Why Stand to the Side of Escalators in Japan?

Jan 2, 2018


 

If you’re living in Japan or came to Japan as a tourist, have you ever noticed the fact that people usually stand to the  right side or left side on escalators, depending on the area?
Many of you may be using escalators daily and just happen to stand to the side in Japan, but have you ever thought about if you’re standing on the right position?

This article will explain why there are standing rules on either the right or left side of escalators in Japan.
If you have plans to go somewhere in Japan soon, you can take the escalator just like locals and maybe feel a little proud!

 

1. When were Escalators introduced to Japan?

 

 

In the year 1914, the very first escalator was created at the following 2 places in Japan:

 

1. MITSUKOSHI department store in Nihonbashi.

It was a big news at that time to have one of the first escalators installed in a major department store called MITSUKOSHI in Japan.
Many people were amazed by this convenient, innovative machine.
Unfortunately, it was destroyed in a fire caused by the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923.

 

2. Tokyo Taisho Exposition in Ueno

When Tokyo Taisho Exposition was held in Ueno, an escalator was created as a short cut from Room1 to Room2.  Surprisingly, people needed to pay a fee to take the escalator! The cost was 10 sen (about 0.1 yen) at the time.
The escalator was installed on March 8th, so ever since, people call that day “The Day of Escalator”

 

 

2. Which Areas do People Stand on the Right Side?

 

The areas where people stand on the right side of the escalators are as follows:

・Osaka
・Nara
・Wakayama
・Hyogo

Osaka is the first area that people started to stand on the right side of escalators.
So why Osaka?
There are 2 major reasons:

 

Reason 1: Station yard broadcasting announcement

 

In the year 1967, people created escalators as a connection from the 1st floor to the 3rd floor at Umeda Station in Osaka.
Station yard broadcasting announced to the people who were taking escalators that they need to stand on the right side and should keep space on the left side for those who need to walk. People say this rule was made based on the London subway that British people normally stand on the right side when they’re taking escalators.
Since this announcement, people have been following this rule, and naturally became a habit to stand on the right side in Osaka.

 

Reason 2: Foreigners attended Osaka Expo

 

In the year of 1970, Japan World Exposition Osaka was held in Osaka and many foreigners attended.
Along with this event, people in Osaka made the new rule to stand on the right side of the escalator based on European style, considering foreigners normally stand on the right side and cared about not confusing foreigners when they were taking escalators at this event.

Because of this, people in Osaka gradually started following this new rule and it also became a habit to stand on the right side when they take escalators.

 

3. Which Areas do People Stand on the Left Side?

 

 

The areas where people stand on the left side of the escalators are as follows:

・Everywhere except the areas of Osaka, Nara, Wakayama, Hyogo.
・Mainly Tokyo, Hokkaido, Kyoto, Nagano, Hiroshima, Fukuoka, etc.

 

We say people from Osaka stand on the right side and people in Tokyo stand on the left side. There are also certain rules why people in Tokyo stand on the left side when they’re taking escalators.

Here are 2 major reasons:

 

Reason 1: The road traffic law

 

 

Just like road traffic, people had to walk on the left side by the year 1949. At that time, both cars and people needed to be on the left side and that was the rule.
There was no specific rule for the escalator at that time, but people naturally started to stand on the left side on the escalator based on the road traffic law.

 

Reason 2: Sword of Samurai

 

 

In the Edo Period, Samurai used to walk on the left side since they had to protect the scabbard of their swords.
They always carried swords on the left side hanging on the waist area, and if they walk on the right side, people who walk on the left side can easily grab their swords, and it would have been a life or death matter.

Tokyo was originally from Edo, and the place was called Samurai town. People in Tokyo followed the Samurai habits of standing on the left side, so you can see why it is that people stand on the left side of escalators in Tokyo.

 

 

4.Japanese People are Rushing All the Time

 

Now you know the rule people in Osaka areas stand on the right side and people in Tokyo areas stand on the left side on escalators.
If you know this rule, you can avoid any troubles from people who are in a hurry.

You can find escalators everywhere, such as airports, stations, hotels, department stores, company buildings, shopping centers, etc. Wherever you are, you may see that Japanese people are walking or rushing on the escalators, and mainly because of the following reasons:

 

1. They are running a little late, and escalators are too slow to stand still.
2. They are a little late and must hurry, but there are no stairs close.

 

Many Japanese people are pressed for time, and you can see that on escalators.
Even though escalators are convenient, they’re slow for the people who are in a rush.
If you don’t keep the standing rules on the escalators, people may get irritated from your standing manner.

 

 

Now you know the escalator rules in Japan, so you’re ready to spend time all over Japan without having unnecessary troubles on escalators.
If you know the background of these cultures, you won’t feel weird or feel stressed when facing the different standing rules for escalators in Japan, right?

Everything happens for a reason, and our escalator standing habits are no exception in Japan!

 

YAE
Japan

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