Japanese Women Told Not To Apply Makeup On The Train


We’ve all been there. You’re running late for work, have absolutely no time to put on your makeup before leaving the house and look towards your daily commute as the perfect window of time to get your face ready for the day ahead. I’m guilty of this seemingly normal commute ritual and from what I usually see on the train to work, a lot of women are.

credit: Estee Lauder


However, attitudes concerning makeup application on public transport are divisive. Though it is a very common sight to see, many men and women alike agree that it is socially unacceptable for women to apply makeup on trains and buses, according to a study led by Ipsos MORI. Surprisingly 42% of women disapproved of the practice, with only 26% agreeing that it is acceptable.

Similarly, the same study found that 41% of men also agreed that public makeup application is unacceptable.

Considering these statistics, it somewhat now makes sense why I often fall under the attention of constant gawkers and unimpressed eye rollers while I’m trying to perfect the arch of my eyebrow on my way to work.

The video that caused an internet storm
The debate surrounding makeup on the go has recently reached new heights after a railway operator in Japan released a video imploring women to refrain from applying makeup while commuting. Though the video was released as part of an eight-part video series which aims to educate train users on commuting manners, the 30-second clip has sparked dispute.

Attempts made by railway operator Tokyu Corporation to dissuade women from applying makeup on public transport have undoubtedly drawn angry responses, primarily because the short clip featuring actress Sawa Nimura begins with the provocative opening line “Women in the city are all beautiful. But they are ugly to see, at times”.

The emergence of the video has led to many arguing that attention should be directed to more pressing issues that public transport users may encounter, with one poster on the Japan Today website asking: “Have they made comical videos of gropers on a train? I think that’s a more serious issue, not people who try to look good”.

Grooming in public is not good etiquette
Given that the topic has generated a widespread conversation, spanning across men, women, and countries, it’s fair to say that the question of applying makeup on your commute is a popular one. Contributing to the debate, British Vogue’s acting junior digital assistant Tamison O’Connor explained, “The tube is not a place to do your make-up. I can’t quite put my finger on exactly what it is that annoys me – I just don’t want to watch women make up their faces while I’m on my way to work.”

Similarly, the editorial manager of Debrett’s, the traditional arbiter of etiquette, Lucy Hume said: “Our advice is that a quick touch-up of mascara or lipstick is acceptable, but best to refrain from more extensive grooming in public.”

It appears that our everyday rituals of applying makeup on the way to work, which to me always seemed like a clever and efficient use of time, are part of a much wider social debate which is causing some real disagreements.

We think that if people can get away with eating sushi during their commute (yes we’ve witnessed it!) then surely applying makeup on public transport is no real cause for concern. What do you make of the current discussions concerning our makeup habits? We’d like to know!

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Sameeha Shaikh

Graduate of English, avid writer and long-time lover of postcolonial literature, James Baldwin and iced caramel macchiato.

  • AJ Garner

    “The tube is not a place to do your make-up. I can’t quite put my finger on exactly what it is that annoys me – I just don’t want to watch women make up their faces while I’m on my way to work.” This is utterly ridiculous. Because something annoys you & you can’t even articulate why, we should all appease you? If someone isn’t taking up extra space to layout her makeup and she’s not applying powder that’s flying in the air & possibly smudging/staining the seat or your clothing, mind your own business! Btw, this isn’t an issue for me because the main mode of transportation in my city is personal vehicles. However, if I lived somewhere with a 30 minute commute, I’m sure I’d make efficient use of my time by applying makeup on the train/bus/whatever.

  • Charmaine Ng

    I think as long as the women are not bothering anyone, taking up additional space or making a mess, why should it even matter? I used to apply make up on the bus and it really saved me time.
    – Charmaine

  • Peppermint Dolly

    I’m surprised people are this bothered, I don’t do it myself but I can’t say I’ve ever been bothered by someone else putting on make up while commuting.


  • Katina Lindaa

    Wow, very very interesting! I literally forget to apply lipstick so I always carry it with me in my bag to do on the go. I had no idea that at this time it would still be looked at weirdly or inappropriate. x

    Katina Lindaa | http://www.katinalindaa.com

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