Major Differences - Travel
Quite possibly my favorite thing about Japan is the train and subway system. A wise friend of a friend once said that when you get off a train in Tokyo, check the schedule and check your watch. If there is a discrepency, reset your watch.
Despite the prompt trains, I never use the schedule. Trains come often enough that just going to the station and waiting for the next one is good enough for me. During the winter, seats on the train are heated. During the summer the air conditioner is always on.
There is no rule against eating and drinking, but I've only seen it happen once or twice in all my time here. There is, however, a rule against talking on the phone . This is a rule I've only seen foreigners break, because they didn't know or they didn't care. In Korea there is no such rule, I'm told, which explains the occassional Korean chatting away on the train in Tokyo.
I almost never see people give up seats for the elderly. In my first couple months here I gave up my seat for many people, but usually the response is met with suprise and rejection. They think they are being polite by refusing the gesture, but it just makes the situation akward with us both standing by an empty seat. As a result, I don't really give up my seat anymore.
For those who plan on visiting Japan, I have some important advice: Do not rent a car. The roads are small and the traffic is heavy. The trains are significantly faster and cheaper. Everywhere I've ever been in Tokyo is within a short walk of a station. There is one major problem, though. The trains in Japan stop around 12 to 1. As a result, it is not uncommon to go out drinking as early as 6pm. The night starts and ends much earlier in Japan. I am very used to this now, but it took me quite some time to catch on.