Escalator Rules (Kanto & Kansai)

Escalator Rules (Kanto & Kansai)


Japanese Culture & Customs

Although both regions are in Japan, there are many differences between Kanto and Kansai.

One such difference is how people stand on escalators.

If you are traveling from Kanto to Kansai, you may naturally stand on the left side leaving the right side open for people who are in a hurry to go ahead.

In this article, I would like to find out why people in Kanto stand on the left while those in Kansai stand on the right, and where the boundary is.

Why do people in Kanto stand on the left and in Kansai on the right?

It is not clear from where the difference in the standing position on the escalator in Kanto and Kansai comes. So let us look at several hypotheses.

【Why people in Kanto started to stand on the left side】
・A custom from the time when swords were carried at the waist
There is a theory that in the time of Samurai and warlords, they carried their swords at the waist on the left side so that they could pull it out quickly and walked on the left side of the road. This custom may have carried over.

【Why people in Kansai started to stand on the right side】
・A custom triggered by a Hankyu Railway announcement
When Hankyu Umeda Station introduced a long escalator in 1967, the announcement reportedly said, “Please leave the left side open for people who are walking up”. It is not clear why they chose to ask people to stand on the right side and leave the left side open. However, some believe that upon observing the users, many people were seen standing on the right and grabbing the handrail with their right hand. Also, since most people in Japan are right-handed and would naturally try to hold on with their right hand, the announcement asked them to stand on the right.

Where is the boundary?

We say Kanto and Kansai, but where exactly is the boundary between areas where people stand on the left vs. on the right? Kyushu is far from Osaka, the center of Kansai, but do people stand on the right? Let’s see some data of people from all over Japan who answered a questionnaire about where they stand on the escalator.

Hokkaido: 78.8% stand on the left, 3.0% on the right

Tohoku: 61.1% left, 15.3% right

Koshin-etsu Hokuriku: 57.7% left, 12.7% right

Kanto: 70.0% left, 12.4% right

Tokai: 62.3% left, 8.9% right

Kansai: 20.1% left, 57.7% right

Shikoku: 46.8% left, 23.4% right

Chugoku: 58.3% left and 12.5% right

Kyushu: 65.4% left and 13.1% right.

Surprisingly, in the Tokai region including Nagoya and Gifu and located between Tokyo and Osaka, people preferred the left side overwhelmingly, like in Kanto.

In the Kansai area (Shiga, Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Wakayama and Hyogo prefectures) do all people stand on the right?

According to the same survey, the prefecture with the largest number of people standing on the right side was not Osaka but Nara at 75%, with Hyogo following close at 70.7% and then Osaka at 67.7%. Wakayama Prefecture seems to prefer the right side and Shiga the left, so the results from several surveys show that in Nara, Hyogo, Osaka, and Wakayama prefectures people stand mostly on the right. As for Kyoto, it seems that people often adjust to match the person standing in front of them, so there is no clear rule.

【Author’s message】

We looked at where people stand on the escalator this time.

Paying a little attention to details such as where people stand on the escalator when you visit a new place for pleasure or business might be fun.


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