With Japanese society’s overlapping loves of photography, smartphones, and social media, it was only a matter of time until selfie sticks took the country by storm. They’re an especially common site at tourist destinations in the country, since no proper Japanese journey is complete without commemorative photos taken of the group posing with the most famous local attraction, Shinkansen, and possibly whatever the local culinary delicacy is.
But as of this weekend, there are 1,195 places where you’ll see plenty of travelers but not a single selfie stick: the train stations of western Japan, which have prohibited their use.
Due to a happy fluke of the calendar, Japan is enjoying a five-day weekend stretching from September 19 to 23. While that’s not really long enough to head overseas, plenty of people are looking at that precious block of free time and planning a domestic trip.
But if you’re going to Osaka or any part of Japan west of the centrally located city, be advised that you might not be able to use your selfie stick to commemorate the exact moment of your arrival in or departure from the town you’re visiting. West Japan Railway, also known as JR West, has announced that as of Saturday, September 19, the use of selfie sticks will no longer be allowed within its 1,195 stations, Shinkansen areas included.
▼ Now departing from the station (permanently)
Two reasons were given for the shift in policy. First, since the construction of most of JR West’s stations predate even the invention of the term “selfie,” they weren’t designed with selfie sticks in mind. Many facilities have overhead wiring or other apparatuses that the company fears can be affected or damaged by being struck by the selfie stick, or through electric shocks triggered by close proximity to the smartphone even if no direct contact occurs.
Secondly, and this seems like it’s probably the actual primary reason, is a fear that groups and individuals standing on the station platforms and swinging their selfie sticks around to get the perfectly angled snapshot probably aren’t paying as much attention to their surroundings as they should be. They’re more likely to impede the smooth flow of passengers through the area, and can be nuisance for those who have to walk around or dodge them to prevent collisions. Even worse is the concern that people who are staring at a smartphone attached to an extended rod aren’t watching their feet, and could easily fall onto the tracks and into the path of an oncoming train.
Use of selfie sticks is still currently allowed at non-JR Stations in west Japan, but it won’t be a surprise if other rail operators follow JR West’s lead and enact similar restrictions. So unless you’ve got unnaturally long arms, if you want a group photo inside the station, you might want to remember the phrase “Shashin wo totte itadakemasu ka?”, or “Can you take a picture for me?”