Let's get started!
1. Customers are Always Greeted
There is just something welcoming about hearing "irasshaimasse" when you enter a place of business. Just the small gesture of the staff acknowledging you makes you feel noticed and important. Unfortunately for the staff, this means they say the word anywhere from 100 to 500 times a day, depending on how many people are visiting. It is often said while in the middle of working and can seem like a reflex, rather than an honest attempt at a greeting. Usually a "thank you very much" will be shouted out as you leave the premises, as an added bonus.
2. The Dress Code Means Everyone Looks Nice
This is not a good example.
Japanese children are taught from a young age that uniforms are an important part of life. Typically they start wearing school uniforms from elementary school and then continue wearing them until they graduate high school. There are strict fingernail, hair, and makeup restrictions in place. As they get older, they will likely adopt a type of "uniform" they use for work. Salarymen typically wear suits, civil servants are fond of muted-color jumpsuits, and taxi drivers usually wear shirts, ties, and white gloves. Appearances count!
3. There's a Whole New Level of Clean
Speaking of appearances, Japan is one tidy country. The streets are surprisingly litter-free, even in many urban areas. There is great pride taken in keeping things clean. Trash cans are difficult to find, so people often carry trash home or dispose of it at convenience stores. It isn't enough to just throw things away - recycling is taken very seriously. It's not easy, but it's better for everyone. Stores are usually extremely well kept. Gasoline station attendants (yes, they still have attendants) will wipe your windows clean for you as they fill your tank. America has too many litterbugs to even come close to Japan's level of cleanliness.
4. Politeness is Very Important
Between the greetings and expressions of gratitude, you are rarely left with a bad taste in your mouth after a business transaction. The Japanese language approaches new levels of respect with the honorifics they use in place of just using your first name. You are always referred to as "Mr." or "Ms." customer. Polite language in Japan is more than just adding "please and thank you" to sentences. It's even rarer for someone to straight up tell you "No." If something is impossible or unreasonable, they are more likely to be indirect about it and say something like, "that is a bit difficult..." They will usually still attempt to accommodate you in every way. After all, the customer is always right.
5. If You're on time, You're Late
Have you ever heard that expression? 10 minutes early is on time in Japan. Look no further than the punctuality of the Japanese train system. Trains run on time so often that if the trains are late, it's a big deal. It's not just punctuality, it's efficiency. The trains on the Yamanote line come every two minutes, like clockwork. If you miss one, there's another one right behind it. If you can't wait for sushi to be freshly cut and served at an expensive restaurant, go to a conveyor belt sushi (or these days magnet-driven conveyors are common) for a cheap, fast meal. Just because everyone is early and prepared doesn't mean an early start time. In many cases, meetings or events will still wait until the specified start time to begin.
6. Everyone has the Right Attitude
"Omotenashi." It means hospitality and the attitude of giving without expectation of receiving. So no tipping. Don't tip your waiter, cab driver, bellhop...anyone. Not in Japan. They will chase you down and return it! It's not expected and unwelcome. You should expect a decent experience every time. What a novel idea! You will get less chit-chat with your waitress and may not learn their name, but you'll get your food really fast and nobody is left feeling sour after the meal is over. It's all a part of the attitude in Japan. To add to that, "Ganbare" basically means Do your best! It's a big part of Japanese society. It's how people endure and strive for unending improvement. There is a goal in sight, but you aim beyond it. Enough is never enough.
It's part of the reason that all of these elements - the dress code, cleanliness, punctuality, politeness, and even the customer greetings all coalesce into doing your best, 100% of the time. It's how the isolated island with around 1/3 of the population of the United States is currently the third strongest economy in the world behind China. It's how Tokyo is renowned for its food quality so much that it has as more Michelin starred restaurants than Barcelona, San Fransisco, Singapore, Hong Kong, London, and New York combined. It's how Japan has given the world some of the greatest technology, artists, athletes, and architecture. It's how Japan has the best customer service.
Do you think Japan has the best customer service in the world? Tell me your opinion!
Here is the original link to the article I wrote if you are ready for a more challenging version!