The common Japanese you run into on the street will most likely shy away from talking to you if they do not know you. It could be said that it is a national habit for the Japanese to leave most foreigners to their own devices. They, as a whole, get more friendly and open up a lot more after a few drinks. Besides having a few rounds, most Japanese will not just walk up to you and have direct contact. While this may be true in most situations the tide may be turning in the spirit of the Japanese youth. From my experience, I have seen a clear difference in the way younger Japanese(18-30) engage foreigners compared to their older counterparts.
The youth of Japan seen to be more forward and brash than the average Japanese Joe six pack. In most nations one would expect the youth to be forthcoming when interacting with people from other so-called tribes. Yet, in Japan the pressure to conform is so strong that one would think they are born wearing a suit and tie. The sharp contrast in posture taken towards foreigners is so clearly noticeable that it boggles the mind how they ever get to the point of being passively dismissive of foreigners.
The brash Japanese youth sometime surprise me with how forward they can be at times. Case in point, I went to the local supermarket last night to grab a few beers and a pack of smokes(yes I still smoke). Just across the road were two young street gals chatting loudly about something or the other. Of course I paid them very little mind and marched on into the store. When I came back out one of the gals came running up to me saying, `excuse me! excuse me! Give me tobacco please!` As she did this her friend slowly followed her like a pet follows a owner. I flashed a pack of smokes I just bought and both of their eyes lit up like firecrackers. I must have given them about six smokes total out of kindness and slight shock. As soon as they got what they wanted they almost walked off just as fast. One of the gals spoke to me using the little English she had found the time to master. They were cute but clearly rough from hanging out on the street all the time.
I see the same kids hanging out on the street down from my house all the time. This little event was the first time they had spoken to me. It is rare for any Japanese,even the homeless, to demand I give them something. The young kids obviously have little care to speak to foreigners when they want something bad enough. The only other time Japanese randomly speak to me is at Yoyogi park sometimes and when I go to a rockabilly show.
Have any of you ever had a random Japanese youth speak to you and/or make an out of the blue request?