TOKYO – A municipal ordinance in the Japanese city of Osaka will forbid the public from standing on the right side of escalators, to bring the city in line with the rest of the country, local media reported Wednesday.
In Tokyo and other Japanese cities people typically move to the left side of escalators, and leave the right for those who wish to pass.
However, in Osaka and neighboring municipalities, the custom is reversed, often causing confusion for visiting Japanese and foreigners alike.
Local authorities are acting to change this tradition, as the city prepares for a huge influx of visitors over the next few years and leading into the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020.
The City Council is also expected to approve an ordinance imposing verbal sanction and fines of up to US$8.4 on members of the public who inhibit passage on the right side of stairways, reported the Japan Times.
The measure has generated some controversy in Osaka, where many residents believe that the habit of moving to the right rather than the left, originating in Edo era (1603-1868), is a distinctive feature of the city.
The measure, however, has the support of regional railway company JR West, which has created a mascot named “Hidari-desse” (“To the left!” in Osaka dialect) to help the public remember to stay on the left side of escalators and stairways, and give way to people on the right.