Manner Mode: Things I love about Japan

What is it?

Manner Mode, for all intents and purposes, is the Japanese equivalent of silent mode. In Tokyo, before movies, on trains, or before standardized tests, you will head public announcements reminding patrons to keep their phone on “manner mode,” as to not bother other patrons.

Turning your phone on silent mode is as simple as pressing and holding a couple keys (for my phone, I hold down the center button for three seconds). In this silent mode / manner mode, your phone vibrates, rather than rings. It’s pretty simple.

Manner Mode Japanese Cell PhoneFor instance, this is what my phone looks like on Manner Mode

However, I love the term manner mode over silent mode, because manner mode emphasizes the importance of using manners in a public setting. Manner mode is a very Japanese concept – something I have come to expect from Japan.

Why I love it:

Nothing is more obnoxious than being trapped in an enclosed spaced and being forced to listen to someone’s one-sided conversation. I hate it when I’m waiting for the plane, and there is that one woman yakking away on her cell phone for the next hour. Or when I’m on the bus. Or when I’m on the train.

Japanese Yamanote line train in Tokyo Japan

This doesn’t happen in Japan, because Japan has “Manner Mode” for their cell phones.

My teacher was telling an interesting story today; he’s an American that has been teaching in Japan for nearly 15 years. In 2001, he took a year-long sabbatical in America. Before he left, cell phones were starting to become popular in Japan. On the train, people had their phones chatting with friends, making business calls, and texting anyone else lucky enough to have one of these neat cell phones. It was annoying. When he came back in late 2002, everything had changed.

Suddenly, there were signs plastered across the train saying “Turn your phone on manner mode” and “refrain from talking on the phone.” At every stop, the train intercom ran through identical announcements, reminding passengers to keep their phone on silent.

Now, in 2013, the trains are silent. Everyone keeps their phone on manner mode. I think manner mode is a terrific function – it solves one of the great annoyances of commuting life. In the ten months I’ve been in Tokyo, I’ve only heard the chirp from a cell phone four times. Twice were mine; I forgot to put my phone on manner mode – and only realized my mistake when someone sent me a text message. You are also supposed to completely turn your phone off (or at least don’t use it) near the priority seats on trains in Japan – since people with pacemakers will sit there.

Priority seats look like this:

Priority seating japanese train Japan

I think other countries should adopt the “manner mode” idea; it sounds much better than “silent mode,” while simultaneously emphasizing the importance of manners in a public setting.

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About Grace Buchele Mineta

I got into the writing business by accident. Now I live in the countryside near Tokyo with my husband, Ryosuke, where I draw comics, blog, and make videos about our daily life. Contact: Website | More Posts

2 Comments on Manner Mode: Things I love about Japan

  1. Love reading your blog!! I want to live and work in Japan someday, so your blog is incredibly helpful and interesting. I, too, have a loud laugh in Japan, and I am considered much more loud overall.

    I would recommend watching the Hafu Documentary, if you haven’t heard of it already. (http://hafufilm.com/en)

    FYI: I noticed an error that I would want to know on any of my blogs. “Manner mode is a very Japanese concept – something I have come to except [expect] from Japan.”

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