Friendly, trusting Japanese system for lining up for sports tickets

Murdo sends us a video showing "an Englishman in Japan showing how the Japanese queue for local football games. They stick sellotape to the ground with their information on it, marking their places in the queue so that they can return to that point in the future. They even do it the night before the actual queue forms!"

Japan Culture Shock! Unbelievable lining up queue system at Japan sports events! MUST SEE!


  1. I remember reading about how people queue for things in Cuba – on arrival, you ask who is last in line.  That person tells you how many people are ahead of them in line,  and they’re now free to leave.  Tou, as the new last one in line, are now required to stay and keep track of how many people are served (subtracting that number from the total in line).  When someone else arrives (adding one to the total), you hand off knowledge of the queue length, along with the the duty to stick around, to that person.

    Knowing how many people are ahead of you, you have a pretty good idea of when you need to come back, so you can go do something else for a bit, and when you get back you know who should be ahead of you and behind you in line, so the queue can form up in the right order.

    1. At the bakery in Spain it was always just a lot of crowding, shoving and shouting. I’m not entirely sure we ever got any bread there, but it was fun!

      1. I guess it depends what sort of “bread” you are after; if its the sort generally carried in purses and wallets, it sounds like a target rich environment.

    2. That is an awesome algorithm.  Now I’m curious as to how a society develops to actually follow it.  The self-correction mechanisms would need to be reasonably flexible.

  2. Anybody else get the THHGTG sense of this?

  3. this is kind of unusual for Japan also. People do love lining up here, but normally in person. I have never seen this before. However, I am not surprised by it.

  4. This kind of thing was common down in Portland, Oregon ahead of the annual Rose Festival Parade (it may still be, I don’t live there anymore).  It wasn’t a particularly popular tradition:

    1. Starting with the 2008 Rose Parade, the city banned claiming places with tape, rope, chairs, etc. You can stake out places in person starting 24 hours ahead.

      1. Ah hah, that’s not too surprising.  Like I said, it didn’t seem to be very popular among the non-tapers.  Thanks for the link!

  5. In my New England town, people save their place for the Fourth of July parade with lawn chairs.

  6. Good old wacky Japan!  I love that you can leave your water bottle there the night before and be assured that it will still be there for you to pick up at game time: a world without theft!  When I was there I wondered to a Japanese friend why none of the parked bicycles had locks but you locked up your umbrella in the umbrella stands outside the department stores.  He thought about it for a sec and then said that it was because there was no chance of you getting the wrong bike since they all had license plates under the seat but that umbrellas were pretty much all alike so you might get the wrong one without the lock and key system.  Bicycle theft was not a concept.  That said, there are some strange crimes that only ever happen in Japan so I suppose it all evens out.

    1. You must have been in opposite-land in Japan. In Osaka and Kobe bike theft was rampant, but no one paid attention to umbrellas since you just took whichever identical cheap one you saw in the drying rack. Umbrellas were almost like Take-a-Penny, Leave-a Penny, while my flatmate’s bicycle got stolen 3 times.

      1. I’ve had my umbrella since 1981. Needless to say, I don’t leave it in any drying racks.

    2. Bicycle theft was not a concept.

      Well, my wife had her bicycle stolen in Japan, next to an unmanned train stop in our small town.

      It’s true that it’s rare though. My boss couldn’t believe it – he thought she’d just forgotten where she’d parked it.

      The most annoying part of the whole thing, however, was when I was questioned by a (friendly) cop, who told me that, “A lot of Russians roam around these parts,” a rather xenophobic statement that seemed to imply that no good, law-abiding Japanese would ever steal something, oh no.

    1. Breaking and Decorating. The number of times I’ve come home and found my lounge room with a fresh coat of paint and a new chaise lounge…

  7. If they didn’t do this, they’d notice that standing on line overnight was equally interesting to watching an actual soccer game.


      but apparently they’re on the decline

  8. This would seem to be diametrically opposed to the concept of the Subway Pusher.  Where does the difference lie?  Honest question.  Both fascinating cultural traditions.

    1. A different relationship between the individual and the collective than the anglophone western one. The difference is in how separate/connected we are to a larger group.

  9. With Germans and sun-loungers, it is done with towels. In the UK, with tables in counter service restaurants, it’s done with grannies. 

    I once asked a German why they don’t queue up nicely for buses. They replied it didn’t matter if you got on that bus or not, because there’d be another one along in three minutes.

    1.  In the UK buses are pretty frequent too, at least on my route, which appears to be called the “Sorry. Not in service” Route.

  10. Having lived in Japan for 10 years, I can confirm that, yes, this IS the norm for football matches in most cities with J-League teams. Now, it’s important to note, that this sidewalk-taping for a place in the queue is only for the “fan clubs” section behind the home goal. Unreserved seating. This is not SO prevalent for the main stands where seats are often assigned. The other thing to note, is unlike what the fellow who filmed this figured, no you CANNOT just reserve your place a week ahead.

    In fact, there is a very specific list of rules you must follow. At the local home stadium where I live, the rules include: no queuing before 6pm on the day before the match. Then, once you have placed your tape down, there are periodic “spot” checks by stadium staff.  They occur at pre-arranged times, usually 9pm, 11pm, 6 am the next morning, then 9 am. If there is nobody from your party (at least 1 person) standing near the tape during a spot check, the staff will consider your reservation abandoned, tear up your tape and you will lose your spot. But by about mid-morning, fans start to trickle in, and they just kill a few hours in front of the stadium with a picnic… Drink beers, eat some yakitori and soba noodles… And when the gates open 2.5 hours before the match starts, they go in to their favorite spot behind the goal, and set up shop with banners, flags, musical instruments, ladders, you name it…

    Oh, and in all my time here and going to watch footy (I’ve been a season ticket holder for several years), I’ve never, EVER, not once seen a Japanese hooligan. I’ve never ever once seen a streaker, a fight break out, or even a verbal altercation for that matter. Fans here are ridiculously polite. They don’t even call down the other team during the match. They just cheer for their own side.

    1. “If there is nobody from your party (at least 1 person) standing near the tape during a spot check, the staff will consider your reservation abandoned, tear up your tape and you will lose your spot”

      Now this makes it more reasonable- queuing takes sacrifice and planning, it shouldn’t be earned just by a piece of tape.

      I wish queuing here in the US was more relaxed, but I think one of the big problems would be the scalpers. Money driven, I think they would be the first ones looking to “cheat” the system. 

        1. When entering the stadium in Japan they do check your bags.  If you want to get felt up you will need to go to an airport in the US.  You don’t get such luxury in Japan.

    2. Weird. I wonder if the most popular chant is, “The referee’s a respectable gentlemen with 20/20 vision and honourable parents”.I wonder what Japanese fans would make of an English game. The celery song might be especially confusing…

  11. This reminds me of a similar, but infuriating, practice in Singapore. Food courts are usually crowded during lunch time. So Singaporeans will place a tissue packet on a table to “reserve” the table, before going off to order their food. Whereas in every other country, you order and pick up your food, then look (or wait) for a table.

    Woe betide those that ignore this and sit at a table with a tissue packet on it. The Ugly Singaporean will come back and tell you, “I put tissue there already what! Cannot see ah?”. Thereafter, you can choose to either docilely get up and hunt for another table, or just ignore the sonofabitch.

  12. So what happens if I just go to the front of the line? Who’s going to stop me? Do the Japanese have a way of dealing with belligerent people or do they just get all the best seats?

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