The Yomiuri Shimbun Dear Troubleshooter:
I’m a man in my 40s. I’ve been astounded that nobody is willing to make way for a mother pushing a stroller, even if they see her trying to get on an elevator at a train station.
I take my baby to nursery school every morning wearing a baby carrier. When I do, I take an elevator to the ground level from the underground area at the station where we get off.
The elevator is always packed. There is no space when a mother with a stroller tries to get on at a floor on the way. When I see this happen, I always make way and get out of the elevator. However, nobody else does this before I do. Only a few people follow me out of the elevator because I’m holding a baby. I’m disgusted with the low moral standards of Japanese people.
I’ve suggested the station reserve the elevator just for people with strollers and the elderly, but my proposal has yet to be accepted. What should I do to make it easier for mothers with strollers to take the elevator?
Dear Mr. S:
You’re able to notice various problems as you’re struggling to balance your career with parental responsibilities.
Japanese people are usually kind to people close to them or their guests, as suggested by the spirit of hospitality called omotenashi. However, they tend to be indifferent to strangers.
When I lived in the United States and Hong Kong, many locals were not very friendly, but I found even such people were very willing to help others whenever they found socially disadvantaged people.
A friend of mine who is pregnant and lives overseas angrily told me that nobody gave their seats to her when she returned temporarily to Japan, while she was always offered a seat aboard a bus or train in China. This story made me feel sad as a Japanese.
People who won’t give up their seats or space may have their own reasons, but Japanese society in general is unkind to the disadvantaged. I’m sorry for this and I hope people direct their kindness not only to those close to them, but also at strangers at a disadvantage, even if only a little bit, so that all of us can live a comfortable life.
Railway operators should also try to make such packed elevators less crowded, so that vulnerable users can use them at any time.
I hope the number of people like you who consider the vulnerable and speak up on their behalf will increase enough to move railway companies and even help change the mind-set of the general public some day.
Masahiro Yamada, professor