Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
Escalators - at least those in public places - are a public convenience the use of which everyone is entitled, the able bodied as well as the physically challenged. They are not restricted, neither by design nor by law, to “the elderly, mothers with children, people with large bags and suitcases and the injured” as suggested by S.H. in “Take the stairs if you want to walk” (Japan Times, September 5, 2013). The rules of traffic in Japan are that you keep to the left and pass on the right. If more than one lane of passage is available, the slower traffic keeps to the left, the faster to the right. This pertains to pedestrians as well, since pedestrians are also traffic. I suggest that people who stand on the right side of an escalator without moving are themselves inconsiderate of others, like a passenger on commuter trains occupying two spaces on the bench with her shopping bags, or his widely-splayed feet. In fact, they don’t seem to understand the rules of traffic, which makes them a public nuisance, poorly educated, and possibly illiterate as well. If you are slow, or if you want or need to move slowly then keep to the left everywhere. Of course, Japan brims with people who occupy the center of a public way like a sidewalk or an escalator blithely oblivious to their surroundings. This obliviousness is a common failing here. The idea of being physically in the way of others doesn’t seem to register. Consider, for example, friends walking together, slowly and abreast of each other down the sidewalk, effectively blocking it to all others.
The question has already been raised on this escalator topic Why do people need to be told where to stand and how to move? I think, especially in Japan, people want to be told what to think and how to behave. Maybe because it lifts responsibility for decisions from the individual. This desire creates the need as people are passive by default. Sometimes you need silly rules to keep your silly sheep in the silly herd. It’s sad, but there it is.
Maybe I sound unsympathetic to a certain segment of the public. But sympathy is not a desirable emotion. People should not look to cultivate sympathy. Empathy, yes. Sympathy, no.