bird cage (soon)
There are a lot of misconceptions in the west about Japan. My friend's sister thought that everyone lived in pagodas. Um. Another is the politeness thing. Otaku loooooooooove bringing this shit up, like the word "sumimasen" is proof Japan is innately superior to the US. My favorite thing I've heard someone spout was "they have to be a polite culture because it's so crowded." Whiskey, Tango, Kitsune-trot? Japan wasn't always crowded, that's like saying there were alwas a billion people in China. And crowds are about the least polite place in Japan.
If you're a girl, you'll quite possibly get groped. People shove people out of the way without so much as a "sumimasen" all the time. The only relief is that as a foreigner, the "gaijin cootie" fear will often give you plenty of leg room even when the rest of the bus is packing together like sardines. Bwahahahahahahaha.
But I'm straying off-topic. The fact is, Japanese people are assholes too. Deal with it. Best example I can think of: my second host mother. I'll write more about this family later, they were seriously insane. The mother was seriously the textbook definition of an "obatarian" - she'd be rude to nice waitresses and clerks, cut in front of entire lines leaving me to apologize in her wake, you name it. I never saw a shred of politeness come out of her, whether to a total stranger or someone in her "in-group." You might have delightful tales of people walking you to where you needed to get to, or other crazy helpful things, but that doesn't make the whole place sunshine and daisies. At my college, if you were lost people would help you out, but that doesn't mean the whole place wasn't full of alcoholic racist dickheads at the same time. I'm not saying that Japan is full of assholes...it's a mixed bag, depending on who you're in contact with and how you treat them. But so is everywhere else, so I really don't get the OMG JAPAN SO POLITE thing.
Quite frankly, all being polite to strangers in Japan ever got me was a kooky stalker and old women pawing me. It can get even more dangerous in some cases, but that's for another time.
Anyway, just remember: Americans may be assholes, but we don't have the market cornered, no matter how much you'd like to believe it.