How Mass Transit Has Combated Manspreading


The MTA’s message to dudes: your balls aren’t that big

Despite the jolly season, there’s a scrooge in town. And New York’s Mass Transit Authority (MTA) is trying to get rid of it. Early this week they announced a new series of campaigns encouraging polite and considerate behavior on the trains. One of their targets was manspreading, the spreading of legs which looks distasteful and takes up too much space. Up until now it seemed as though the MTA was turning a blind eye to the issue, prompting riders to take matters into their own hands and publicly shame offenders.

But surprisingly, Japan, the epitome of politeness, at least in the eyes of the West, has been an pioneer in the field with targeted anti-manspreading campaigns dating back to the 1970s.

hideya kawakita vintage tokyo metro posters

“The Dictator” 1976.July by Hideya Kawakita for the Tokyo Metro

In the 1970s the graphic designer Hideya Kawakita created a series of humorous and highly eye-catching posters to encourage better manners on the train. This one above was inspired by Charlie Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator.”

jt spread leg manners

2010 campaign by Japan Tabacco

In 2010 a campaign was created that featured minimal pictograms of people behaving properly and rudely on trains. Note the two with tilted heads, in utter shock at seeing such inconsiderate manspreading.

Interestingly, it was created in collaboration with Japan Tabacco, who had created a series of campaigns aimed at proper smoking etiquette.


“Please move over and make room for one more person” (2011)

In 2011 the Tokyo Metro ran a series of campaigns that used adorable cats and dogs to subtly and cutely remind us that we’re not animals. The title reads, “I’ve seen someone like this.”

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“Please make room for others to sit when possible” (2012)

A 2012 poster featuring a fuzzy teddy bear (?) unable to understand why this dude’s legs are spread so wide.


Odakyu Manner Posters (2013)

In 2013, the Odakyu Line in Tokyo licensed several characters created by illustrator Yusaku Hanakuma to try and promote proper train etiquette.  Several dudes with afros sit together taking up too much space while the man standing is thinking, “that seat should fit 7.”


  1. Looks like the width of the Afros limits the seating more than the legs. The guy grumbling is almost bald. Is there a subtext of racism here?

  2. @Carl, More like hair’ism. *Da dun dum*

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