One thing I’ve never gotten used to living here is the way people disregard their surroundings altogether when moving about on foot. Put a Japanese person in a car and he’s a veritable Mars Rover of sensory awareness, but as soon as those heels hit the pavement out come the cell phones, game boys and manga.

At least once a day I’ll be strolling down the sidewalk, minding my own business, only to have some JC student skip out of a doorway with nary a look left or right, lighting a cigarette or flipping open his keitai as he lands immediately in front of me.

Or in a crowded station, where people often conclude their conversations with the wicket guy or a friend, then whip around suddenly and make to speed off, instead crashing directly into yours truly. When I first got here I spent a lot of time dodging, ducking and weaving to avoid these people, always amazed that they never took even a second to survey the landscape before bounding ahead.

These days I just keep walking. At first that resulted in lots of crashing into other people and countless interrupted games of Tetris, but before long people seemed to sense my presence differently, and would kind of flow around me like any other obstacle hovering on the periphery. Now all I have to watch out for is the 歩きタバコ guys who puff away on crowded streets and are sometimes given to wild, ciggie-accentuated gestures that invariably target the small space between my nose and forehead. 歩きタバコって、格好悪いぞ。

Anyway, the reason behind much of this behavior had been a mystery to me, but thanks to this piece from the Tokyo Damage Report I think I understand why…