TOKYO - A senior citizens' club in Japan has said sorry for sparking a controversy earlier this week, when a member printed A4-sized notices to 'chope' (reserve) 16 seats on a local train service during the morning rush hour.
The incident on Monday (April 9) occurred in Sendai City - capital of Miyagi Prefecture - on board the JR Tohoku Main Line.
A member of the city's elderly club, in his 60s, had boarded the train at the Sendai terminus station and placed sheets of paper that read "Please give me a seat" and "16 senior citizens will board this train" on behalf of his other clubmates, who boarded the train a stop later.
The club members were on their way to a hanami (cherry blossoms viewing) session at Ogawara town, which is a popular spot in the prefecture for the activity located nine stops from Sendai station.
A photo of the notice went viral on Twitter, where the club drew flak for being inconsiderate to fellow commuters, and that it could have chartered a mini-bus for its members.
The club extended its "deepest apologies for causing inconvenience" on Tuesday, saying that it will counsel its members to "avoid such improper behaviour from hereon".
A club leader was quoted in Japanese media as having said that the unnamed member was acting out of goodwill, given that several in their entourage are at least in their 80s, and had not expected the massive blowback.
There were commuters standing in the packed carriage at the time, and media reports said the member had acted despite the train conductor's advice not to do so.
The leader said: "Because this is a public space where the seats are unreserved, I think even the elderly might find such behaviour problematic because it clearly breaks the rules."
The club's apology has ignited a counter-reaction on Twitter from netizens who say that there needs to be more graciousness and respect for the elderly in society.
Japan, as the world's oldest population, is wrestling with a demography challenge. The number of "superelderly" aged 75 and above, according to the latest count released last month, has outnumbered senior citizens aged from 65 to 74.
Studies have shown that one in five people will be aged 75 or older in all but four of the 47 prefectures in 2045, amid the nation's low birth rate. Its population, currently at 126.9 million, is projected to plunge by a third to 88 million by 2065.