Will Ukiyo-e Art Posters on Japanese Trains Help People Mind Their Manners?

  • Try asking somebody to describe the Japanese in a few words and most often the answer will be “reserved” and “polite.” Japan is renowned for being a safe place to live where almost everything is pleasant. The majority of people are helpful and courteous with just a few visitors to Japan going home with tales of rude airport staff or waiting staff. To keep up their good reputation there are reminders around Japan that they must be polite in public; this includes keeping their manners up on the train. Seibu Railways (西武鉄道) have recently got everyone talking with their posters which include traditional ukiyo-e (浮世絵; woodblock paintings) in order to ensure people keep their manners even while riding the train.

    Arty Posters and Banners in Trains

    Japan is a wonderful destination for those who love art and culture. Even boarding a train in Japan can be an artsy experience with the eye-catching images on trains and around the train stations. Some trains are decorated with colorful ads, anime and manga characters, as well as designs from notable artists.

    The designs on trains are often based on the area’s popular culture or simply used to promote TV series. Examples of these are the pink and blue ninja trains running along the Iga Line (伊賀線) in Mie Prefecture (三重県), which is the birthplace of ninjutsu. Just last year, the Genbi bullet train (現美新幹線) provided passengers with the chance to ride these high-speed trains sporting contemporary designs. These eye-catching trains were a real hit with passengers from far and wide!

    Seibu Railway Ukiyo-e Posters

    While a lot of train artwork is used for advertising, this time, art has been used to remind people of their manners on the Seibu Railway trains. This series is called “Denshanai Meiwaku-zue” (電車内迷惑図絵) in Japanese, which is literally translated as “Pictures of Inconveniencing Others on the Train.”

    These posters are inspired by the traditional ukiyo-e woodblock prints and three prints can be found. The first print translates as: “Please let others sit comfortably.” The second print is: “Please turn down the volume”, while the third is “Please do not rush onto trains.” The second print is noticeable with a group of animal-like humans who are noisily chattering and annoying other passengers. It uses the style of Kawanabe Kyosai (河鍋暁斎), a famous Japanese artist known for using demons and animals as subjects in his caricatures. The third print shows a great example of what not to do when boarding a train in Japan. It features a popular star from Toshusai Sharaku’s (東洲斎写楽) painting.

    These are just some of the train nuisances which one commonly sees upon travelling. These prints can be found not only inside train carriages but also at the train station.

    Seibu Railway release new posters almost every season, which is something to look forward to in the future. Innovative designs are incorporated every time, which is something unique in the world of train art. With the increasing emphasis on rail etiquette in Japan, we just can’t wait to see the next ideas Seibu Railway come up with. These poster campaigns will help educate tourists and locals alike in adhering to the expected train manners. So, don’t forget to check them out if you ever use the Seibu Railway!

    Seibu Railway Ukiyo-e Posters Website *Japanese only

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