Feb 8, 2018
How to walk in Japan
Using those two spindly things coming out of your body to propel yourself forward has been an ability most of us learned even before speaking. It is one of the major ways of travel, second only to the newfangled horseless carriage. And yet. And YET, the same problems occur time and time again when walking around the city.
The main problem is always ....other people and their oafish ways. So let's talk about the daily chore which is walking around the big city here in Japan and how to recognize the dangers involved.
First and foremost is timing. Are you walking on the weekend or during the week? Because let me tell you there are major differences between the two. During the weekdays, your main opponent is the black-suited business man, usually accompanied with a matching briefcase. These are the professionals, not only in their field but also on the street. They march in tune with a rhythm that is not heard by most people. They are efficient and to the point with their walking speed and where they belong on the busy walkways. It is almost as if they all got the update downloaded into their brain and they are just following the simple code to get from point A to point B.
There is no stopping them either. We are but one small speck of dust in the ever-blowing tornado of the Japanese business day. So the only real option is to join them. Come early to the station (whichever station you prefer, although the busier, the better) and take a step back from the flow. Study the current, the trends and the mistakes other, less experienced people make. Take notes, especially when you see tourists trying to cut through from the wrong end of the line. It is as educational as it is hilarious. Then when you have learned the ropes, try to get into the rhythm yourself. It will take a few weeks for the natural muscle memory to kick in, but if you succeed, you will be able to waltz through the busiest stations without even looking up from your phone (expert lvl).
Be careful though. The weekdays are all well and good, but come the weekend and it's pandemonium! Never mind your new black suited friends. They are all in bars and restaurants patting themselves on the back and congratulating each other for a hard working week. Meanwhile, the mothers, the children and the elderly burst out of the woodwork and make their way to the malls, department stores and clothes shops. These people come in all shapes and sizes and woe unto you if you even attempt to learn the pattern here. The suitcases and baby carriages apparently double in size and speed and your shins are the target.
All is not lost though. You can still enjoy your weekend outing with your family and friends without getting trampled by Grampa Joe and his posse of five-year olds. Take the outing further out to the countryside. Take that extra two hours of commute and go to the neighboring prefecture with less people than your neighborhood. AEON is everywhere. You'll be happier and your shins will thank you.