Pregnancy Badges: Things I love about Japan

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:

priority seating pregnant tag train Japan Japanese Tokyo

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.

pregnant pregnancy maternity badge Japanese train Japan

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.

Priority Seating on a Japanese Train

Priority Seating on a Japanese Train

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5 responses to “Pregnancy Badges: Things I love about Japan

  1. We talked about These badges at University about 2 years ago. I think it’s a good idea. But like you said, you would be embarressed if you would have to ask for a seat, women are also embarressed to wears those badges. And even if you have one, not everyone make space for you.
    Also we talked about posters at staircases for example at Train stations. That you should help the women with their stroller.
    My teacher was in Japan with her little Baby and almost no one helped her or stood up from the priority seats.

    Hearing that I was a bit shocked. Normally Japanese people are prejudice as friendly and helpful. But here I think, the thing with “Don’t disturb others private space” was more important for them. 😦

    • I’ve notice that too…
      It makes me really sad when I’m on the train – I will never sit in the priority seating (because I don’t need the seating that bad), but I will usually see a young person listening to their headphones or texting, while an old woman stands. I always give my seat to old women (and sometimes old men) – I do see other people occasionally offer their seat up, but not nearly as much as I would expect – especially for women with small children.
      It’s really surprising.

      I also noticed that people don’t help other people with bags, carrying things, etc… I always kind of assumed it was because they didn’t want to invade the other person’s space. I agree with your whole “Don’t disturb others private space” idea. It still makes me a bit sad. I like it when people disturb my space a bit.

      • I know what you mean. I like to have my own space and deal with my stuff alone. My grandma always told me she didn’t like it, when people wanted to help her with her bags or with stairs, altough she was still fit and could to everything by herself. She felt old when they did that. So I think it’s ok not helping other people all the time. But if you see someone is obviously in Trouble, you should help.
        Sometimes I really wish someone would disturb my space. When I am going to visit my Family, travelling with one big case, one heavy backpack and a cat in a bag, trying to get onto the train in time. From time to time someone is helping me, and they are always old People, so I am feeling bad and worry about their health >___<

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