Public transportation in Japan can be very crowded, especially in big cities like Tokyo, so it isn't the easiest place to be for parents pushing a young child in a stroller. With such little space, many have felt obligated to attempt the balancing act of collapsing the stroller and holding their child during the ride.
Now, they don't have to. Japan's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport has standardized [ja] the rules across its systems to allow strollers on board public transportation without being folded. The ministry has also designated a priority seat for parents, which will be marked with a special sticker.The new rules do still encourage parents to collapse strollers when transit is especially crowded, however.
According to a ministry report [ja] that details the background behind implementing the new rules, there are no statistics available for the use of baby carriages on public transportation. But it is estimated that 1-2 percent of passengers are accompanied by strollers at transport hubs in big cities, a figure 20 to 30 times higher than that of passengers in wheelchairs.
The report also noted that compared to other regions, Tokyo is less comfortable for people with strollers on public transit:
- The rate of passengers who feel annoyed by unfolded strollers on crowded transit is higher [in Tokyo]
- People who travel with strollers use public transportation more frequently, and they very frequently tend to fold the strollers on board
- Fewer fellow passengers help baby carriage users
Twitter user yukixxxx explained the general attitude toward parents carrying their babies on public transportation:
ベビーカーたたまず乗車ＯＫ 公共交通機関でルール化 http://t.co/s4MRMONKcT TPOをわきまえましょう。はこれまで通りで、とりあえず「たたみなさいよ！」という声に対して国が対応してもらえたのはありがたい。ベビーカーで電車乗ったことないけど。周りの目が怖いから。
— yukixxxxx (@yukixxxxx) 2014, 3月 30
We should continue to bear in mind the time, place and occasion. I appreciate the government taking on this issue while some will continue to say “you should fold the stroller anyway”. Though I've never taken trains with a baby stroller because I am scared how other passengers would look at me.
Responding to the new rules [ja], user meimei commented:
ルール化してもらえるとありがたい。常に場所取ってすいません・・・って気持ちで乗ってたから。ま、満員電車は絶対避けるけどねー。 ベビーカーたたまず乗車ＯＫ 公共交通機関でルール化（朝日新聞デジタル） – Y!ニュース http://t.co/85rcbUKDAy
— めえめえ (@meimei_BJ) 2014, 3月 27
I appreciate that they made this a rule. I have always felt sorry for taking up extra space [with a stroller] on a train. I will refrain from taking crowded trains though.
Twitter user Momoko Maeno looked backed on her days of travelling with her baby:
ふむーなるほど、そういう展開に。ベビーカー持って電車に乗るのが嫌で、車か抱っこひもで移動した結果、ベビーカーに乗ってくれない子に育ちましたw ベビーカーたたまず乗車ＯＫ 公共交通機関でルール化（朝日新聞デジタル） – Y!ニュース http://t.co/imYM4ZWqT4
— Momoko Maeno (@maemooot) 2014, 3月 27
Hmmm, to see how things have changed nowadays. Back when I was taking care of my baby, I disliked getting on the train with a baby stroller, and I would travel carrying my baby in front with a baby sling. The result is my child grew up to be one of those who refuses to get into a baby stroller. (laughing)
Another user, maguro610, recalled what used to be an unspoken rule among passengers:
良かった！うちはもう子供が18才になるけど、当時は空いてる電車でもたたむのが常識で片手に長女。片手に次女と前にベビーカーで通院も大変だった。RT ベビーカーたたまず乗車ＯＫ 公共交通機関でルール化（朝日新聞デジタル） – Y!ニュース http://t.co/bd3NA9i7qQ
— まぐろ(´•.̫ • ⋈ (@maguro610) 2014, 3月 27
Glad to hear this! My children are turning 18 years old now, but back in the day when they were babies, going to hospital was tough. It was common sense to fold the baby stroller even when the train was not crowded. I had to carry the two sisters, one in my left arm and another in my right, and I would push the folded stroller with the front of my body.
Passengers with baby strollers face additional issues at stations, such as wheels becoming caught in gaps between the platform and train and moving through the station between floors. Most train stations are equipped with at least one elevator, meant for the elderly, wheelchair-bound and passengers with strollers to use.
Some web users responded negatively toward the new rule. One mother was skeptical about it's effectiveness after reading heartless responses to the news:
マークを作ったからって、何も変わらないと思う…ちゃんと守っているママさんもいるのに、コメントの内容見ると外出したくなくなる(;_;) ベビーカーたたまず乗車ＯＫ 公共交通機関でルール化（朝日新聞デジタル） – Y!ニュース http://t.co/pwOF3qeR0u
— しーちゃんママ (@T2P_shi) 2014, 3月 27
I don't think making a rule will change anything. It makes me sad to see harsh comments in reaction to the news, and it keeps me from going out [with my baby]
Making public transit comfortable passengers with strollers may come as a first step in making Tokyo universally accessible ahead of the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics.