Saitama officially forbids walking up and down escalators -- Apr 02
Masahiro Kawase is a 48-year-old office worker who suffered a stroke six years ago and is paralyzed on his left side. However, in Saitama Prefecture custom dictates that everyone who rides an escalator stands on the left and walks – or in some cases runs – up the right side.

This makes what ought to be a normal commute for Kawase a harrowing experience. When boarding the escalator he must grab the right side handrail, steady himself, then slide over to the right. He also must do all this before others shove him and shout at him to get out of the way.

Now, however, Kawase and others like him may find some relief in Saitama’s new ordinance that was passed on 26 March to prohibit any movement while riding escalators. The ordinance, which will take effect next October, also requires places with escalators to put signage asking riders to refrain from walking or running on the machines.

While consideration for people like Kawase is one of the motivating factors for this ordinance, Saitama is also hoping to help curb the roughly 775 escalator injuries that happen a year in Japan, a little over half of which are caused by not standing still and holding handrails.

NHK spoke with Edogawa University Professor Emeritus Masakazu Toki, who said that the custom began during the bubble era when work efficiency took precedence over consideration for weaker people. “Manners are usually created through people’s behavior and thinking,” said Professor Toki, “so it’s a little disappointing that this time they need to be stipulated in an ordinance. However, there have been calls for this for over 10 years and little has changed, so I appreciate that this was established. The ordinance respects autonomy rather than surveillance and penalties.”