Lonely Planet Writer

Tokyo trials messaging system to help expectant mothers find subway seats

If you’re pregnant and travelling around Tokyo, you may find it helpful to learn that a messaging system is being trialled there to help expectant mothers secure seats on the busy subway.

A messaging system is being tested in Tokyo to help pregnant women secure seats. Image: Oscar Wong

If implemented, the system will allow pregnant women to send a message to people who have pre-registered willingness to give up their seats if required. Passengers who opt into the programme will be notified via the popular messaging app, Line, whenever a pregnant woman enters the same cabin and presses the “I wish to sit” button on the app. They can offer their seats to her by specifying their exact location, allowing the two individuals to exchange places without a single word being uttered. Although a thank you would be nice, of course.

The feasibility of the service is being tested over five days in the last carriage of eight trains a day on the Ginza Line, which passes through central Tokyo, and interested volunteers can agree to provide feedback to help improve the programme. If the trial is successful, the developers hope to eventually create a device that will emit a signal alerting registered passengers that a pregnant woman is seeking a seat.

A messaging system is being tested in Tokyo to help pregnant women secure seats. Image: gchutka/Getty Images

Announcing the trial, Line, together with train company Tokyo Metro and Dai Nippon Printing, said that the service is aimed at passengers who are willing to give up their subway seats to the women but “would not notice their existence because they are looking at their smartphones.” “By putting the service into practical use, we are aiming to create a system that is helpful not only for pregnant women, but also for disabled and elderly people,” they said.