Japanese parents afraid of stranger danger ban on saying hello in their condos

By Casey Baseel, RocketNews24

Last Sunday night, I was heading home from my latest exciting expat escapade (buying cold medicine at the pharmacy). Across the street from where I live, there’s a two-story walk-up apartment building with an exterior staircase, and I noticed an elderly woman carting a number of heavy grocery bags up to the second floor.

As a matter of fact, the bags were so heavy that she couldn’t transport them the whole way at once. She’d place them, one by one, a few steps above her on the stairwell. Once she’d done this for all the bags, she’d walk up to where she’d set them down, and repeat the process.

My first instinct was to ask her if she needed help. It was already past 10 o’clock, though, and the street was dark, with no one else around. Given the circumstances, I worried that a strange man suddenly calling out to her could make her feel frightened and threatened, so in the end I decided to err on the side of caution and not offer my assistance.

However, a condominium complex in Kobe is going quite a few steps farther by prohibiting even residents of the same building from greeting each other while on the premises. In a letter published in the local Kobe Shimbun newspaper on November 4, a 56-year-old man who lives in the complex (the name of which he declined to give), related the events of a recent meeting of the condo’s owners association.

“The idea was presented by the parents of elementary school-age children who live in the building,” the man explained. “They said, ‘We teach our children to run away if a stranger greets them, so we’d like to make a rule that people should not offer greetings in the building.’”

Once introduced, the motion even gained support from residents without such young children. “Other people will feel bad if they say hello but don’t get a response, so let’s all stop greeting each other,” the man continued, “and so it was decided to ban saying hello in the complex.”

While Japan now shows a greater concern for child safety than it did in previous generations, this extreme measure has many observers shaking, or at least scratching, their heads. The condominium’s new policy quickly elicited a number of critical comments online in Japan, including:

“People who are up to no good avoid communities where the residents talk to and interact with each other, so I think making it a point to always greet each other is actually better for crime prevention.”

“Having neighbors regularly communicate results in lower burglary rates.” “The kids in my neighborhood are actually the ones who say hi to me.” “Saying hello to people is the most basic of societal interactions.”

Obviously, it’s important to teach children to be on the lookout for potential dangers. That said, it really does seem like instilling a response of “Flee the scene if someone you don’t know says a single word to you!” is going to set those kids up for a lot of problems later in life. As they get older, they’re likely to find themselves, on a daily basis, in professional or social situations that require speaking to someone without a formal, officiated introduction beforehand.

It seems especially odd to lock distrust into stasis regarding residents of the same apartment, the very individuals who’re most likely to progress beyond being strangers if communication is allowed to happen organically. As one online commenter put it, “If they say hello to each other every day, somewhere along the way people stop being strangers.”

Sources: Yahoo! News Japan/R25

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Japanese teacher criticized for attending son’s entrance ceremony instead of her own school’s -- 7 more things foreigners do that Japanese people find amusing -- Policewoman’s posterior produces poetic justice as she arrests man she says groped her on train

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And deeper down the anti-social hole you go, Japan.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Did you ask to help the person using polite Japanese ? Did you consider that they have sense of cultural pride. And, would not accept help from even another Japanese person.

You assume because it is different than your expectations ... there is some deep dark underlying cultural wrong that you need to fix. Take you head out of your social justice stuffed self righteous butt.

No - really ... Japanese culture is unique ... and who are you to judge Japanese people? ... did you grow up in Japan ... do you really truly understand the nature of why that person was in their situation?

Perhaps for a moment- the person was doing it out of self inflicted pride ... to show the community that they were willing to suffer for something in their own private life. Did such a possible consideration ever cross your pea sized brain ?

Regarding the condo saying to 'not great foreigners' ... do you think this is different in other countries? Do you think that there is not a sense of mind your own business in the USA ? ... or in say some of the Scandinavia countries? ...

Honestly - speaking ... Japan can be harsh to foreigners ... I have lived in my Apartment 18 mo and I just am able to say hello to some of the tenants. Truth is Japanese test your perseverance and character - then they open up ... is that bad ? ... Or do you expect to act like a happy soaking wet Golden Retriever with a stick you fetched from the pond ... only to be rewarded with a fresh little treat.

