Every foreigner tells me not to worry, nothing can go wrong, nothing will be stolen.

This may be based on individual experience, but there are other issues: However, Japan’s low crime rate is evident when you see businessmen who have missed the last train sleeping outside on a park bench, or a group of 5-year-old boys walking by themselves for over a kilometer to make the starting bell at school.

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Many Japanese will insist on using their own English language ability, however limited, to converse with foreigners, in spite of the fact that the person on the opposing end may have more knowledge of the local tongue.

Every Japanese person I have met warns me to be safe in my travels, to take care of my belongings.

Bowing is nothing less than an art form in Japan, respect pounded into children’s heads from the moment they enter school.

For tourists, a simple inclination of the head or an attempt at a bow at the waist will usually suffice.

It is extremely bad form, for example, to reenter the main room of a house wearing slippers that have been running across dirty linoleum.

SARS is long gone, though I did happen to see a “SARS Preparation Kit” during my brief stay in a Japanese hospital.

As a result, being in Japan gives foreigners the status of D-level celebrities: you’ll get glances, shouts for attention, calls to have pictures taken with people, requests for autographs (happened once to me on a southern island), and overall just more awareness of being a “stake that sticks out”.

, or hot springs, are very popular as weekend excursion resorts.

Lying in the hot water and slowly listening to my heart beat slow down is a time when I feel most attuned to Japanese culture. But I can see how constant celebrity status might get confusing or frustrating for travelers who don’t speak English.

Japanese will generally assume you are a native English speaker until you prove otherwise. Although you may speak some or fluent Japanese, the default language of choice is English.

If you happen to be invited into a Japanese household, you will be given the honor of using the bath first, usually before dinner.