Selfie-stick backlash spreads in Japan

Selfie-stick backlash spreads in Japan
PHOTO: Japan News/ANN

Selfie sticks are being banned by a growing number of museums, theme parks and other places due to worries those taking so-called selfies will bump into people or things around them.

It appears the popularity of the selfie sticks has outpaced the development of courtesies regarding their use.

The Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium in Motobu, Okinawa Prefecture, began banning selfie sticks in May during the Golden Week holiday period. The aquarium put up posters notifying visitors about the ban, including notices in Korean, Chinese and English.

An aquarium official said that before the ban selfie stick users were frequently seen almost bumping into other people. The aquarium also has displays in which people look down on tanks from above, so it was worried about the sticks or smartphones falling in.

The Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, decided to ban selfie sticks during its "Takahashi Collection Mirror Neuron" exhibition from April to June.

The gallery initially allowed some exhibits to be photographed, but some visitors nearly bumped into the artworks as they tried to take pictures of themselves alongside using selfie sticks.

"We needed to be cautious about managing the artworks," a gallery official said.

Many companies now make selfie sticks. Tokyo-based Thanko Inc., which sells smartphone accessories, said it sold 30,000 sticks in less than a year, about 20,000 of them only in the last six months.

Tokyo Disneyland in Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture, is among many venues that ban selfie sticks.

No major accidents due to the sticks have been reported, so the rules appear to be preventive.

Selfie sticks have been banned overseas as well. The recent Wimbledon tennis tournament instituted a complete ban on selfie sticks on the tournament grounds this year.

Still, many places remain selfie-stick friendly, including Tokyo Skytree and Universal Studios Japan in Osaka.

Asahiyama Zoo in Asahikawa, Hokkaido, has not banned the sticks, but said if visitors try to poke them into cages to photograph animals, they will be warned verbally. A zoo official said a ban would be considered if selfie sticks appeared to be stressing the animals out.

The JR companies have taken different tracks on the great selfie stick debate.

West Japan Railway Co. (JR West) banned selfie sticks at Kanazawa Station and four other Hokuriku Shinkansen stations under its jurisdiction.

The ban was instituted because "there is a risk selfie sticks would hit or otherwise inconvenience other customers, and to avoid electric shocks if they touched overhead wires," a JR West official said.

However, East Japan Railway Co. (JR East) allows passengers to use selfie sticks at its stations, including those serving Hokuriku Shinkansen trains, which opened in March. A JR East official said passengers would be warned individually if they were found using the sticks dangerously.

"The rapid proliferation of selfie sticks has meant that manners haven't yet sunk in," said Shin Nakamura, a professor of social psychology at Edogawa University.

"Usually when you are about to do something potentially annoying, you become aware that other people are looking at you, so you restrain yourself. But with selfie sticks, people are concentrating on the smartphone screen, so they tend not to see what's around them," he said. "Before using one, look around to make sure there won't be any problems. Especially in crowded places, don't forget to consider what would happen if a person or object is nearby. If you're unsure if it's OK to use them, it's best to check with a staff member."

Major places, events that ban selfie sticks

- Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo DisneySea (Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture)

- National Museum of Nature and Science (Taito Ward, Tokyo)

- 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa (Kanazawa)

- Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan (Osaka)

- Summer Sonic 2015 (Chiba and Osaka in August)

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