But sometimes the driving factor is who they don’t want to sit by instead.
While trains in Japan can get extremely crowded, it’s not like it’s standing room-only all the time. If you’re not travelling during the peak commuting times or near the last train of the night, you might even find yourself with multiple empty seats to choose from if you want to sit.
And therein lies a question: given a choice, how do you choose which seat to plop yourself down in? To examine one criteria, Japanese website Shirabee polled 1,400 men and women between the ages of 20 and 69, asking if they want to sit next to someone of the opposite sex on the train, and found some very big discrepancies depending on demographic.
Percentage of respondents who’d want to sit next to someone of the opposite sex:
● Men 20-29: 34.1 percent
Women 20-29: 10.8 percent
● Men 30-39: 32.9 percent
Women 30-39: 11.59 percent
● Men 40-49: 40.4 percent
Women 40-49: 7.9 percent
● Men 50-59: 39.4 percent
Women 50-59: 9.9 percent
● Men 60-69: 43.2 percent
Women 60-69: 6.9 percent
Not surprisingly, men were far more amenable to sitting next to a woman than vice-versa, with the number of respondents who felt favorably about the idea showing a distinct jump after the 20-39 age group. Meanwhile, women exhibited slight bumps among respondents 30-39 and 50-59, but in general were far less enthusiastic about sitting next to a man, with the statistics shaking out with at least a 21-percent gap in attitudes among men and women in the same age brackets, and a whopping 36.3 percent difference among those aged 60-69.
▼ Which perhaps explains why this elderly gentleman is riding the rails stag.
However, not all of the men who like the idea of sitting next to a woman feel that way for lascivious reasons. Rather than finding themselves drawn to feminine charms, some of them simply don’t want to sit next to another guy. Male passengers, some men assert, are more likely to have offensive body odor or reek of alcohol at the end of the day, and sitting next to them is an unpleasant experience even for guys if they happen to hold themselves to higher hygiene standards.
Other men said they’d prefer to sit next to a woman since men, on average, have larger frames and sit with their knees further apart, thus taking up extra space on the bench seating that Japanese trains predominantly have.
Oddly enough, though, one woman who was polled said that she actually prefers sitting next to men because they tend to carry smaller, or fewer, bags than female passengers. Some women she says, place their bulky belongings on the seat next to themselves and encroach on their neighbors’ space, and in light of such complex variables, perhaps many of those who didn’t reply to the survey by specifically saying they want to sit next to people of the opposite sex responded as they did because they judge all seating options on a case-by-case basis.
Follow Casey on Twitter, where he also thinks it’s best to pick where you’ll sit based on smell.