When visiting Japan it’s helpful to understand a bit about its long history as a feudal society. For the better part of two millennia, feudal systems defined the way Japanese society was ordered. This included a hereditary monarchy with powers that have waxed and waned over the centuries and still exists to this day.
And, of course, Japan’s warrior tradition, as it’s been romanticized in Western culture, is another window on the Japanese soul. Think shoguns and samurai. The long tail of Japanese warrior culture spawned the strident nationalism that got a bit overcooked in the 19th and 20th centuries and led to the pacifist posture of the past seventy years.
Today it is a profound graciousness of character and manner that define the Japanese persona in the popular mind. Acting honorably and respectfully in all matters is indeed central to the Japanese character. But it can often result in an indirectness when it comes to sensitive or difficult matters, and this confounds westerners at first. Understanding some of this and ‘rolling’ with it, is what makes Japan such an endlessly fascinating place to visit.