People in Tokyo stand on the left side of escalators leaving a passing lane on the right for those in a rush. People in Osaka do the opposite, they stand on the right side and let people rush on the left side. It’s been this way for a few decades, so pretty much everyone is familiar with this practice. When I first arrived in Japan, I was surprised in a very nice way because I thought this habit showed a high level of organization or order that characterizes the Japanese people. This custom also applies to walking on the street, but to a slightly lesser degree. However, JR East has recently placed stickers in every station asking commuters not to walk on the escalators, just stand. Have people changed this habit already?
So, what triggered this sudden change? People are so used to the current system that it doesn’t make sense to alter it, right? Nevertheless, a steady increase of accidents (on average, there was one accident each working day) in recent years and a further analysis led to one conclusion: many accidents happened because of people rushing like crazy on the escalators not to miss the next train.
I am a bit skeptical about their theory, since I was quite sure that most accidents occurred because of people talking/checking their phones or being drunk, but I do remember accidents such as this one, last April, in which a 60 year old woman died after being hit by a man falling down the stairs. It wasn’t a escalator that time, but a a normal staircase.
Although I can understand where JR East stands, what they are requesting will take too long to be accomplished. It’s basically an everyday habit what they’re trying to change. I haven’t seen any differences as of now.
Source: Wanted: better escalator manners (The Japan Times 2013)