|The king of craziness. Appropriately named "The Scramble".|
So, don't get me wrong, Japan is a very polite place. People in the service industry go far beyond what is expected in The States as a rule. But there is one thing that I've experienced day after day that is just wearing me down and I feel, in a country that prides itself on politeness, is incredibly rude, no matter how you look at it. What I'm referring to is the average Tokyoite taking their fucking sweet-ass time to go anywhere while walking and also constantly blocking sidewalks, train platforms, and entry-ways.
Tokyo is a very busy place. As the largest metropolitan area in the world, there are tons and tons of people. But, no matter where I'm heading, there is always a person in front of me walking slower than molasses in January. I occasionally see the running student or worker who is late to school/work, but the norm is definitely a zombie shuffle. On top of this, it seems like a large percent of them are incapable of walking in a straight line. If you're crossing an intersection, someone WILL cut across your path. Crosswalks are battlegrounds for games of chicken. Is this person going to move left? Are they going to move right? You'll never know. No matter how many times you guess, your prediction will be wrong.
A large reason for many of these behaviors seems to be just a general lack of awareness of their surroundings. I could be breathing down a young couple's neck and cursing under my breath, but not until they actually see me are they going to realize that they were taking up the entirety of the width of the sidewalk with their not-let-go-for-any-fucking-reason handholding. This also applies to groups of people coming towards you. More times than I care to count, a group of four or five people have walked towards me on the sidewalk, setting up an impenetrable wall along the width of it. WHERE DO YOU THINK I'M SUPPOSED TO MOVE?!!??! Am I supposed to hover above you??? Am I supposed to crawl underneath you??? Sidewalks, like roads, are TWO-WAY STREETS. This is a daily occurrence for me in my neighborhood and around my work.
Which leads me to my next point. Japan, could you fucking make up your mind as to which way you want foot-traffic to go??? In the States (and Canada and France and Argentina and everywhere else I've been), foot traffic follows motor-vehicle traffic. You always keep to your right so the people coming towards you can pass you on your left. Simple, no? So, in Japan, you'd expect it to be reversed. But this is only true about 50% of the time. In train stations, certain stairs will -completely arbitrarily -have some stairs where going down is on the left side and going up is on the right side and then have other stairs where it's the complete reverse. In big train stations -where controlling foot traffic is quite vital to an actually functioning and civil transportation system -like Tokyo Station (my most hated train station to walk through), they have arrows on the ground directing you which side is which. It switches with no rhyme or reason. There is no consistency whatsoever which leads to absolute, utter fucking chaos.
This is why, for me, going to a train station is a recipe for high blood pressure. It's a perfect storm of all these evils and more. Five times within the mere 3 months I've been here, the door has shut in my face because of a.) people standing around, oblivious to everything, in the middle of the platform b.) Ms. Suzy-Q Shops-a-lot has her bags on the right hand side of the escalator, blocking my path c.) people who are exiting the station think that if you see a man in a suit who looks like he's in a rush to get somewhere important, it's the best idea to cut across his path d.) all of the above and more. Even if I'm not going to work or in a rush, it just really bothers me that people are inconsiderate enough of other people to do things like going up the four escalators, which are the only means of exiting the subway, and stopping at the front of the third one and standing there while people wait behind you.
Let me just put this into perspective of another busy city: New York. If people were to do stuff like this in New York, particularly the most common offense of couples taking up the entire width of the sidewalk and walking slow as shit, they would get pushed over without so much as an "excuse me".
And, from my recent visit to the Laketown Mall, I can maybe see where it all comes from. While in the busy food court, a little girl of maybe four was running full speed away from her mother. In her haphazard dash, she almost seriously tripped one of the food court workers. The mother, who was moseying along many yards behind, witnessed this and there wasn't so much as a "sorry" or "watch where you're going". And this is not an isolated incident with children I've seen here. The number one thing American (and I assume Canadians and other Western countries) children are taught in public is to be aware of there surroundings. American children are constantly being pulled by their mothers or told to "get out of the way" in stores because they're blocking somebody's path. To me, it just seems like common courtesy. If you're being an impediment to somebody else's way, than that's not right. So get out of my way, because I'm not going to be merciful any longer.
AND DON'T EVEN FUCKING GET ME STARTED ON BICYCLES!!!!