Managing passenger etiquette in Tokyo: between social control and customer service

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - asia, place - urban, ridership - behaviour, planning - surveys, planning - signage/information


Urban mobility, public transport, social control, passengers, customer service, comfort, Japan


Public transport providers often attempt to prevent passenger behaviour they consider dangerous, deviant, or otherwise undesirable through media technologies such as posters, signage, and overhead announcements. This paper explores the rationale of such mediated regulatory endeavours by taking up the example of ‘manner improvement’ poster campaigns by urban rail providers in Tokyo. Based on expert interviews with individuals involved in the production of poster campaigns and analysis of industry documents, it examines the motives and considerations guiding company interventions into passengers’ everyday mobility practices. While previous scholarship has largely viewed such initiatives as a form of social control, this paper interprets manner improvement efforts as a customer service strategy. The paper examines posters’ content, design, and limitations to argue that manner improvement efforts by urban transport providers are not primarily concerned with disciplining passengers but satisfying customer sensibilities. Enquiring into transit etiquette posters from the perspective of transport and design companies involved in creating them, this paper presents a novel contribution to the study of urban mobilities.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Taylor&Francis, copyright remains with them.