36 Iconic Tokyo Metro Subway Manner Posters 2008-2010

By Michael Gakuran | | Japan | 46 Comments |

Tokyo Metro (東京メトロ) is Japan’s largest subway system. Take a ride, and you’ll find it hard to miss the catchy posters asking commuters to mind their manners. Since September 1974, every year a new theme and unique monthly designs have been produced, but in recent years perhaps none have been more memorable than the iconic illustrations of graphic artist Bunpei Yorifuji. Beginning in 2008 and spanning 3 years – something rather unusual considering the transient nature of the annual Metro poster themes – the designs were judged a huge success, being replicated and parodied in numerous places across the internet.

Above: Parody poster based on the infamous Tokyo Halloween Train by Tomo Akiyama

Yorifuji’s design concepts are very interesting. He studied at Musashino Art University and was influenced by American artist Edward Hopper and Japanese ukiyo-e artist Katsushika Hokusai. In his poster designs for the 2008 theme “Please do it at home”, we see a recurring male character with glasses who is usually the suffering subject. According to Yorifuji, “The glasses obfuscate the emotion and better reflect the discomfort. People don’t explicitly express their feelings. So I am having people guess what is going on in his mind.”

Indeed, his philosophy that the posters should convey a positive rather than negative message is refreshing. “Typical posters say ‘Don’t do this’ or ‘Don’t do that,’. I am saying, ‘Let’s do this,’ which I think is more positive.” Rather than strict rules or laws, he considers it his task to gently nudge people to be mindful of their surroundings and fellow people. “Japan is a country of gray zones, and recently there has been a move to draw a line to delineate black and white. As a result there has been some resistance. Instead of classifying something as good or bad, my ideal ad displays to people what lies in between.”

Source: TokyoReporter

Below is the complete collection of posters for the years 2008-2010 in which Yorifuji’s designs were featured all over the Tokyo Underground. He is back this year, 2012, with a similar eye-catching campaign which I’ll highlight in a follow-up post. Well then, enjoy!

Please do it [2008]

Please do it [2009]

Please do it again [2010]

46 comments on “36 Iconic Tokyo Metro Subway Manner Posters 2008-2010
  1. Kevin says:

    Where, in Tokyo, can I buy old JR or metro posters? When I ask at the station lost and found they look at me like I’m crazy.

  2. Charlotte says:

    Oh, I’ve seen almost all of these “do it at home”‘s and all too few of the “please do it again”‘s in the subway system. If only these were posted in our subways, preferably right in the faces of the offenders. I was frankly shocked at the severe lack of common courtesy when I moved to the city (back home there were a lot more friendly people!). Though I don’t enjoy the attention, I still find it better to be courteous and stand out, than to be rude and conform… society is a strange, but interesting beast.

  3. Tomo says:

    Nice post Michael! Natsukashii. I actually made the “Please Do It in America” parody poster. Do you see “Tomo Akiyama 2010” at the right bottom? I’d appreciate if you could put a credit!

  4. Amazing, that should be placed in all countries =].

  5. The thing I found funniest about the posters was the continuing use of the same man as the observer of all the polite or impolite train behavior. It makes it so easy to imagine the artist as a grumpy old man, regardless of the fact that the behavior is, in fact, rude. Also that middle-aged men with glasses don’t, apparently, do many of these impolite things on the train, though there was the guy who dropped the tissue.

    Personally, I can’t imagine myself feeling too outraged about a woman applying make-up on the train. It seems like the sort of activity that would require you to be quite careful of your surroundings just to get a good result….?

    • Gakuranman says:

      Yes, the recurring spectacles guy is a clever hook for the posters. The glasses really do add an appropriate level of creepiness and humour to the message. It was noted elsewhere too that many of the posters show young people committing the unwanted acts, which although probably true for the most part, skews the message somewhat.

      I would have liked to have seen more posters showing people of different ages causing problems to achieve a better balance. There are plenty of older guys who read near pornographic manga on the trains here, which isn’t particularly pleasant for the people around them.

      As for makeup, that one still has me a bit mystified as well. I can kind of see why people might dislike seeing women putting makeup on, but personally it doesn’t really bother me. If anything I find it hard not to watch in awe at the transformation!

      • Prof. Peabody says:

        A lot of folks are allergic to makeup of various kinds. I think it’s meant to refer to heavy use of perfume, make-up etc. and also to do it right there would be makeup everywhere and a bag full of stuff on the seat beside her etc.

        • Charlotte says:

          Yeah, I was wondering the same thing for a minute, but this does make a lot of sense. There are hypoallergenic makeup supplies for this reason, but regardless, some perfumes are absolutely nauseating and anything powdery or dusty somehow ends up in your nose. So I can see some of it being bothersome whether or not you’re allergic, though those with allergies will certainly have it worse.

          I have to agree partially with Michael though that watching the before and after of someone applying makeup can be pretty amazing.

  6. goukaseishi says:

    Interesting post and an awesome collection of posters. I love the style of design :).

  7. I like that there seems to be a narrative arc with the “judging-guy”. First he’s always scowling alone, then he’s scowling with a lady, and then he and the lady are scowling with a baby.

    It’s a heartwarming story of subway etiquette.

    • Gakuranman says:

      According to the designer, the women is the spectacle guy’s wife. I can’t stop looking at the buff woman who helps get a lady’s bag off the top rack. Scary stuff!

      • Roxanne says:

        That’s absolutely got to be the “one-kyara” Matsuko Delux! (http://talent.yahoo.co.jp/pf/detail/pp236260)

        But what a great collection! I’m partial to the young blonde guy who gallantly snaps off his phone in the “silver seat” section and the guy with an afro who offers to help the mother with her suitcases. Good to see young Japanese portrayed in a positive way… although either would probably only happen in an alternate universe!

  8. These are cool posters! I personally especially like the “Please do it at the beach” one, where the guy is “swimming” and between the doors; the “please do it again” with the thumb up is also funny ^^.
    Sure the “do it again” are more positive, but I like both the please do it at […] and do it again, since the first are “sadly true”. Even for myself, I realized that I don’t really pay attention at the volume of my music in my headphones (surprisingly, because when I wasn’t used to listen to music in metro/train/… , I often found that people were listening to music too much loud…).

    So, thanks for this article! ^o^/

  9. Manzoor E Elahi says:

    Please do it again…..those are awesome!

  10. zoomingjapan says:

    That’s by far the largest collection I’ve ever seen!
    I find most of them hilarious, but the sad thing is that I’ve seen pretty much all of them in real life! :(
    I mean … those signs were made for a reason after all, right??

    I prefer the “Do it again!” ones for the positive connotation.
    However, looking at the one with the “forgotten” umbrella, I’m sure the person who “forgot” the umbrella wasn’t all that happy because as well all know Japanese people tend to “forget” their umbrellas on purpose as soon as it stopped raining! *g*

    • Gakuranman says:

      Thanks for the comment. Yea, it took me quite a while to track them all down in the original sizes they were posted on the internet! There were so many variations and parodies and few good sources that clearly showed which month each poster was used, as the Tokyo Metro website no longer has them available for viewing.

      One of my favourites is the foreign-looking dude in the more recent yellow posters who gets off the train, hops back on and gives a thumbs up :D.

  11. Kafuka_Fuura says:

    “Please do it again” are the best ^_^

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