Video Series “Only in Japan”: Part 5 – Zebras, Tapes and Taxis

Zebra Cossing - JapanThis is the fifth and final video in our first series of “Only in Japan” videos.

Check out video 1, video 2, video 3 and video 4 if you haven’t already!

Zebras, Tapes and Taxis is a mixture of a few weird “OIJ” scenes, that were not enough to make a full one minute video from, but nonetheless are still worthy of your Japanophile eyes, and are bound to bring a few chuckes.

The video consists of three themes: Zebras, Tapes and Taxis!

In most countries (at least USA, UK, Australia, and New Zealand) where roads are striped with black and white lines – parallel to the flow of the traffic – pedestrians have right of way, and cars must yield (stop) when someone is walking, or is about to walk across the road… Right? Wrong.

This universal stripy marking, normally pointing out a haven for people wishing to walk across the road in most countriesZebra Cossing the Road (called a Zebra Crossing, but unimaginatively referred to in the U.S. as a “crosswalk”) doesn’t seem to hold any authority when it comes to making Japanese drivers stop for the proverbial granny trying to get across to the other side of the road. (The founder of the colouring scheme for the crossings – pictured above – is not happy with the state in Japan, and is pressing defamation charges against Ishihara Shintaro in the Tokyo Supreme Court at the time of publishing this article)

I am not quite sure what the actual law about stopping at zebra crossings is in Japan (but some enlightening comments would be welcome!). In any case, it can be a shock for first-timers in Japan, when cars don’t stop at these crossings. The symbology of such simple lines is really quite powerful, and I am sure it has lead to quite a few gaijin “near-accidents”.

Despite their wide usage, it appears that zebra crossings (where there are no traffic lights)Zebra Crossing - Ginza in Japan are only for show, and have no bearing on actually slowing people down. On the other hand, they do however get extremely complicated at large traffic light intersections, shown by this picture of one of the most famous crossings in Japan, in Ginza. It’s almost going overboard with the Zebra theme in this case, its hard to know which way to walk!

Anyway, on to the video. The “Taxi” and “Tape” parts are also fun additions, to make up the Only in Japan video collage, a grand finale for the OIJ series if you ask me! The video not only shows us the reality of zebra crossings, but introduces another eyeopener for first timers – automatic car doors on taxis. Along with this, we also get a peek inside a Japanese video rental shop- what a combination!

Thanks again to Simon Adams and Andrew Johnson for showing us a few corners of Japan, that we may have missed otherwise! Enjoy the last video in this series of Only in Japan footage, “Zebras, Tapes and Taxis”, and send it on to some friends!

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Enjoy “Zebras, Tapes and Taxis” in Quicktime (click image above) for best quality, or there is a (bad quality) Video on YouTube version here.

9 thoughts on “Video Series “Only in Japan”: Part 5 – Zebras, Tapes and Taxis”

  1. I was really shocked at the zebra crossing thing when I went to Japan too.

    One thing in particular that freaked me out, coming from roundabout-land Blighty, was the Japanese system for crossroads. If you’ve got a cross like so +, when the cars on the horizontal section can go, so can the pedestrians. However, the cars turning left Across The Pedestrians’ Zebra Crossing can also go. This makes you feel really really unsafe when you’re crossing as drivers come flying round the corners and you don’t know whether they’ll stop.

    In Blighty if you’re on a zebra crossing you’re invincible, but in Japan you’re roadkill waiting to happen.

  2. In Japan, drivers are _supposed_ to give way to pedestrians and bicycles at zebra crossings according to the relevant traffic law. However, according to Wikipedia, 90% of drivers don’t! (Excerpt below)

    http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E6%A8%AA%E6%96%AD%E6%AD%A9%E9%81%93

    道路交通法によって、歩行者・自転車には道路横断時の横断歩道・自転車横断帯の使用義務(同法第12条)、車両には横断歩道・自転車横断帯における歩行者・自転車に対する譲歩優先義務(同法第38条)が規定されている。

    しかし、信号のない横断歩道・自転車横断帯はドライバーのアンケートでもほぼ9割が停止しないと回答しており、その存在意義は薄く、歩行者・自転車の安全な横断を確保すると言う意味では実効性に乏しい標識となってしまっているのが現状である。

  3. Scott, thanks very much for the input. When I wrote the article, I did a quick search for the relevant law, but you nailed it write on the head. Article 38 of the law specifies that people must stop. It would be interesting doing an actual experiment, using a mannequin and rolling it across the road…! An idea for the next video maybe :)

    I really appreciate the reference that you added though!

  4. Blue, no worries. I was thinking about it some more and uou know there is one place where Japanese drivers tend to usually give way to pedestrians – at traffic lights. Even if they haven’t had to stop at the lights. Anyway, I thought I’d just throw that out there for you guys to ponder.

  5. In Italy it’s EXACLTY the same whith zebra crossings, expecially in Rome or in general in big cities, so there’s nothing weird for me in this video, the weirdest thing is that I didn’t know that in Japan too thay had this habit!

  6. in germany you hace zebra things too, dont know the word and im too lazy to look at the top of the site^^

  7. The Japanese traffic law states that you have to stop for peds at zebra crossings, and you get tested for your knowledge on that when you go for your drivers licence over here.

    Some drivers do stop for you, but I suppose most don’t. You’ll get used to it.

    However, I might add that driving behaviour is different in each country. I was really surprised that when I went to the neighbouring Russia, drivers are really courteous of peds trying to cross a road, in a most weird way. When peds are trying to cross the road at a zebra crossing, cars won’t stop. But when they are trying to cross at a place where there are no zebra crossings, especially at intersections, chances are, that they will stop to let you cross.
    I think that the zebra crossings have different meanings in each country…

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