My most recent trip to the annual CP+ show in Yokohama was my seventh to Japan to date, and the more I visit, the more I come to love the country. The Japanese people themselves are a very big part of that. They're endlessly helpful, exhibit a genuine compassion and caring for foreigners as well as each other, and are just enormously pleasant to interact with.
I'd known these things for years, but recently had an experience that really drove home just how different Japanese culture is from most other parts of the world.
It's a long story to tell in full, but there are some useful travel tips along the way, so bear with me.
First, the setup for the mishap: It began as I was heading up to the Yamagata area to visit Panasonic's lens factory there, and meet with their senior lens designer. I was traveling on the Tohuku Shinkansen (the main bullet train from Tokyo to points north), and it was a double-header: There were two sections to the train, which would split at Fukushima: one part going to Sendai, the other part to Yamagata and Tendo, where I'd be staying that night. Approaching Fukushima, and obviously concerned that I was on the correct section, I asked a fellow (Japanese) traveler if this was, indeed, the part that was going to Yamagata or not. He replied that no, this was the Sendai section, and I needed to go back to the other section to get to Yamagata.