Monday, 4 July 2011

Women-only Cars --- Are You in Favor or Not?

 A sign indicating "women-only cars" boarding area, Yoyogi-uehara Station, the Odakyu Line 

In the Tokyo metropolitan area, 8 million people commute to their offices by train every day. The trains are so crowded that passenger’s bodies are squashed together during the rush hour. Because of this, women-only cars are provided on many trains in the mornings and evenings on weekdays, excluding holidays. Platforms (the top photo) and trains (the bottom photo) are marked with signs indicating boarding areas and the times when the cars are women-only.

The history of Japanese women-only cars goes back quite a long way. In 1912, the Japanese Government Railway launched the first women-only cars on the Chuo Line (present JR East Line), but it was short-lived. After World War II, the government launched women and children only cars in 1947 on the Chuo Line. Operation of these cars continued until 1973 when the priority seats, otherwise known as the Silver Seat, for seniors and persons with disabilities were launched.

88 years after the Japan’s first women-only cars operation, Keio Electric Railway Company launched them again in the evenings on weekdays in 2000. That was a start of the permanent introduction of women-only cars in Japan. Nowadays, most commuter railway companies in the Tokyo metropolitan area operate women-only cars. Many women are quite pleased, but there are complaints as well. For example, some people claim that special coaches for the handicapped and elderly should have been provided instead of women-only cars.

Women-only cars --- are you in favor or not?

A women-only car (see a sticker on the side window), EMU JR East E233 series at Kanda Station, the Chuo Line