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Whether the person in front of you adjusting the seat angle is a good or bad thing is all a matter of perspective, Tokyo-bound overnight bus shows us.

Reclining seats might just be the most vocally lamented travel complaint. Having the person in front of you begin to lean back once you’ve got settled into your seat on a plane, train, or long-haul bus is a special kind of annoying dread for many travelers, only exacerbated by not knowing when the leaning will stop.

One solution would be to simply do away with the reclining function, locking passengers into sitting upright like some sort of slouch-hating elementary school teacher. But no matter how good your posture is, it’s not very comfortable to sit with your spine ramrod straight for an extended time, like, say, the 15-hour overnight bus ride we recently took from Fukuoka to Tokyo.

So as we climbed into the vehicle, operated by Japan’s Orion Bus, we braced ourselves for the tense wait for the passenger in the row ahead of us to start leaning back. But to our surprise, Orion Bus has devised a clever response to this problem that retains full lean-back freedom, but also makes the whole process a million times more psychologically pleasant.

Just what does Orion Bus do? Simple: when passengers board the bus, all of the seats are already reclined as far back as they can go.

Orion does this for all their overnight buses, which encourages passengers to make themselves as comfortable as possible with the seats in this configuration when they first sit down, placing extra clothing or baggage in the overhead storage areas instead of on their lap or at their feet. By starting the seats off this way, the mental effect isn’t that when the person in front of you lean back they’re encroaching on your space. Instead, if he adjusts the seat to anything other than maximum recline, you’re getting an expansion to your territory.

There’s one more reason Orion Bus sets up its seats this way. Knowing how irritated some travelers can get over reclining seats, some extra-considerate passengers feel bad about reclining their seats at all. By starting the seats off fully reclined, passengers don’t have to feel bad for leaning back, but can instead earn some goodwill if and when they move from full to partial recline.

Granted, it’s a tiny thing, but every little bit helps when you’re going to be in close proximity to a group of strangers for the next several hours. And if this still isn’t enough to help you get to your destination stress-free, you can always splurge for a deluxe overnight bus with private rooms.

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