do it, it's just tacky!

I did also noticed many people don't use the keitais (but do use it to play games, shop and surf. Peeked at a few peeps doing that) in the subways which was good. Only foreigners did the talking which yes I admit was annoying! Where I live we have no service in the subway which is good.

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