Why Japan Forbids Bus Drivers From Greeting Each Other

Why Japan Forbids Bus Drivers From Greeting Each Other

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Fleet of buses - bus driver greeting rules
Picture: yamahide / PIXTA(ピクスタ)
Official regulations have forbidden bus drivers in Japan from waving howdy to each other for 20+ years. But how many of them follow the rule? Survey says...

People in Japan were surprised recently to find a rule that many didn’t know existed: a restriction around bus drivers greeting one another as they pass by. As it turns out, however, this rule is just as often broken as it is followed.

Keep your eyes on the road, buddy

Hand pointing to a warning sign
Picture: 78create / PIXTA(ピクスタ)

Japan has a reputation for rules and regulations. Often, people in charge enforce these without exception or flexibility. We’ve written in detail how schools tend to enforce regulations such as restrictions on sunscreen even during the hottest days of the year. Schools have also been subject to online backlash in recent years for outdated rules around hair color.

Now, local media is reporting on a rule involving bus drivers that many never knew existed. Most companies forbid bus drivers of all stripes from greeting one another as they pass by on the road.

The site Kuruma no News (Car News) explains why this rule exists. The head of the Nihon Bus Association (NBA) tells the site that it stems from a recommendation in the national guidelines set by Japan’s Ministry of Transportation.

The Ministry saddled the tome of recommendations with the weighty title 自動車運送事業者が事業用自動車の運転者に対して行う一般的な指導及び監督の実施マニュアル (roughly: Manual for the Standard Guidance and Conducting Supervision for Drivers of Vehicles for Transportation Companies). In the manual, it states:


Driver’s attention can become diverted when two passing operators greet one another (raising hands in greeting). Operators should focus on driving when in motion in order to guarantee the safety of passengers.

If you know Japanese and have trouble sleeping one night, you can download the full PDF here. Tantalizing stuff.

Does the rule save lives?

This isn’t a new rule. The manual dates back to 2001 (Imperial Year Heisei 13), which means this has been on the books for over 20 years. It’s just that, until recently, few people who weren’t bus drivers knew about it.


Many on social media were shocked to learn this rule even exists, with some asking “is this necessary?” and “what harm can a little greeting cause?”

Of course, not all rules are purposeless. We all live by many rules that save countless lives every day. And some would argue that this is one of them. In 2003, a bus driver greeting another bus driver failed to notice a pedestrian, striking and killing them. So, arguably, this is one rule that should stay on the books.

Breaking the rules…with KINDNESS

Bus driving through two huge snow piles that dwarf it by close to three times the height of the bus
Picture: kazz zzak / PIXTA(ピクスタ)

As it turns out, a study released in early August shows that not every driver is on board with the rule. The Ministry of Transportation’s Committee Investigating Commercial Driving Accidents says it’s discovered that half of all drivers flout the rules and give each other a little wave or a nod as they pass by.

Sakai Hirokazu, head of the Committee, told TBS news that drivers probably “think this is an extremely light means of telling each other, ‘good work.’ But it can lead to blind spots when it comes to safety.”

Sakai said the Committee wants to educate drivers better on the possible dangers of greeting each other. Supervisors in the industry interviewed by Kuruma no News also agreed, saying bus companies should work to ensure bus drivers realize how a little wave can turn quickly into a deadly situation.

School Segregates Black Japanese Student at Graduation Over Hair


バス運転手の「すれ違いの挨拶」禁止の理由は. Kuruma no News

事故に繋がる“危険行為” バス運転中の“挨拶”依然横行 覆面調査で半数確認 都営バスでは20年ほど前から“挨拶”を禁止. TBS News Dig

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Jay Allen

Jay is a resident of Tokyo where he works as a reporter for Unseen Japan and as a technial writer. A lifelong geek, wordsmith, and language fanatic, he has level N1 certification in the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) and is fervently working on his Kanji Kentei Level 2 certification.

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