I don’t respond to Japanese children (or adults) who say “hello” to me on the street. My reasons are varied:
#1 By responding, you are reinforcing the widely held view that all foreigners of Western distinction speak English decently. Japanese children need to become more aware that this is not the case.
#2 I don’t talk to strangers and neither should they. Sapporo is a big city of approximately 2 million people. This isn’t some small village where everybody knows your name. More importantly, Japanese children are taught from a very early age not to talk to strangers. What is more strange than the white man who makes up less than 1% of the population? By shouting hello at you they indicate that they don’t value you as a human or exist within their cultural norms. (so all rules are out the window)
#3 Almost every time I have responded with a “hello” in kind, the children (and adults) almost universally laugh with their friends or runaway. This makes the exchange even more awkward. It also proves that their motives are less than altruistic. It’s much luck how some humans whistle or click their teeth to get a dogs attention. Don’t reward them for this behavior.
#4 I make my living teaching English. If I respond to the random “hello”, kids most likely will tell their parents, who then will feel justified in whatever meager English education their child receives at elementary school. They’ll think that those unqualified Japanese English teachers must be doing a great job! I don’t give them the satisfaction. Supply and demand. I won’t give away the only commodifiable skill I have in his country.
#5 It’s rude! I wear headphones almost anytime I venture outside alone. Why? To give my brain the excuse to ignore every person who even attempts to “hello” me. Almost all of these unreciprocated hellos is shouted at me from behind, from a school window, or from across the street. I don’t want to come off as rude by not responding, but shouting a foreign greeting to a random stranger a block away is just bizarre. I encourage everyone to mockingly shout “Hola!” repeatedly to a latino-looking pedestrian across a busy intersection in Brooklyn. Good luck with that…