Is saw my first “Pregnancy Badge” on the train yesterday in Tokyo. I’ve lived in Japan collectively for about two and a half years and I’ve never seen the maternity badge before. Its fascinating, because I always wondered how the priority seating on Japanese trains worked. The priority seating section of each train has stickers on the window that look like this:
The rules are simple. You are supposed to give up your set to:
- The elderly
- Injured (mostly leg injuries, but when I had a broken arm people would occasionally give me their seat)
- Pregnant women
- Families with small children
- Small children
Furthermore, you are not supposed to use your cellphone, pager, or other electronic device that sends waves, since people with pacemakers will stand in this section. They ask you to turn you cellphone off completely (but no one does that).
In any case, I always wondered how pregnant women were identified. Most of the time you can’t tell – and you’re never supposed to ask. By the time a woman would be “close” enough to be obviously pregnant, they probably won’t be riding crowded trains in the first place. I doubt the pregnant women in the first and second trimester, themselves, are asking for the seat; IF (key word, IF) I were pregnant, I would be far too embarrassed to ask.
This is where pregnancy badges (or Maternity badge) come in.
What is a pregnancy / maternity badge?
A maternity badge is a small, circular metal or foam keychain that can be attached to bags, purses, or worn around the neck. As the name suggest, the pregnant badge is for pregnant women. Each pregnancy key chain has the Japanese maternity logo on it – identical to the stickers you see on trains.
I like to text on trains – so I don’t spend very much time standing in between the seats in the priority section. During rush out the other day, I saw my first maternity badge. The Japanese women, in question, was wearing a somewhat tight fitting gold shirt with a black shawl, carrying a black purse. She didn’t look pregnant, but she had the badge.
Two years in Japan and I’ve only seen these tags once. I don’t know how common they are, but when I get pregnant (if I am in Japan), I plan on going down to the local municipal city office and applying for a pregnancy badge to wear proudly on my purse.
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