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Brisbane Train Through Japanese Eyes

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morning peak by little albert on Flickr

C E L L O by Michael O'Connor on Flickr A train ride in Brisbane will give you a giggle. When I was staying in southeast Brisbane, I enjoyed the hour long trip into the CBD by train. The go card is a cinch to use for travel on the bus, train, ferry and tram. The fare is considerably cheaper than paying with cash too. Also in Fukuoka, a Japanese city with a population of 1.5 million, where I come from, there are smart cards of the same kind. I used to have a “Nimoca card” for use not only on most bus, train, subway and taxi services, but also on transportation in other cities and shopping. And as you use the card, incentive points are added for future rides or purchases. The ‘mighty’ Nimoca was launched in 2007 while the go card in 2008. Nimoca made great progress quickly probably because public transport is so much busier in Japan (also because they had competitors).

morning peak by little albert on Flickr One day I hopped on a train heading to Brisbane CBD, when I saw this funny etiquette poster. It’s a drawing of a boy sitting on the train captioned with, “Jim sits on the train. / His feet are on the floor. / Not on the seat. / Good on you Jim.” It’s “super simple” as Queensland Rail says, but you can’t help feeling the dry humour in it. There are several more of these etiquette posters. The parodies of these posters — some highlighting inconsiderate behaviour and others pointing out more serious issues — went viral. We have these etiquette posters in Japan too, many of them painted by school kids. I remember making one in art class when I was 9 or 10. It was so innocent, but mostly we knew what we were expected to paint/write. You can see some more recent etiquette posters made by Japanese children on this page. Even if you don’t understand the language, you can guess the messages.

Images by (L-R): Anna Armstrong, MatthewRad, omefrans on Flickr What the etiquette posters of Brisbane and Japan have in common is that the train companies don’t want to sound bossy (even though they’re thoroughly righteous!). Their approach is to send hints/tips/warnings to the passengers through the use of humour and linking it with education. Even within Australia, etiquette varies between cities. I found it interesting that in Sydney you see a sign on the bus saying “Please do not speak to driver while bus is in motion”, while most bus drivers in Brisbane are *very* friendly and talkative. So when you’re on public transport anywhere in the world, enjoy the views through the windows AND on its walls (signs, ads, graffiti). You can learn a lot about the culture of a place.

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