For example, if I pass a random person on the sidewalk in Japan, would it be appropriate to say こんにちは? I've had people do that to me. Is it considered friendly? Polite? Rude? Does it depend on the situation? If so, when is it appropriate?

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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because unfortunately culture questions are off topic – virmaior May 6 '17 at 5:48
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    Some people advocate greeting to strange people in the neighborhood as one of anti-crime practices. – broken laptop May 6 '17 at 6:06
  • Hm...Do you say hi to random people in your country? In countries where I've lived (and I thought most countries) don't usually do it, and I'm very sure this applies to Japan. At least I've not heard anyone saying hi to me over there. – xuq01 May 6 '17 at 11:50
  • Related question: japanese.stackexchange.com/q/44524/1628 – Earthliŋ May 6 '17 at 16:20
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    I think that there are places where culture and language overlap, and I don't see a problem with allowing questions like this one just because of that overlap. It's still a language question, and this is a language site. – snailplane May 21 '17 at 6:26

It's ok if:

  • You are hiking, or climbing
  • You know them or the social circle is small enough that you'll see them fairly often (like in a small village, same block, or in an apartment)

Otherwise it won't be seen as rude, but people will wonder what's going on because it's unusual, especially in big cities. They also might start to try avoid you (like say you say hello to someone on a commute, they might think "Oh well guess I take one train earlier from now on". That's only half joke.

If you obviously look you could be unfamiliar with Japanese culture they might cut you a slack. So yeah you can't do a lot of harm but it's unusual for sure.

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    (自信がありませんが "in an apartment" って "in an apartment building" じゃなくていいんでしょうか) – naruto May 6 '17 at 13:05

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