Culture: Queuing Up | Guidable Japan

Culture: Queuing Up

By Guidable Writers Jul 19, 2016

Every one of us might have had the experience of queuing up at our favorite food place or at an electronic store to get our hands on that brand new gadget. But, Japan takes the act of queuing up to an extreme level. If, there was ever a competition for queuing up I have no doubt in my mind that the Japanese will win it. Standing in a queue to buy something or for a service is an essential discipline we should all have. But, Japanese take that skill to a whole new level. Most Japanese can wait for hours for something and one would almost never hear a Japanese complain about the long queue.


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Queues at a convenience store to buy supplies (after Fukushima disaster)


Japanese people are known for their discipline and good public etiquette around the world. Remember, the famous news of how Japanese fans cleaned up the trash in the stadium after their matches during 2014 Football world cup? Apparently, they did this even when Japan lost a match! And what about the discipline they showed in the aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster when it would have been natural to panic. Japanese showed great strength in being disciplined and patient when supplies were few and obtaining them meant queuing up for long hours. Certainly, the world could learn from that.


スクリーンショット 2016-07-19 10.37.39Passengers waiting for a train in the evening

People form perfect queues during crowded summer festivals in Japan. I have visited many of Japanese festivals and have always observed that people maintain queues at food stalls and at train stations. Many train stations are known for extreme crowd density in Japan. Even in such crowded train stations people would often queue in line.

I once visited a famous amusement park in Osaka and it was jam packed with people. Every food stall in the amusement park had a waiting time in excess of one hour. Even the ice cream stalls had queues lined up all day long. But, not once did I observe anybody pushing each other or yelling out of frustration for waiting so long. People behaved themselves and waited without making much fuss. The waiting time for attractive rides in the park was over 2 hours with the waiting time for most attractive ride being 160 minutes! I am not from Japan and hence, could not resist complaining about the situation in the park to my friends who have accompanied me that day. My good Japanese friend was apologetic and said the situation on that day was actually better than last summer when she visited the park. The acceptance for waiting for such long hours is apparently, to gain a feeling of achieving something worthy according to her. Japanese take pride in waiting and waiting for something gives them satisfaction once they get it.


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Well, although one can never fault people for being polite and disciplined as a foreigner I had a different view. I thought the amusement park was not treating their customers well by making them wait for such long hours even though they paid for the park entrance. People admit the situation in most amusements parks is the same in Japan throughout the year. I guess such controlled behavior is unique to Japan and difficult for foreigners to pick up in short time.