I would like to prove once and for all that Japan indeed is a unique society, as about any Japanese would claim. Well, at least it is unique to Western eyes, as Japan may share numerous similarities with its Asian neighours. Here is a summary of my observations of the Japanese people and mindset established after 3.5 years of 'research'.
To assess this uniqueness of the Japanese culture, I did not include material differences (architecture, food, etc.) which can easily be copied or exported, but only psychological ones (what makes the people different). In fact, I have only focused on one particular aspect of the Japanese midset: its shallowness (so this study is totally biased from the start, as it does not include anything else). I could very well do one to prove how much more polite, disciplined, or respectful the Japanese are. But it is not the object of this analysis.
The purpose is not to animadvert, excoriate or disparage (sorry, couldn't resist usin those nice words lol), but on the contrary to emphasize the idiosyncracies of the Japanese mindset as opposed to the Western median.
The observations hereafter only represent a trend that characterize a majority (i.e. at least 50%) of the Japanese population (sometimes only for one gender group). It may apply to an overwhelming majority of the population (nearly 100%), or only to just about half of it. But still, please take it with a grain of salt and a good sense of humour. Have fun !
Their favourite topic of conversation is food
When travelling abroad, they care little about the local culture except food
When they do not talk about food, they talk about money or sex
Manga, porn, fashion and food magazines account for over 90% of convenience stores' literature.
Shops staff repeat "irasshaimasse", then "domo arigato gozaimashita" like robots to anybody that enters or exit, even if the same person comes in and out three times in 5 minutes
The proverbs "money doesn't buy happiness/love" or "don't judge a book by its cover" don't mean anything in Japan
Clothes do make the man in Japan (which explain the success of brand clothes, black suits and even that of cosplay, bunny girls or the importance that Japanese women attach to their wedding dress)
People indeed do not get treated the same way (be it in a shop, by government officials, by the police or whatever) depending on how well they dress and look.
They think an opulent and expensive wedding is necessary for appearances' sake (even if that is way above their means)
Some Japanese companies have a tiny head office in Tokyo (esp. around Nihombashi) just for appearances' sake, as it is said to confer them a higher status.
They judge people from their appearance and tend to be easily prejudiced (e.g. toward foreign-looking individuals)
They use gestures and speak strange Japanese to foreigners who address them in fluent Japanese (or before they have a chance to speak), as if they were convinced that somebody who doesn't look Japanese could not possibly understand their language
Notwithstanding the above, Japanese language is so deficient in vocabulary and acurate expressions that it has to borrow thousands of new words from other languages every year
The structure of Japanese language is so inflexible and clumsy (no relative sentences, few tenses, few nuances) that Japanese people end up speaking with isolated words (often adjectives, see below) rather than making full sentences.
They can't debate and dislike serious intellectual discussions (probably due to the language issues mentioned above)
There are very few intellectual programmes on TV (documentaries, debates, political analysis, social phenomenons, literary discussions...), due to a general lack of interest of the population
People on TV usualy repeat the same few adjectives all the time (oishii, omoshiroi, hidoi, kirei...) , as if they were linguistically challenged.
People in everyday life actually do speak as described above
They ask the same routine dumb questions to foreigners ("can you use chopsticks; can you eat sushi, is there 4 seasons in your country, etc.")
They tend of lack sexual morals and don't mind cheating "as long as their partner doesn't know"
They have casual sex with several partners without protection and don't worry about STD's
They have a computer but don't know much how to use even quite simple functions, due to a lack of interest for technology (ironically for a country that manufactures so much of the world's electronic goods)
They throw away a dysfunctuning electronic equipment (e.g. computer) or machine, rather than try to repair it
They call an plumber, electrician or carpenter to repair things in their house, because they are not interested in DIY (Japan is a service country par excellence because the Japanese believe that specialists are needed for everything and therefore do not try to do anything themselves. It's not often one encounters a handymen or jack-of-all-trades.)
They go to juku (cram school) after compulsory school because they sleep or are too slow to learn at school (slowing down the teacher's rythm) and can't assimilate the necessary knowledge to pass the exams. Despite studying over 10 hours a day in average, they still end up learning much less than European children in foreign languages, history, geography and critical thinking.
They can't think by themselves, and believe the media, commercials or what people tell them much too easily
They buy on impulse rather than after careful comparison and analysis
There are virtually no magazines that test and rate products such as electronics, books, movies, games, etc. They only introduce these products without critical commentary (because the makers/sellers would sue them for being critical !)
They are a nation of followers that suffer from the "sheep syndrome" => if everybody jumps in the river, let's jump in the river too !
As a result, when something becomes fashionable, everybody must have it (e.g. Louis Vuitton handbags), even if that means it looses its uniqueness or originality.
When a restaurant is "introduced" on TV, one can be sure that it will be full to the brim for the week to come, then people will forget about it as quickly as they had rushed on it (just to show how influenceable the Japanese are).
They think that most women are just good to serve tea, smile, be beautiful and make children (I mean, it is so deeply rooted in the culture that most Japanese women also think like that, not just chauvinistic men)
Politicians are corrupted and inefficient beyond redemption, because they only care about themselves, and not the nation's welfare.
People accept that politicians are as mentioned above, because they don't expect their own kind to act in a more virtous way
Men don't mind paying huge sums of money just to chat with bar hostesses, because they can't get a girlfriend (sad) or feel that it give them some form of status (shallow)
About one out of three Japanese men frequents or has already been to one of these hostess bar.
Not being married after the age of 35 or 40 can hurt some people's credibility or status, as people think that there is 'something wrong' with them
They talk a lot about marriage, but little about the eventuality of divorce because people 'don't like to think that bad things could happen'. As a result, prenuptial agreements are almost unheard of. Similarily, very few Japanese write their will, as thet don't want to think about death. The Japanese seem to worry a lot more than Westerners, but rarely about things that matter most.
Many Japanese fathers do not think that they have a role in their children's education. This is so culturally ingrained that in case of divorce, the mother almost always get the exclusive custody of the child(ren), and the father often 'never' see them again - and often doesn't care much anyway.
They find pleasure in asking foreigners what kind of Japanese food they can't eat - even if they can't eat it themself (never really understood the purpose of those questions)
Many Japanese are convinced that their nation is "unique for being unique" (i.e. they think that all the world is a big melting-pot, but Japan is the only country that is 'pure' and homogenous, which makes it unique, and they are the only nation to enjoy such uniqueness.).