Why Do Japanese Stand on the Left Side of Escalators? The Meaning and Background of Standing on the Left Side

For foreigners visiting Japan, one of the surprises they encounter is the custom of standing on the left side of escalators. This unique cultural norm reflects a sense of order and manners deeply ingrained in Japanese society. But why do Japanese people stand on the left side?


【Why Do Japanese Stand on the Left Side of Escalators?】

Many people may have noticed that in Tokyo, it’s common etiquette to stand on the left side and keep the right side clear when using escalators. But why is that?

The reason is simple! It’s a consideration to allow others to move smoothly!

Left side: People not in a hurry or carrying many items
Right side: People in a hurry or who want to walk up like stairs

Although there is an implicit rule as mentioned above, it’s generally dangerous to run up escalators. When walking up the right side of the escalator, be sure to exercise caution.

“Do people in areas outside of Tokyo sometimes stand on the right side instead of the left when riding escalators?”

In my previous post, I mentioned the etiquette in Tokyo, where it’s customary to stand on the left side of escalators, leaving space on the right for those in a hurry. However, there’s a twist! In other regions, like the Kansai area around Osaka, the norm is actually to stand on the right side.

In Osaka, it’s common to keep the left side open for people in a rush, which is the opposite of Tokyo’s custom.

For travelers exploring different places, this switch in standing positions might cause a bit of confusion!

“The conclusion: Why do people stand on the left side of escalators in Tokyo?”

Because escalators in Tokyo often accommodate only two people at a time, standing on the left side is a gesture of kindness, leaving space on the right for those in a hurry.

While in regions outside of Tokyo, such as Osaka, people may stand on the right side, the general rule remains the same: it’s a considerate practice to leave one side open for those needing to move quickly when riding escalators.

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