One perplexing question soon starts to torment every Westerner arriving in Tokyo:

Why do they all keep mashing those damned door close buttons?

Breaking my oath of silence, I shall now reveal the secret protocol needed to master The Way of the Elevator (jp. uee-obu-za-erebeetaa) and become one of the secret society, a certified henna gaijin.

The key ideas are respect and efficiency. As you ride the elevator, your duties are to:

  • Make the elevator move as quickly as possible...
  • ...but not just for yourself, for everyone!

These principles can be codified into a set of rules.

Selecting the Operator
  1. Each elevator must have an operator.
  2. The person of lowest rank always assumes the role of the operator.
    • Warning: Entering a full elevator automatically lowers your rank.
  3. If the operator leaves (or is pushed away from the panel as the elevator fills up), the next in rank becomes the operator.
The Duties of the Operator
  1. If somebody is coming in, the operator must press the door open button until they are inside.
    • Note: Standing outside and holding the door with your hand is also acceptable.
  2. Once everybody is inside, the operator must immediately press the door close button.
  3. When the elevator stops, the operator must hold the door open button until all persons leaving have done so.
  4. The operator must always leave last.
    • Note: If there are others still inside, the operator must press the door close button himself and slip out before the doors shut.
The Duties of the Passengers
  1. Depending on rank, all persons coming in must thank the operator for holding the button. Equals or inferiors say sumimasen, your boss probably won't even nod.
  2. If you rush in while the door is closing and/or press the up/down button yourself to reopen the door, you must apologize profusely.
    • Tip: An operator with good elevator-fu will notice the latecomer and hold the door, but pretend not to notice, saving them the hassle of having to apologize.

That's it. But remember, only practice makes perfect, and your fellow passengers are years ahead of you. Gambatte!