I live in Nagoya, Japan's fourth largest city. The fact that
Nagoya isn't as overcrowded as Tokyo is one of my favorite aspects of the
city. I can enjoy the benefits of a large city such as a number of ethnic
restaurants without the crowds that a larger metropolis would entail.
Nevertheless, as you could imagine, when you go to a shopping mall,
downtown area, or a place during its peak business hours there are a fair
number of people present. I have a confession to make: I come from a fairly
small city in the US and possibly my experience is different than say that of a
New Yorker, but when two people walking approach each other, it is a matter
of courtesy for both people to slightly alter course in order to avoid a collision.
As often happens, both people will accidentally step to the right or to the left
with the pursuing dance of trying to get one person to step to the left and
the other to the right. If both people happen to step in the same direction
two or more times they will usually exchange a humorous glance.
Japan is world famous for its people's politeness and in many ways
its reputation is well deserved. Walking etiquette, however, is not one of
the ways that it has managed to earn its reputation. In America, people
simultaneously slightly adjust walking paths out of consideration if
not mere practicality. But in Japan the opposite seems to be true. Neither
party will alter course until the last possible moment with the consequence
many arms are bumped.