Baby on board

Common courtesy, like common sense, isn’t quite as common as it should be. For example, some people can see a pregnant woman standing on a bus or a train and not think to offer her their seat.

At the same time, some people are so polite that they might hesitate to send the message, “You look pregnant,” to someone who might not be.

Luckily, there is a Japanese solution to both of these problems: the “maternity mark,” a pendant that pregnant women can use to identify themselves on public transit.


Available at almost any train station in the greater Tokyo area, the pendant can be attached to the strap of a handbag or otherwise displayed to subtly alert seat-holders to the fact that the bearer is, well, a bearer.

The words in the design’s heart-shaped area say, “There’s a baby inside me.” The works on the bottom of the pendant say, “Please protect from tobacco smoke.”

On a recent stop at a highway rest area near the border of Tokyo and Yamanashi Prefecture (part of a trip on which I bought some Yamanashi fruit curry), I saw a sign giving pregnant women with the badge preferential treatment in parking, too.


Signs and pendants notwithstanding, some people still don’t get the message. A friend told me that when she was pregnant and carrying the pendant, the people least likely to offer her their seats on trains were young women.

I’m tempted to describe this phenomenon as strange yet unsurprising, but the little evidence I have is admittedly anecdotal.

So, if you’ve ever used such a pendant, please feel free to share how people reacted in the comments section.

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2 Responses to “Baby on board”

  1. dragonlife Says:

    I totally agree with you!
    Actually, although i’m in love with Japan, I remember when I was in the French Air Force ( a long long time ago), as a soldier it was a written regulation that any soldier in a train had to leave his/her seat if a pregnant lady entered the compartment.
    Even after living in Japan for more than 36 years I still leave my seat to any old lady, lady with kids or pregnant lady. The fact is that I just can’t keep sitting on my seat in such an instance!
    Japan is the safest country in the world, which could explain why people here don’t think twice about their neighbors sometimes.
    Oh well. I’m still in love with the country!

  2. Pisces Says:

    It’s really a shame that Japanese people are not willing to give up their seats to anyone. I think that’s one of the most negative element of them.
    When I was pregnant, I didn’t feel very comfortable with carrying the pendant, because I didn’t want to go like ‘hey, I’m pregnant! Give me your seat!’
    However, given that I was extremely sick during most of my pregnancy, soon I realized I had to, because otherwise people woudn’t. (Also, it’s true in your early pregnancy, when you feel sick the most, it’s hard to tell if you are pregnant or not.)
    The people who are the most likely to give up their seats to me were; old ladies or salarymen in their thirties(presumably they have children too.)

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