There is no doubt that Japanese people are losing their good manners. Alarmed, the government and private organizations are doing their part to encourage the public to “manner up!” by displaying posters and signs. These signs, probably designed by elementary school teachers with a grudge, seem to be everywhere: “Please line up and wait your turn.” “Don’t cut in line.” “Don’t push to get on the train.” “Is your smoking bothering the person next to you?”
Train stations, with nice big walls, have become giant public service announcements. In an effort to get people to “manner up,” Japan Railways has a poster campaign that encourages good manners on the train by getting people to act more like, um, animals. Yes, these posters suggest we could be more polite by becoming more animalistic.
I first noticed this campaign when I saw a poster of a giant gray rabbit talking on a cell phone — or should I say sniffing on a cell phone. “Wow, technology has really advanced,” I thought. “I didn’t even know there were cell phones for rabbits these days. I’ve got to get off my island more often.” Then I read the print at the bottom of the poster telling people to switch their phones to “manner mode” while riding the train. Oh, silly me. Rabbits and manner mode, why didn’t I get the connection sooner? Manner up, manner mode.
With such word association at work, I was able to immediately assess the next poster in the series. The rabbits with cell phones were replaced by posters of an old billy goat with a cane. I know this one! “Give up your seat to old people — let the old goats sit down!” Either that or “No bleating on the train.” I looked at the writing on the bottom of the poster and, sure enough, it said, “Give up your seat to the elderly.”
Now the old goat posters are down, having been replaced by the current one, a poster of penguins standing in a line. Hmm, penguins. At rush hour, the platform can be a bit like a rookery but . . . wait, I’ve got it! “Wear suits on the train!” My second guess was, “No running for the train doors, just waddling.” Both wrong. The poster encourages people to line up like penguins while waiting for the train.
Oh well, maybe I’m not so good at this after all.
But I am eagerly awaiting the next poster in the series. What do you think it will be? Here are some possibilities:
Owl: If rabbits can encourage people to switch their phones to manner mode, then owls should be able to encourage high school girls to switch themselves to manner mode. High school girls should board the train wisely only after they are finished screaming. After they’ve mannered up in manner mode, they can vibrate on the train all they want.
Flamingo: Young 20-somethings with pencil legs, high heels and glittery pink sequin tops should preen themselves before they get on the train. And mind you, no eyebrow plucking on the train! Flamingos would never do that.
Chameleon: High school boys should be encouraged to camouflage their appearance when on the train so they blend in so well with the upholstery that we can’t even see them. Only when they get off the train at their stop would we notice their shirttails hanging out and their pants hanging down past their butts. What is cool in school is uncool on the train.
Cow: A cow would encourage passengers to moooove over so that other people can sit next to them.
Giant squid: With so many long tentacles, this animal could be a sign of courage and strength encouraging men to refrain from groping.
If manners get much worse than they are now, we may need a poster featuring Shuan-Shuan the panda bear: No sex on the train.
With such a successful poster campaign, I can’t see why we all can’t “manner up!” until we’re completely animalistic.