-14 ( +2 / -16 )

That last post is really weird. I have absolutely no idea how you came up with the weird conclusions you did from that article.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Making a rule enforcing isolation is not the only and perhaps not the most imaginative way to solve this kind of problem. Residents could have organized a kick-off condo party to get to know the neighbours. Then they could hold regular easy to organize social events (tea, bingo, exercise classes, games, sing-alongs, movies and speakers etc). These activities would also bring people together. Publishing a directory with photos (on line or on paper) as well as creating a photo bulletin board could support the initiative. If the building is too large, it could be done floor by floor.

Not everyone in their city does it this way, but that's what my parents' building (in Canada) did. For years the people in 250+ suites have enjoyed a thriving, caring and supportive community--just like a country village within a city. In that scenario, children can differentiate community members from strangers and all residents enjoy the extra protection of caring neighbours. Win-win.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Unstable people everywhere...

0 ( +1 / -1 )

There is no shame in thinking twice before lending a helping hand in Japan as a gaijin. You could be the one who ends up in trouble with the police: I found a wallet and turned it into the police and ended up being questioned. Another time along with a friend we stopped a drunk man who was slapping his wife around in a public park. Again, it was we gaijin who were questioned by the police. Once I saw a man lying on the ground in front of Mister Donut being beaten with his own shoe by another man ... you get the picture. Years later I was watching my daughter play in the kids' area at a local department store when I noticed a mother looking for her daughter. They were never more than a short distance away from each other but the mother couldn't see her and grew more and more frantic as the moments went by. Finally, in desperation, she rushed up the escalator to the next floor to continue her search. My first instinct was to take the girl to her mother but not wanting to end up in jail I went upstairs to the mother and led her to the girl.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Stupid socialist mentality. Treating everyone as a criminal until proven otherwise. What crap ! I guess it's to be expected when Western governments everywhere now treat their citizens as potential criminals at airports. All just to feed the power of the state and conformity

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

We always greet everyone in our condo. And often, I am allowed to interact with small children while riding the elevator with their parents. Better to be friendly with your long-term neighbors

4 ( +4 / -0 )

We always greet everyone in our condo. And often, I am allowed to interact with small children while riding the elevator with their parents. Better to be friendly with your long-term neighbors

I agree. I'm always friendly with the people in my neighborhood, and often interact with the kids and their parents.

As for not helping people, if you don't speak Japanese so well, it's often better to not do anything, it can bring you hassles if you do. But if you speak Japanese, there are no issues. I regularly help out in situations where no one else is willing to do anything. I've broken up fights, I've helped old people who have fallen down, I assist people who look like they are having troubles with directions etc. So often Japanese people aren't sure if they should do something, and if they do, what they should do. They appreciate it when a foreigner steps in and helps out, and as often as not, other people will then help since someone else has breached that wall.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Those parents are insane.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Well said sensei. Nothing irritates me more than not getting a 'hi' or smile back from a neighbour. Nothing more, nothing less.

@donnie nothing to do with minding your own business.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I always say hello to people I meet in the lift in my building. If they don't reply I assume they are ignorant arseholes, but nearly all of them do reply. I'm sure the children can recognise who lives in the building and who doesn't before very long.

People in that Kobe mansion should ignore the "rule" against saying hello. The people in favour of it cannot tell them to be quiet without breaking their own daft rule.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Donnie Palahnuk Appears to have read a different article or perhaps one that doesn't exist?

"Japanese parents afraid of stranger danger ban on saying hello in their condos"

This headline saying the parents are afraid of the ban makes no sense in connection to the article.

Ironically, the cliche replies to reporters interviewing neighbors of people who've been arrested for murder or whatever are along the lines of "we thought he was an okay guy, he always greeted us" or "we knew he was no good because he never greeted us."

0 ( +1 / -1 )

This will make the building even more uncaring and unsafe. What fools

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Let's deal with our social problems by ignoring each other? Utter nonsense. Hopefully common sense will prevail.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Many more men say hi to me than the women, but it could be the short skirts. They are very polite though, and I say hi to everyone.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Is guys always appreciate a friendly lady MsDelicious!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I believe most child abuse is within the family. Perhaps abuse generally.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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