An etiquette video by railway operator Tokyu Corp. aimed at stopping women from putting on makeup while riding its trains has set off a storm of criticism on social media, with many accusing it of going too far in dictating passenger behavior.
The 30-second Japanese-language video featuring actress Sawa Nimura starts with a provocative line: “Women in the city are all beautiful. But they are ugly to see, at times.”
It then shows a couple of young commuters applying mascara.
“Mittomonai (ugly to see),” Nimura murmurs as she jumps in front of the women and begins dancing aggressively. “Why can’t you do it before you get on the train?,” she sings. “You get your eyebrows back/You have more eyelashes on/Your looks have changed/They are all seen.”
The ad concludes with a message that says: “Please refrain from putting on makeup on the train.”
The ad was released Sept. 16 via YouTube and on Tokyu’s website and is still showing on the big screen at the Shibuya scramble crossing. A poster with the same message has also been distributed.
“I can understand it if Tokyu’s ad asks me to stop putting makeup on because makeup powder might spill over or its smell bothers others,” wrote Twitter user @ryudokaoruko on Tuesday. “But a railway company has no right to tell me whether I look beautiful or ugly.”
Her post was retweeted more than 5,600 times and set off a range of responses, both supportive and critical of the ad.
“If the firm wants to clamp down on people who make others uncomfortable, it should create a commercial targeting people with body odors, or people who smell of alcohol or vomit,” wrote @tinasuke.
Tokyu, however, is undaunted.
“We have actually received more positive feedback (about the makeup ad) than negative,” Tokyu spokesman Masayuki Yanagisawa said. He added the railway has no plan to withdraw the ad.
The spokesman said that the no-makeup campaign is part one of an eight-part video series aimed at educating passengers on train rules and manners.
Apart from makeup, Tokyu has made three other ads featuring the same actress that are intended to discourage people from using smartphones while walking, disturbing lines or shoving big bags at other passengers on crowded trains.
The remaining four videos — the themes for which have yet to be announced — will be unveiled in January, he said.
Yanagisawa added that the firm picked the themes based on the results of a survey on in-train nuisances released by the Association of Japanese Private Railways.
According to the results of the latest annual survey, which covered 2,105 people between October-November last year, putting makeup on was ranked eighth among acts considered a nuisance to passengers.
Topping the list was making loud noises or fussing, followed by bad sitting behavior.