In her Sept. 22 Japan Lite column titled “Japanese as a second body language,” Amy Chavez devotes four paragraphs to the topic of Movement. It’s an interesting and valid point: How do people in different cultures physically occupy and move in the three dimensional space that surrounds them?
Chavez pursued the idea of elegance in Japanese motion, which I thought was a bit stereotypical and inaccurate. In practice I find that Japanese do not pay much attention to their physical surroundings, making vehicular and even pedestrian traffic a treacherous and hair-raising obstacle course.
Not a day goes by when, in crowded Tokyo, someone walking in front of me does not stop suddenly, or suddenly change direction without looking over their shoulder to check for other people. By the grace of God I have never crashed into anyone, but I’ve had close calls. More and more I am of the opinion that when such things happen, I should let myself crash into these sloppy walkers to try to teach them a lesson as an act of brotherly loving kindness. In such case, though, I would certainly be blamed.
Japanese culture trains people not to be aware of their surroundings so as to trust others to watch out for them no matter what they do. It’s amae no kouzou, or some kind of group indulgence, in practice. That kind of consideration or indulgence of others appears to work. But it only appears that way.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.