all the friendly waving. Today in the elevator at a museum people actually waved good-bye when we got off. And said “Welcome to Japan!”
I expected politeness but I didn’t expect universal friendliness, people–official and not–offering help. A med student getting us on the right train. Waiters practicing their English. People offering a seat.
I expected to make cultural mistakes but I didn’t expect to be greeted with friendly joking and laughter when I fumbled something. It also seems that if I smile I am communicating well enough.
Things that are not polite: Drivers. Wind. Japanese card only ATMS.
Very polite things: special umbrella stands with take one for free or leave one for free. Plastic coverings for your very own wet umbrella when entering a mall.
Mysterious things: why are pansies and narcissus blooming in this freezing cold weather? Oranges even? Pepper plants? The ingredients of some sushi pieces on the conveyor belt–for example, a tiny hamburger with mayo on top of the rice!
Unmysterious things: fabric and craft stores which bear an uncanny resemblance to Joann’s or Michael’s in the US, if you ignore the kimono remnants.