Pregnant subway riders in Tokyo, can request a seat with their phones

Pregnant riders put in a request and be matched with the number of places available via an app on their smartphone.


More than 40 years ago, social psychologist Dr. Stanley Milgram gave his students an assignment: Go on the subway of New York, and ask fellow passengers to give up their seats.

The majority of the students reported high anxiety and even trauma to ask fellow passengers to give up their seats, although the majority of the respondents were satisfied.

Confrontation with a stranger — even beautiful — is still a nerve-wracking experience for many people today, that is the reason why New York City, among others, have tried to educate riders about polite behavior. Tokyo, meanwhile, is turning to technology to make the interactions on the subway easier.

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With the help of the popular messaging app Line, pregnant riders on the Tokyo subway request fellow passengers to give up their seats. When a pregnant rider presses “I want to sit” on their phone, in the near riders that have registered as willing to give up their seats for a pregnant passenger will also receive a notification, alerting them that it is their chance to stand up.

When there is a match, the pregnant passenger will also receive a notification on their phone, in addition to a map leads them to the passenger who is willing to give of their place.

“This can be specific to Japan, but some people hesitate to speak with a person who may need a seat,” a spokesman at Dai Nippon Printing, the company is testing the service on the metro, told AFP. “A lot of people are also looking to smartphone screens and not always quickly realize that someone is standing nearby.”

The popular messaging app, Line, which the service provides to pregnant women will soon be rolling out a similar feature for the disabled and the elderly.


The seat request function will also be available for elderly or disabled passengers.

The service began testing in Tokyo last week, but it is unclear whether and when it will be a permanent feature in the metro. But if the app fails, there’s always the old-fashioned idea of noticing a fellow passenger in distress and the offer of a chair, before being asked. But first, the passengers look up from their phones.

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