Do You Know "Hidari Gawa Tsuko?" Pass on the left in Japan
Less shoulders bump and more smiles erupt when you pass on the Left!
"To the Left, To the Left" is one of my favorite songs and it well applies to some parts of my life....okay, yes you're right, Ill avoid that topic for today :)
But, "To the Left" is an important concept in Japan. When you walk around, basically anywhere in Japan, you'll see the cool everyone keeps despite having to wade through oceans of people in stations, airports, temples and even Mt. Fuji. Take a moment to look closely at the mechanics and think "To the Left!"
I remember my Junior Police Officer (JPO) drill practice at Pearl Ridge Elementary school in Hawaii when I am passing through crowds in Japan because we actually won a State-wide competition because of our ability to keep cadence and pattern in our drill.
Directional arrows on stairs, roped off areas during commuting-crowd times of day and processions at temples, etc., will show you that people use the left side for "Tsuko" or on-coming two way traffic.
This pretty much applies in any situation since Japanese people have been doing this for so long, it just comes naturally. I've been here almost 30 years too, so I also naturally tend to avoid an oncoming person by stepping to the left. This did not work when I was rushing through Atlanta Airport in Georgia USA with my stroller and toddler in hand. The people I encountered there tended to step to their right which made for the "dance of passing" that all of us have experienced many times in our life.
In Japan, it is pretty much a set and unspoken modem of crowd manner to pass right shoulder to left shoulder. So you going forward would be on the left and oncoming people would be on the right. So when you see a crowd of people coming toward you, you will notice them all kind of clustering towards the right (from your perspective). So, this means you move to your left and Voila! You are out of the way!!! No bumping of umbrellas, no bumping of shoulders, no gruff "Nanda yo!" or clicking of tongues at all!! Yay!
Also, don't forget that tipping your umbrella to the side on rainy days is part of the crowd manner from Edo. When someone is approaching you with an umbrella you tip yours to the left and they tip theirs to the right and you have an Edo manner experience in 2016!
So as Japan gets more crowded with people from all over the world, tell your friends "to the Left" and enjoy a less stressfull crowd experience in the land of the Rising Sun.
Former Deep Japan Writer