Why do the Japanese walk on the wrong side?

Meaning walking against all the arrows telling them to be on the other side.

This surprised me when I first came to Japan because I pictured the Japanese as law abiding, but I quickly found that they weren’t following the rules, they were following each other – one of many reasons why the Japanese are nothing like as similiar to the Germans as they think they are.

That pattern explains a whole lot of other stuff as well:

– The yakuza

– How the trains to Kanagawa change from a commuter train where eating is scowled at to a tourist train full of food at some invisible transition point

– A lack of certain crimes rather than a lack of crime, e.g. lost wallets being returned but bikes stolen

– Some local roads where all pedestrians disregard the lights and others where everyone patiently wait to cross an empty road with no cars for miles

– Complete disregard for the law and safety while on a bicycle

– Demos, riots and or looting in some periods and total peace in others

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Why do the Japanese have no concept of noise pollution?

Could it be because they get used to the constant drone of cicadas? Would certainly explain why the same is true of everywhere in the Med I’ve been…

More seriously, as I’ve kind of mentioned in that first sentence, the Japanese are together with most of the rest of the world on not even having a word for noise pollution, and it is again us Anglo Saxons (and actually only some of us) who stand almost alone in our love of total peace and quiet. Still, it wouldn’t be the first Anglo Saxon thing to spread to Japan if it did, so I think some explanation is in order for the concept not having travelled. Also, Japanese noise pollution is somewhat different from that of the Med and other places.

Perhaps what makes noise in Japan even more annoying than that in Italian beach resorts is the fact that the people themselves are not shouting down their mobile phones and the houses don’t have blaring windows, making the constant mechanical/ electronic racket really stand out. Many of these things, such as constant warnings to hold on to the escalator handrail, can be explained by safety always coming first. Alternatively, you could see them as examples of the Japanese need to always do their best (gambarimasu) by (literally in this case) adding bells and whistles, e.g. the bird noises to show blind people where the stairs are.  It all relies, however, on no one complaining, and that seems to depend on the Japanese general ability to filter stuff out, also seen by admiring the beautiful sea view while apparently completely oblivious to the smoke stacks from the Japanese style gardens in Negishi. The motorbike exhausts and loud speakers of the rag and bone men could simply be fear of complaining, as both could well have a distant connection to the yakuza.